Tips And Tricks

This is a page for you to list your tips and tricks. A MakerBot and the software to run it are complicated and as you figure things out, we created this page so that you can share your tips and tricks for making it run better. Feel free to link to photos, videos, or other documentation that will help others improve the quality of the things and the workflow to get there.

Assembly Tips and Tricks

  • Think you have some missing parts?
  • Use the open-ended wrench or hex key when your fingers hurt! - Bre
  • When putting the nuts on the guide rods for the plastruder, you can put a drill on one end and just hold the nut instead of screwing over and over and over and over. - Conrad
  • If you are seeing some skipping or missing of steps on the XY stage, take the linear bearings out and sand the wood on the XY stage to make the circles a bit bigger and then hotglue the grey linear bearings back into place. If there is any constriction on the bearings, it'll make them not work as well. - Bre
  • Having problems with your sausage fingers holding in the M3 nuts in the body? Use blutac! Trust me, its easier! - PhillyDee
  • Once the body is assembled and you're printing, re-snug all the bolts and use penetrating thread-lock on the nuts. - jet
  • If the bolt on your Y-stage pulley is touching the X-stage guide rod, just add one more nut to the bolt before assembly - however, be aware that your pulley is raised somewhat; I had to file down the X cap and X back slightly - juniortan.operator204
  • Your Y-stage timing belt may interfere with the Y-stage itself as it travels close to the stepper motor. I had to file down (very slightly) a notch on the Y-stage - juniortan.operator204

Plastruder MK3/4 Assembly

  • Nichrome wire
    • Before cutting the nichrome wire, follow the builder's adage" "measure twice, cut once", or in this instance, "scrape twice, cut once." Start at one end of the wire and, with a utility knife, scrape a little insulation off the other end of the wire in 10 mm or so increments. Scrape off just enough for the test lead to contact the wire. By scraping off the insulation along the wire and testing as you go, you can determine the correct 6 ohm resistance — and therefore length — before you cut the wire. If the resistance is too low where you scraped the wire, use kapton tape as an insulator and re-scrape at a new location. Once you find the 6 ohm length cut the wire. If you have to cut too long or too short, err on too long. You don't want the resistance to be less than 6 ohms; you'll burn out a mosfet on the extruder board! - TeamTeamUSA
    • I found a small 1.4mm (external) diameter copper pipe in a crafts store; just cut 3mm, strip your wire (and the nichrome), fit, crimp and you have a strong, small and secure connection. I also found some high temperature silicon fibre glass sleeves to insulate the crimped joint, finally secure with some heat shrink. This allows you to bend the whole shebang 90 degrees at the wire/copper junction, making it easy to start wrapping your nichrome - juniortan.operator204
  • Idler wheel
    • Use epoxy instead of superglue for the idler wheel. I used 15 minute epoxy, but you can use any other two part epoxy. - TeamTeamUSA
    • Roughen up the outside of the bearing and the inside surface of the acrylic idler wheel with the 320 grit sandpaper provided. This will help the epoxy grip these parts. - TeamTeamUSA
    • If your idler wheels break too often, try milling/cutting them out of steel or aluminium. They are inexpensive and practically indestructible replacements - juniortan.operator204
  • Extruder board Heat sinks
    • Enzotech MOS-C1 C1100 Forged Copper Heatsinks seem to work pretty well and come with double-sided thermal sticky tape. I got them through NewEgg. - ddurant
    • I found some cylindrical heat sinks that I could conveniently cut into smaller pieces. These are then just stuck onto the MOSFETs with heat sink compound. Seems to help just fine, as they get real hot enough - juniortan.operator204
  • PTFE insulator
    • Measure the depth of the PTFE insulator with a toothpick and mark that length on the heater barrel; you'll then know when the barrel is screwed in enough. It's a good idea to screw it in a bit more after it meets the mark. - TeamTeamUSA
    • The PTFE insulator may have cuttings in it. If yours does, remove them with a Q-tip or toothpick before assembly. - TeamTeamUSA
    • If you over tighten the PTFE insulator, you will crush the inside edge and narrow the diameter. It helps a bit to have some raw filament going through the PTFE and the copper barrel to prevent damage.
  • Brass barrel
    • If you don't want to grip the barrel with Vise-grips, use two M6 nuts jammed together on the heater barrel to get a firm grip without risk of deforming the barrel. - TeamTeamUSA
    • Instead of a thinner M6 nut between the metal retainer and PTFE barrel, I used an E-clip on the heater barrel after installing it in the PTFE barrel (a flat semi-circular spring steel washer with an opening). Most hardware stores stock these. - erickphd
  • Washer/Retainer
    • If you have any suitably sized springs handy, you can easily create a spring-loaded heater assembly that can flex when the nozzle hits anything during extrusion. This will work better if you print a retainer with central bore 0.5mm thicker than the PTFE insulator. The setup below uses stock bolts, washers - juniortan.operator204
  • Wiring
    • If you don't have 24 or 26 gauge wire available, you can use a length of Cat5 ethernet cable. Most Cat5 cable contains 24 gauge wire, although some contain smaller gauge wire (26 or 30 gauge). Before using this tip, ensure that each wire in your cable when stripped, measures 0.50mm/0.020" in diameter so that it will be able to handle the 2 amp current from the nichrome. Ethernet cable is comprised of 4 pairs of 24 gauge wire, so that gives you more than enough wire to hookup the nichrome and thermistor. Cut a 12"/300 mm length and use a dull knife to remove the outside insulation. Inside you'll find 4 twisted pairs of wire; use any two pairs. I used the orange pairs for the nichrome, and the blue pairs for the thermistor. - TeamTeamUSA
  • MK3 Upgrade
    • If you have a MK3 Plastruder, do yourself a favor and buy the Upgrade Kit for Plastruder MK3. This gives your MK3 all the goodness of the MK4. Get one; you'll be glad you did. - TeamTeamUSA
  • Motor Install
    • When you install the motor, make sure the wires are sticking out towards the center of the extruder. (Not out to the side into space.) This will mean you have enough wire to reach the controller at the end, instead of falling just short.

