Printrbot Controller Case

Why build such an extensive setup?
There are many reasons that I decided to build this setup. One of the most important reasons is to be able to show my students how the electronics work inside a printer. With everything split out to its own terminal block and neat labeling, they can start to get a grasp on what does what. Another reason is mobility. I take my Printrbots all over the place and having a solid case that will protect all of the, “brains” of the operation is important. Also since the extrudaboard won’t fit in the plus’s undercarriage, this is the next best thing. I work with a lot of designers and electrical engineers, so this makes it easy to test out prototypes as well as debug any potential issues that may arise. I’ve found that the majority of issues I’ve had were very simple ones but, they took a good deal of time to track down. Now with the new setup, all I have to do is look at one of the indicator panels and say, “oh that’s what is going on. ”

This setup probably isn’t for the person that is into printing just as a hobby. However it isn’t hard to do and if you need help building a similar setup. I’m always available to help.

My Original Plan:
I decided it was time to make a case to properly house my Printrboard, wiring, 350w PSU änd extrudaboard. I was tired of un-organized wiring as well so I bought a bunch of new DB-9 male and female pin sets as well as everything else needed to organize my entire printrbot plus setup. I also bought 20, 12, 10 and 4 position terminal blocks so I could make quick plug panels on the case. This would allow for quick transportation and setups as well as reliable connections.

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This is the case I originally planned on using

The case I will be using is an antec gamer9ine. I chose this case for a couple of reasons, one of them being the ample cooling built into the case and the other is the layout. It also fits my printrbot plus’s PSU perfectly. All of the built in fans have 3 position fan switches which allows for easy adjustment on the fly. I will also be using a front mounted fan controller to adjust the Printrstands cooling system.

The New Plan:
I liked the space involved with using a full size PC case but I later realized it was a little too much. Rummaging around for some spare parts I found an old server case which looked perfect for what I needed. I am still planning on using all of the other stuff for this one as I was with the old design. I decided to use the DB-9 cables for the end stops or homing switches, 4-pin molex connectors for the motors, DB-9 cables for the thermistors and fan lines. I may or may not use XLR connectors for all the heavier power wires like the two extruders and heatbed that will hopefully be added on at a later date.

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Here's the new case during the rough layout stage

Some other items I decided to add are:
• LED status lights for: Power, standby, homing switches, motors (during operation ), hotends On and a few others.
• USB on the front or rear of case. This will allow me to have an input that will take all the wear and tear away from the USB plug on the Printrboard.
• Various switches: Power, standby, task lights and bypass.
• Every connection will have a plug on the front or rear of the case. After that they will run to terminal blocks and then to the controller boards.
• 40mm rear mounted fan will help to circulate air within the case. I also plan on modifying the top cover to mount two fans ranging from 60-80mm. (One will be mounted over the Printrboard and the other will mount over the Extrudaboard. )

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This is the basic layout that I decided to use taking into consideration wiring routes and connector locations

November 5th 2013
Today I started the task of wiring all the plugs and piped all the lines to the Printrboard. My hands are actually sore from stripping and crimping all the required terminals. I feel confident that this setup will relieve any issues with potential disconnects. I’ve assured this by making sure that all connections made are either soldered, clamped to terminals or hard wired with heatshrink tubing. The reason I am being so carful is due to possible disconnects during operation on the motors lines which could carry the potential of destroying my drivers or the Printrboard. This is especially the case for anyone running a RAMPS controller.

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The cut out in the front of the case is where this black fan controller will go

Another nice feature of the new server case is the lid is removable with a couple screws that I will be replacing with quick release ones that don’t require the use of a screw driver to remove. This will give me quick access to all of the wiring. I will be using metal and thin acrylic cut outs to make my custom panels. I also decided to add a few things in case I decide to upgrade to triple or quadruple extruders. The quadruple extruder idea is actually already in the works as the extrudaboard has supports 3 extruders and I will be testing out a board that will add-on to that setup. I really want to use Printrbots Ubis hotends but, just in case they take up too much room I have designed a custom solution with quad extruder support in a space saving design.

