Musings and Experiments on the Art and Science of 3D Printing

My current Rostock Max "ultimate configuration"

By mhackney Saturday, December 26, 2015
I am often asked what my favorite SeeMeCNC Rostock Max upgrades are (and why). I've experimented with this printer a lot over the last 2 years (over 77,000 views) and used it as a platform to test all sorts of printer enhancements. Without further adieu, here is my current configuration and why.

Mechanical Upgrades

My Rostock Max was an early V1 machine. The newer V2 with the recently introduced ball joint arms and new carriages is quite nice. I don't know if I would have experimented if I had these to start. However, the components I use now do have a high-tech look and are quite reliable. Here's what I have:

TrickLaser Trick Trucks with Delrin wheels. These are very nice and with 3 rollers, do not over constrain movement. In this case, 3 rollers are all that's required and are easily adjusted to remove slop.

TrickLaser Carbon Fiber Arms with ball ends. I replaced my previous magnetic ball end upgrade with these. The magnetics worked well enough but I was concerned that the mass and "drag" from all the wiring from a Kraken hot end might be too much for the magnets. These arms and ends work very well and I get equally excellent layer alignment and precision.

I have not replaced my original V1 effector but I did JBWeld the rods in place to make it more rigid.

PEI print surface. I've spent a LOT of time testing all sorts of print surfaces and concoctions. The only significant surface that I have not personally tested is the GeckoTek surface. For me, PEI gives 100% consistent results, NO part separation failures and beautiful first layer surface finish. My primary use for 3D printing is to manufacture fly fishing reels I sell. These reels are seen and handled on all surfaces and the bottom layer, in particular, is highly visible and must be near flawless. PEI with a light 600 grit sanding and cleaning with isopropyl alcohol imparts a beautiful matte finish and 100% consistency with first layer adherence.

I use PEI for PLA and ABS. For Nylon I use Garolite and other surfaces for polycarbonate, acetal and other exotic filaments.

1/8" Aluminum Heat Dissipator underneath the borosilicate glass/PEI layer helps evenly transmit heat from the Onyx bed heater.

Electrical Upgrades

I run both 12V and 24V power supplies. This was primarily an evolutionary thing. If I were starting from scratch today, I would only run 24 volts. The steppers and fans run on 12V and the hot end and bed heater on 24V. I do use a high quality SSR that has very low voltage drop and is ideal for this application. This controls the output to the bed with 12V on the control side and 24V on the output to the bed side.

Kraken Hot End - I originally got the Kraken to experiment with multi-extrusion (it has 4 nozzles!). Another unique feature of the Kraken is that the cold end is water cooled with a 12V water pump. For the type of multi-extrusions work I want to do, multiple nozzles is not practical as drool and drag are problematic. However, I'm completely sold on water cooling! I've run this hot end for 6+ hours/day nearly every day for the last year printing PLA with absolutely no clogs or filament starving. It has been amazing in that respect. I've left all 4 nozzles hooked up and simply lower the one I want to use to the bed with the easy "leveling" set screws on the hot end. So only 1 nozzle is heated and active at a time.

Water Cooling - see above.

FSR Bed Leveling System - my initial experimentation with simple endstop switches mounted to the effector were sub-optimal and inconsistent. With a delta printer, in particular, having the nozzle tip act as the trigger point has advantages and is a "must have" in my opinion (and my experimentation has validated this). This is because unless the effector moves perfectly parallel to the bed surface with NO rocking or tilting as it moves, probing anywhere other than right at the tip of the nozzle is going to introduce errors.

Duet Control Board - without a doubt, along with FSR leveling, the upgrade to Duet and the associated dc42 branch of the RepRapFirmware has been the singe BEST upgrade I've done to my Rostock. Since building this machine I've migrated from the original RAMBo controller to an Azteeg X3 Pro, to Smoothieboard/Smoothieware and more recently, the Duet/RepRapFirmware. For almost 18 months I chased the elusive "delta auto calibration" Grail with very little success. Arduino based firmwares like Repeater and Marlin just didn't work properly (and there was a fair amount of confusion in Marlin with various branches supporting different probes and calculations). Smoothieware doesn't have built-in delta auto-calibration but 626Pilot on the SeeMeCNC forum developed a very nice heuristic calibration on a special branch. The challenge was, due to memory limitations on the Smoothieboard, you can not enable a panel display and/or ethernet with auto-calibration enabled. In use, this introduced aggravating friction even though the auto-calibration was functional, albeit time consuming to run. Then I discovered dc42 firmware. This firmware has built-in delta calibration that calibrates very well in less than 30 seconds and supports ethernet, a very elegant built-in web interface and support for the elegant touch screen PanelDue display. My workflow now includes performing a calibration at the start of almost every print - that's how fast and useful it is. As if this was not enough, the dc42 delta motion control is unique as well. All other mainstream firmwares calculate delta movement in short line segments. Not so dc42, it calculates each and every point of movement. Read my recent forum post if you'd like to learn more. I have also added a wifi bridge so my Rostock is wireless. With the integrated web client, I can upload gcode files, upload firmware configuration changes, and control the printer.