Firmware Updates

See also Firmware Preferences

Extruder Board Reset Button Timing

Of the two boards, the extruder board tends to be the trickiest to update the firmware on. Try the following sequence:

  1. Hover one hand on over the mouse button with the pointer positioned at Update and the other hand over the extruder reset button.
  2. Click Update in ReplicatorG
  3. Say One
  4. Hit the reset button on the extruder board.
  5. Wait for ReplicatorG to report its (hopefully) successful firmware update.

Important Version 2.x Firmware Settings

After any firmware update, it's a good idea to (re)visit some machine calibration options. Here are the important ones to check in the version 2.x firmware release.

Thermistor Calibration

Read Step 2: Adjust the thermistor settings. of Adjusting The Thermistor Settings and make time to get your thermistor settings right. It's an analog component with a significant amount of variation between Cupcake batches. If you run your heater too cold you risk mechanical failure; run too hot and the plastic can denature to the point of turning rock-hard.

Extruder Heater PID Settings

In the v2.x firmware release, Adam rewrote and made the heater's control system proportional, integral and derivative (PID) parameters changeable from ReplicatorG. If your extruder's heater has difficulty reaching and/or maintaining a target 220C temperature, check and set them to the following new set of Adam default values:

  1. Launch ReplicatorG
  2. Select menu item Machine - Onboard Preferences - Set Extruder Parameters
  3. Set Proportional to 7.0
  4. Set Integral to 0.35
  5. Set Differential to 36.0

Preliminary Plastruder MK5 PID Settings (Thing-O-Matic)

See the Thing-O-Matic Calibration page for recommended defaults.