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The majority of the wiring is finished but, I haven't organized the wiring into the pre-deturmined paths

Back to the custom case. I added an extra DB-9 input to allow for expansion of 2 more thermistors, 2 more power lines for the extruders and I will add the required wiring for the extra motors at the time of upgrade. I have cut out the basic shapes needed for all the panels but, I haven’t cut out the connector holes yet. I also plan on mocking up all the status lights tomorrow as I haven’t decided their final mounting locations. I have the majority of the internal wiring finished and I still need to add the 4-point zip tie mounts. Once I add updated pics you will see the 4-point zip tie mounts. They are great for adding anchor points and they are fairly reasonable priced.

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This will give you an idea of where everything goes and the extrudaboard will be mounted to the left of the Printrboard

Here are some quick sketches and diagrams that I drew in order to figure out where everything should go.

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This is the wiring diagram

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This is a very quick sketch of the front and rear panel layout

Update: November 6th 2013
The main reasons for this build besides mobility, protection and accessability, was to be able to effectively debug any potential issues that may arise during operation. I also wanted a platform that would allow me to easily upgrade to triple and quadruple extruders when I decide to do so. One issue that might arise is the height of the power plug on the Printrboard. I made sure that there will be enough space but, just in case I came up with several different solutions as only a few more mm would be needed.

Update: November 7th 2013
Today I started messing around with ways to make my own labels/stickers to put on the cables and a few other places in the case for quick identification during debugging/troubleshooting. Since I don’t own a label maker or have the want to spend good money on sticker paper. I decided to be inventive in solving this issue. I looked around the prototyping lab to see what I had to work with and I found a bunch of blank stickers you use to write your name on. I took those to my computer and used Word to write all the labels I needed. Then I printed them out to see where they fell on a regular sheet of paper. After that I took some tape and lightly taped the blank stickers on the page. Putting that sheet back in the printer upside down and hit print. The printer then printed out all the required labels and all I had left to do was cut them all out. I used different size fonts depending on the space available for that particular label.

I decided to label each cable on the ends, each terminal block output, connectors and the outside of the case on the panels. This will make debugging very easy, even for someone un -framiliar with this particular setup.

My tablet unfortunately doesn’t take the best pictures in the world but I wanted you to get an idea of how and where I decided to label everything. When I get to a digital camera I will take better pics.

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Every cable has a specific label which makes quick referencing very easy

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Here's the homing inputs, USB cable input, wiring for two more extruders and the on/standby/off switch

Update: November 8th 2013
Today I made a little progress and I was able to take the protective film off of the Lexan as well as label the majority of the lines.
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On the left side of the front you can see the new panel I made. It's all ready for everything to get mounted.

I finally figured out how to mount the power supply. I decided to reinforce the side so I could mount an adjustable mount that holds the PSU. It is semi-permanent. It has adjustments on the side that slide in to lock the power supply to the side of the controller enclosure. It is very stiff and the base acrylic plate is a little over 1/4″ thick.

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This is the plate that the slider brackets are mounted to.

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I also took the time to mount the fan controller that will allow me to change fan speeds to cool the electronics enclosure.

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Here's a full view of the floating mount. During transportation I can easily unlock the PSU or leave it how it is during operation.

Update: November 11th 2013
Today I plan on starting to cut out the spaces on 2 seperate panels for 6 4-pin molex connectors. These will be used to plug in the motors for my plus. I also took this opportunity to upgrade the wiring throughout my machine. Now all my motor wiring + power to extruder is about 14-16 gauge, endstops are about 20-22, thermisters are 20-22 and my power wiring is about 10 gauge with an in line fuse rated at 18amps. Later on I also plan to fuse the AC lines but for now those will be left stock.