Bondtech QR extruder - I have tried well over a dozen extruders on my Rostock over the last 2 years. My v1 came with the original Steve's Extruder. When the company introduced the ezStruder, I migrated all my printers to it. Over the last year, a lot of enhancements and modifications to the ezStruder have been made by forum members - and I've incorporated all of them. This has significantly improved the ezStruder but the occasional hiccup still occurred. Recently I started experimenting with the E3D-Online Cyclops switching hot end. This is a very demanding hot end and I struggled for 6 months to get an acceptable print with it. The ezStruders, although perfect for many other applications, just were not up to the Cyclops. Recently I discovered the Bondtech QR and purchased 2 to use with Cyclops. The results were immediate and beautiful! The Bondtech QRs conquered the Cyclops. Here's an example two color print, one of my first from the Cyclops:

I had been trying to print two color "encapsulated logos" to add to my fly fishing reels for almost a year. The Cyclops hot end was promising but until I discovered the Bondtech QRs, could not produce the results I was looking for with near 100% reliability. Here is an example:

I'll be blogging about how I accomplish this technique in a future post.

Software Upgrades

I've already mentioned a few software components I use now: the dc42 RepRapFirmware and the integrated web printer control client. I use RhinoCAD on OS X for all my design work. For slicing, I've tried all of the open source (Slic3r, Cura, MatterSlice) slicers, KISSlicer, and Simplify3D (v3). Of these, KISSlicer is still my go-to slicer. Last summer several significant updates to support multi-extrusion were added along with a feature I requested to separate filament retraction speeds so retract and advance could be different. This is because my research and experimentation with PLA uncovered that it is thixotropic and with rapid retract moves, can jam the hot end. Slowing down the retract eliminates this problem but with other slicers, that slows down the advance also. Now, with KISS, I can slow retract down to 15mm/s and advance at 40mm/s and get excellent results with no jamming.


Here's what I hope is a helpful list to summarize what I think the most important upgrades have been in priority order. If I were to start with a new Rostock Max V2 today, this is what I would do:

  1. PEI bed surface with aluminum dissipator
  2. Duet controller and dc42 firmware
  3. FSR bed leveling system (2 & 3 should actually be 2a and 2b as they go together)
  4. 24V Onyx heated bed upgrade with SSR
  5. Either a Kraken water cooled hot end or an E3D-Online V6 hot end with air cooling initially and then ultimately convert it to water cooling with the soon to be released upgrade or making your own simple jacket.

9 comments to ''My current Rostock Max "ultimate configuration""

  1. Could the configuration.h from this machine be posted?

  2. I'm away for the holidays until next week. I'll post them then. This is s Duet do it has a set of files like config.g, homing.g, bed.g, etc.

  3. Carl, I've posted my config.g for this machine.

  4. I own a Max v2, and have thought through all the upgrades I want to implement as cash flow permits. Definitely the truck trucks, the Duet or RADDS/RRF, and the bondtech for sure (for higher speeds with the e3d volcano and larger bores).

    However, just recently I've been wondering whether the upgrades I've mentioned make a whole lot of sense while still using the stock wooden frame, which can only be so rigid compared to an all metal frame, like the TL max metal. I've put some crossmembers on my max to combat torsion, bit it's still not as rigid as I'd imagine it should be for best performance and repeatability.

    As far as mechanics go, do you think it makes sense to prioritize swapping the melamine out for a near perfectly rigid and true frame like the max metal before the other upgrades?



  5. Hey Tyler, you can get a LOT out of the stock RMax frame with these upgrades. The frame is not the limitation of a stock RMax. The fly fishing reels I print have to be very precise and this machine has no problem maintaining that. A more rigid frame might allow higher print speeds and I'm actually build a Max Metal myself to test, but I have to say, the best bang for the buck is the stock RMax with a few upgrades. The new skates and balljoint arms are quite nice and I would leave them (or put replacing them at the bottom of the list) and do the Duet upgrade first with FSR or IR probe.

    RADDS does not have an ethernet port so the excellent Duet Web Control is not available. With all of the fantastic enhancements to DWC in the past month, it is a necessity in my opinion. It can now:

    allow in-place editing of the config.g file - no more SD card swapping
    allow in-place uploads of the latest RRF - no more Bosac!!!
    ability to upload zip archives of lots of files (like new releases of DWC itself or packages of gcode files to print.

    With these enhancements you no longer need a USB connection and you no longer need to remove the CF card from Duet.

  6. Awesome information - thanks for the education. Looks like I have a long upgrade journey ahead to make the Rostock truly usable.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. What mount do you use for the Cyclops?

  9. The 713Maker mount - it's the only commercial mount for Rostock Max that I'm aware of. It is a beautiful piece of kit.