Preliminary Plastruder MK5 PID Settings (Gen3 Electronics; Relay-Driven)

From the "MK5 PID tuning?" discussion, the following PID settings may be a better starting point:

  1. Set Proportional to 5.143
  2. Set Integral to 0.0612
  3. Set Differential to 108.0

I'm using these settings with my MK5: (Bre)

  1. Set Proportional to 5.1367*
  2. Set **Integral to 0.055
  3. Set Differential to 108.0

I'm using these settings with my MK5: (Isaac)

  1. Set Proportional to 5.00*
  2. Set **Integral to 0.0078125
  3. Set Differential to 35.00

Manually Tuning PID Controllers

See PID Controller Tuning for one approach to manually tuning the parameters beyond default values.

Axis Direction

While the Z-axis travel is pretty clear - Z+ makes the Z-platform go up - figuring out motion of the XY stage relative to the extruder nozzle can take a bit of time. See Before You Begin for the big picture.

Open Machine - Onboard Preferences and invert any axes that need inverting to change their direction of travel.

  • X+ should move the XY stage to your left to draw a line of plastic from left to right.
  • Y+ should move the XY stage toward you to draw a line of plastic from front to back.

Motherboard v1.1 and v1.2 uploading

The v1.2 and v1.2 motherboards require a manual reset when being reprogrammed. There's a small reset button on the motherboard; you should see some LEDs flicker when you press it. The trick is to get the timing right. If you can, start the arduino software from a terminal program and keep a close eye on the output. A few seconds after you hit the upload button on the arduino software, you will see a message in the terminal like this:

"Binary sketch size: NNNN bytes (of a NNNN byte maximum)"

When you see that message, hit the reset button immediately.

If you can't or don't know how to start arduino from a terminal, try hitting the reset button three seconds or so after you press the upload button in the arduino software.

Regardless of which method you use, you may need a few tries before you get it right. Don't panic if it doesn't work the first time!

More information is in the Readme1-3 file. This is current to version 1.3

These posts in the MakerBot Operators group might also be helpful:

  • Firmware
  • bootloader (you shouldn't need to burn the bootloader on >= Batch 5, but I did)


Definitely read over these pages first:


If you want to go in order of increasing difficulty (perhaps to polish up your skills as you go) then you'll want this:

  • endstops (all through hole, pretty easy)
  • stepper drivers (large SMT components, smallest is SOIC)
  • reprap motherboard (fairly spaced out, but the TQFP can be tricky
  • extruder controller (pretty dense, and there is a TQFP)

Good luck! If you get the solder paste right, and warm it up slowly then everything will go great.

Remember: its *really* easy to wipe off the solder paste and re-do it. you pretty much have unlimited retries until you actually solder it. - Zach

Sketchup Tips and Tricks

Some interesting links:
- awesome animation of various type of engines
- helps to conceptualize moving parts/engines
- free CAD files of 2D/3D engineering components
- design with the actual, correct components to fit against
- you can't find a more accurate M3x12 bolt file than over there!
awesome physics library, with great collection of training videos for hinges, worm gears, etc
awesome plug-ins for sketchup, including involute gear generators

Blender Tips and Tricks

A great set of Blender tutorials for precision modelling in Blender is available at rab3D ideal for beginners and people more familiar with the artistic side of Blender.

The Wikibook Blender 3D: Noob to Pro is also a great resource for learning Blender.

Here are some quick tips to get started with Blender:

  • To move, rotate or scale an object in Blender, import the object and then press N, this brings up the Transform Properties window which allows you to tweak each property of the object as you desire.
  • Alternatively you can use the mouse to perform these operations. To move an object press G (grab), to rotate an object press R and to scale press S.
  • Another tip when using the shortcut keys mentioned above is to press either X, Y or Z after the shortcut key to limit the operation to a specific axis. For example, if I wanted to move an object on the X axis only I would press G followed by X and then use the mouse to move the object.
  • Finally you don't have to use the mouse when using the shortcut keys, you can also type in a number to get an accurate adjustment. For example if I wanted to scale a object down by 50% I would press S followed by 0.5 and then press Enter.
  • Another one that is useful for making printable models is the manifold check:
    1. Select object (right-click)
    2. Enter edit mode (tab)
    3. Deselect all points (hit A and then A again so there are no yellow points)
    4. Hit Ctrl + Alt + Shift + M (all the non-manifold holes will be selected)
    5. Hit F to make faces and select Auto from the menu
    6. All holes in the shape should now be filled.