Update: November 23rd 2013
I have taken a small break recently on the printrcase to work on a few other small projects but, today I had some more time to work on the control case. Today I built in all the XLR cable mounts on the front. I decided to add 4 of them even though I will only be using 2 currently. These are being used to run the power to the extruders. Eventually I will have 4 extruders hence the 4 XLR plugs. I currently have the hardware to run 3 extruders and I just got a new ad on closed loop stepper controller which will allow me to run four extruders. We are currently in the midst of designing the mounts for the quad extruder set up, more on that later.
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I also took the time to set up the DB9 cable connection. I built the six 4-pin molex connector extensions that will connect all 6 kysan motors, leaving space to add two more for the eventual quad extruder setup.

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I still have to build the front face cover that will be mounted on those stand-offs

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On the right side I still need to add the last three 4-pin molex connectors

Update: November 25th 2013
Like many of my build I am never truly satisfied and tell everything is perfect. I learned quite a bit with the first to printer case designs and builds. I figured out what worked and what didn’t. More importantly, I figured out the setup that would work the best to fit my needs. Space isn’t too much of an issue but, portability is. Before building yet another controller case I decided to figure out what was most important to me in a controller case. These are my main requirements: Portability, protection of all electronics, being able to fit as much as possible into the case, easy debugging, room for expansion, easy access to wiring etc, quick setups and tare downs.

I liked the server case that I used in the prior build but, I wanted to be able to fit two or at bare min one power supply. So I started hunting around for a new case that would fit a power supply as well as the essentials without being too big. I ended up settling on a small computer case, the smaller. desktop kind. It’s one of those old school “micro desktop” cases from about 10+ yrs ago. It has a corner sectioned off that fits the ATX PSU perfectly. It also had ample room for a cooling system that will surely keep the electronics free from heat. I was able to re-use the majority of wiring and parts from the last case. I still need to figure out mounting points for all the plugs. Being a computer tower it had spots that I could easily adapt for this use.

For the most part I was able to plum the majority of the wiring except some of the plugs that will connect on the Printrboard end. This setup is laid out more effectively the the prior setup. I was able to move all 6 of the motor input connections to the rear. Also the fan wiring, homing switches and thermistor were moved to the rear via DB-9 cables. The fan controller for the cases cooling system is also in the back but, I may move it to the front for easy adjustments. The power for both extruders is mounted on the left side via upgraded XLR cables with locking mounts. The USB plug was moved to the front and it is extendable if needed. I also decided to add a three point foot leveler setup that can be adjusted up to 3 inches up or down on each leg. I plan on re-painting the case black to give it a more sleek look. I will update with pics as I go.

Here are a few pics from the last few days of the build.

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The 3 point foot leveler setup allows for easy adjustment

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In the middle cutout I will be custom etching the printrbot logo. The front two marked cutouts, one is for the power supply fan and the other will be a matching inlet fan to cool the electronics.

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Everything is getting sanded to prep for primer, paint and clear coats

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We used metal pieces to add depth as well as prepared for the logo design.

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We threw this together really quick and more than likely this is the logo we will use for the center square cutout.

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This gives you a basic idea of the layout

Update: November 30th 2013
Today I plan on printing a few parts required to mount some connectors as well as some wire management clips. I also need to figure out where I am going to add the fourth extruder closed-loop controller. I plan on mounting it somewhere near the Printrboard and extrudaboard. I will update today after finishing some prints. I’m not expecting the quality of prints to be great due to recent damage done to my plus, but hey it’ll get me by.
Posted from RepRap Squad HQ

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About RepRap Squad

I have been involved with 3D printing for years and I wouldn't have it any other way. I also started a foundation called, "Printing a Future Foundation." The sole purpose of this foundation is to get as many 3D printers as we can into schools via donations. Being an Industry trends adviser within the additive manufacturing community allows me to be immersed in the things I enjoy most.

Posted on November 4, 2013, in RepRap Squad's Projects and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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