Note: for complex objects, such as dense meshes from 3D scanners, you may need to manually fix some non-manifold areas. There may be random vertices in space that you need to delete. Make sure there are no more than two faces sharing one edge. Recalculate the normal (Ctrl+N) sometimes helps.

Skeinforge Tips and Tricks

  • If you want a hollow object to have thicker walls, go to the fill settings and change "extra shells on sparse layers" to 2 to make the outside of your object 3 layers thick. - Bre
  • You can get away with printing small objects without a raft, but don't disable the raft function! Doing this will cause the GCodes to be centered at zero, which can make the MakerBot hard to set up for printing. Instead, set both the Base and Interface layer numbers to zero. - Allan
  • If you builds are too heavy or too stringy and flimsy, try changing the Speed settings. Feedrate is how fast the CNC bot moves and flowrate is how fast the extruder extrudes. - Allan

* The speed settings to change are: carve: extrusion width over thickness; inset: extrusion perimeter width over thickness; speed: extrusion diameter over thickness. All three should be the same value, but are not in skeinforge-006 by default. 1.3 is the minimum value for a 0.5mm nozzle, but 1.45-1.6 might work better if your parts are coming out blobby.

  • Interested in multiple copies of your part? You might wish to try a new gcode post-processing script is available called
  • Skeinforge has all sorts of problems on PowerPC/OSX, to the point of being unusable. If you have it working reliably, please share your configuration with the rest of us. - jet
  • Skeinforge not working? crashing? glitching? bad startupcodes? Try this, (provided youre on a mac) open up terminal, type in EXACTLY (you could really screw up your computer if you type it wrong so copy/paste minus the quotation marks of course) "rm -rf ~/.skeinforge". THEN, go to finder, and type in "" and delete EVERYTHING associated with that. I also typed in skeinforge and deleted everything that showed up too. I did the same with python but im not sure if that would do anything. Re install python (if you deleted it) then re-install skeinforge (unless you know how to get the warmup commands to run on 0007, INSTALL 0006!!). That should do the trick! -Conrad

*No warmup commands? well, in the case of skeinforge 0007 open up the "" file and change the start code from start.gcode to start.txt (do the same for the end code). After this is done go to skeinforge_tools>alterations>start.txt(and/or)end.txt….and change those files to your liking if you have a heated build platform, go that page and copy the start code into the start.txt file. This should fix all of the warmup problems.

*Crashing into your bolts on a ABP converted to HBP? Change the Outline setting in Skeinforge to a lower number and you can keep the nice teflon coating on your nozzle save. 1mm to 2mm is probably about right.

ReplicatorG Tips and Tricks

  • Sometimes ReplicatorG fails in odd ways. It almost always works to force quit and restart. Reset the motherboard to reconnect. - Bre
  • If you aren't running the latest version of arduino, it will barf on you or refuse to connect your computer to the MakerBot. Solution: Download and install the latest Arduino and drivers.
  • Run ReplicatorG from a stick

Operation Tips and Tricks

  • If the stepper motors appear to behave erratically, this is typically caused by the motors losing steps. Typical causes can be (all of these happened to us):
    • The current limiting potentiometers are set too low. Try increasing torque on the stepper boards by turning the potentiometers clockwise. Keep a finger on the stepper driver chips and make sure they don't get too hot.
    • Loose belts can slip, which has similar symptoms as steppers skipping steps. Overly tight belts or insufficient lubrication will add more friction, and also cause the steppers to skip steps.
    • Check the stepper motor connector. The cable connection to the connector itself have a tendency of being a weak spot.
    • Once, such a problem was caused by the ATMega chip not being soldered properly. Check solder joints or just resolder every pin to make sure they're all connected.
  • Stepper driver V2.3: A stepper motor won't step, but appears to hold torque instead with all four LEDs being on: This is likely to be a wrongly sized C2 capacitor on the step line. This should be 1nf, but it's virtually impossible to distinguish them from 100nf ones and thus easy to mix up when building. Quick-check: Remove C2 and see if it works. If it does, put a 1nf capacitor there instead.
  • You can set the height of the Z stage accurately from the control panel by zeroing it out, moving up 2mm, and then manually adjusting the height until the 2mm rod supplied to adjust the pinch wheel just barely passes between the nozzle and the platform. Getting this height right helps start good quality builds.
  • It isn't a bad idea to try printing a spare insulator retainer fairly early on. A lot of people need a replacement sooner or later, and it is much easier to print one out before the only one you have on hand breaks.
  • A surgical hemostat is the perfect tool for removing the little bit of extrusion test plastic extruded at the start of the standard makerbot G-code. They're about $10 on-line.


  • Compact fluorescent globes will interfere with the proper function of your cupcake, make sure they are distance away otherwise they will cause build problems.
  • The motors themselves put out a lot of noise, and possibly the heater when it is switched on and off too. Keep communication cables (like the ethernet cable going to the plastruder) away from power lines, motor lines, etc. Twist all cables that have pairs of wires (especially the thermistor) to reduce noise. (The ethernet cables are already internally twisted.)

Filament Spool

  • Try to make/hack a spool for your filament before starting to print. This allows smooth feeding of the filament; conversely, even a short temporal jam of the filament can make your bot just stop feeding filament. - juniortan.operator204
  • Filament left in a coil on a table, and fed upwards into the extruder makes the filament all twisted; hence the emphasis for a good spool. - juniortan.operator204
  • Filament is springy, and if not constrained by a spool, likes to rearrange itself into knots.
  • A 2L pop bottle half-filled with water and set in the center of the coil of filament seems to prevent tangles. Search for "filament spool" in the Thingiverse for fancy spool holders to print. In the meantime, this is quick, easy, cheap, and effective! ~ Graywriter

Adjusting your Z stage

I usually set the trimpot to the middle and then just turn it a bit past midnight on the trimpot, but you'll want to mess with it. If the chip gets hot, it begins to fail. If it's not turned up far enough it doesn't give you a lot of torque.

The belt should be a little loose and you should be able to pull it easily from side to side on the back of it.

Another culprit is that sometimes the nuts are a slight bit too big and add pressure to the z stage threaded rods and make it go a bit rough.

So, here's where to start.

First make sure it's not the trimpot on the stepper driver. Tune that so it is cranked up as far as can be without getting hot.

Take off the belt and the z stage and see if you can spin the threaded rods, they should all spin freely.

Add the belt back on and feel it. It hard to explain but it should move smoothly without tension. Try tightening it too much with the idler pulleys to get a feel for it being wrong.

Then add the zstage and see if that adds a lot more friction. If it does, you may need to take the z guides off and sand down the insides where the nuts nest so that the nuts don't put tension on the threaded rods.

Surface Finishing

After you have created your pieces there are a variety of finishing techniques that may improve the basic object:

  • Glossy Finish - swab with acetone as shown in post by nophead
  • Smoothing - use an air abrasive or microabrasive system to sandblast the surface smooth (need reference!)
  • Plating - ABS plastic is quite commonly used for decorative plating (chrome, gold, etc). Check for local shops to do this as the industry is highly regulated with good reason (nasty chemicals)
  • Lamination - ABS is an excellent substrate for wood and other laminate surfaces. Wood Inlay anyone?
  • Painting - Metallic paints may be better option than plating (its first step in that process anyway). Neil U suggestion on hydraraptor is to use the "ABS slurry trick to make it smooth, 1 coat of rustolium primer, 2 coats of rustolium metalic chrome"
  • Oiling - Wood oils like Watco Danish Oil give the wood a nice stained look, and will protect it from absorbing moisture and warping. See examples in this blog

See Also

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under GNU Free Documentation License.