[For Beginners] Starting from Scratch: AKA How I Learned to Stop Hating my Moai

#1

Updated 15 June 2019

So this story starts with multiple weeks of headaches, failed prints, a completed destroyed PDMS vat, and almost two liters of wasted resin. I scoured the forums on a near daily basis but never got anywhere, just more failed prints, wasted resin, and frustration.

This post is a culmination of everything I learned. Throwing out the useless information, and providing a more unified starting point that I was unable to find in the existing documentation and forum posts. And I by no means mean any offense to the great people here; I wouldn’t have this knowledge if not for a combination of my own trial and error and the kind people of the forums. I merely mean that the good information is too scattered and too cluttered with bad information.

Getting Started: My Moai Setup

  • I have the Moai 130, purchased Q1 2019, before the SD card reader was updated to a ribbon cable.
  • Peopoly’s heater module, placed in the upper chamber, back left corner.
  • Standard build plate
  • PDMS vat (Resurfaced)
  • Software: PreForm, ChiTuBox, Asura

Configuration Settings
I’m using the latest Peopoly recommended settings as of 20 May 2019, with one exception.

  • I have modified the Z Reset Position during my modified leveling process (see below)

Laser Calibration
Peopoly’s instructions for laser calibration are fine. No issues here, this part of the process was smooth and needs no re-writing.

Leveling

  • If you’re using the FEP vat, you must use the Easy Level build plate. The standard build plate will overflow the resin in the FEP vat.
  • If you’re using the Easy Level build plate, loosen the bolts, fully extend the plate, and retighten the bolts, then follow the instructions below. Don’t bother trying to use the bolts to do leveling since it’s basically impossible to get even pressure on all four corners while also attempting to tighten the bolts.
  • In order to properly level, you will need digital calipers. Unfortunately there’s no way around this.

Level your machine as best you can first. This just helps the overall print quality and doesn’t make a huge difference to calibration or leveling, but it does help a bit with the resin flow. I recommend using a cross check (or T-Level) bubble level for this.

Remove both the left and right panels from the Moai to gain access to the vat adjustments; having both sides off makes it much easier.

Keeping in mind that the PDMS vat’s default Z Reset is 1877, I recommend starting at 1870; especially if you’ve resurfaced your vat since the PDMS thickness itself can vary from vat to vat and a resurface will certainly be a different thickness. A good thing to know here is that the Z Reset is increments of 1/10th of a millimeter.

Once you set the Z Reset, the build plate should lower into position. Using the reflections of the build plate on the PDMS layer, you can eyeball how level your vat is. The build plate and its reflection should form perfectly parallel lines with one another. Use the included socket driver to tweak the vat corners until the reflection is as close to parallel as possible.

Once you’re visibly level, slowly increase your Z Reset until the bed just barely touches the PDMS. Then back it off 1-2 points. Recheck your level by checking for the perfectly parallel reflection.

Now it’s time to fine tune! Print the DIY four corners test file, you should be within 0.5mm on all four corners. If all four pillars are within 0.2mm of each other, then all you need to do is adjust your Z Reset by an amount that will put all four into the 10.6mm to 10.8mm range.

For instance if your DIY test comes out with the following A=10.80, B=10.82, C=10.98, D=10.94, the worst offender is 0.2mm too high, you would increase the Z Reset by 2, reprinting should give the results A=10.60, B=10.62, C=10.78, D=10.74 which will produce beautiful prints.

If the corners are NOT within 0.2mm of each other, first increase the Z Reset to make sure none of them are more than 0.5mm off from the recommended 10.6-10.8mm range, then very carefully tweak the tallest corners to lift the vat higher 1/4 turn at a time between tests.

Something to note here: the thinner your layers are, the more critical it becomes to get all four corners as close to each other as possible. 0.2mm variance should work down to 60um and maybe down to 40um, but you’ll probably want tighter tolerances for thinner layers. This means more patience and more test prints to get things perfect.

Ultimately, my Z Reset ended up at 1882 after leveling, and that’s fine because I had resurfaced my vat and I used a more thorough leveling process that threw away faulty assumptions. It’s fine if your Z Reset is different, just make sure you keep track of it somewhere. You can certainly use the Peopoly recommended 1877 and rely entirely on the vat screws, but that method is going to take more work to get perfect leveling.

Supports and Solid Parts
I start by using PreForm from Form Labs to get a good orientation on my parts. Unfortunately there’s no way to export the correctly oriented part as an STL as far as I can find, but I take note of the position before moving on to support generation.

Next, I move over to ChiTuBox. I bring in my model and orient it per PreForm’s suggestion. This tends to be a pretty solid orientation. I then use ChiTuBox’s auto-generated supports set to the built-in Thin profile. This works great for smaller models, but you may want to go to the Medium profile for heavier models.

Before moving on, I now go through the layer slider and make sure there’s no small floaty bits left unsupported and I manually add any additional support I feel may be needed. Once that’s done, I export to a new STL file.

Now on to Asura; it’s an okay slicer, but importantly it handles Moai properly so that’s why I go here to finish up. I don’t like printing solid chunks in resin; they stick to the vat and cause excessive suction. So I use Asura’s hollowing function and make walls no thicker than about 5mm (I prefer 2mm where possible).

It’s important to use the hole tool here as well while generating the cavity; 1.5mm holes seem to be perfect. These holes can be anywhere on the model as long as it connects to the internal cavity; they don’t need to be oriented to drain as it prints, so hide them in places where they won’t affect your model’s final function. Since the cavity remains open during the printing, only a small amount will pool up inside the cavity; it can be drained after the printing is completed.

Finishing Up
At this point, everything should be calibrated beautifully and printing near perfect. Use IPA and clean/finish the printed parts as recommended by the resin manufacturer. Personally, I use an IPA-safe plastic tub with a mesh stand inside it to place the parts on, then place the whole thing on a magnetic lab stirrer.

Problems I Faced, How I Resolved Them, And Why
Easy Level Build Plate - Plate adhesion was great, but prints would fail after 10-15mm. Unfortunately this plate is nearly impossible to level properly using the bolts because it requires all four corners to have even pressure, and no slipping while you tighten the bolts. Instead, I tried collapsing the plate entirely, but the top bolts were in the way and it ended up heavily cocked to one side. Ultimately I found fully extending the plate worked best, and treating it as a standard build plate from there.

FEP vat - I was experiencing a lot of print failures with the resin adhering to the FEP film and not releasing. As it turned out, the FEP film that was pre-installed was bad. It had a weird rainbow shimmer to it, a bit like the surface of motor oil; I think this may have been caused by heat during shipping? After replacing the film with a new one, the vat was crystal clear and prints stopped sticking to the FEP film.

Temperature - Added Peopoly’s heater - I don’t have a dedicated room I can keep my printer warm in without overheating the whole house. Resins at room temperature were way too thick, so the easy solution was installing Peopoly’s heater. Highly recommended.

Leveling - Peopoly’s leveling guide is tedious to follow and makes too many assumptions about the consistency of their PDMS vats. The FEP vats are easier in this regard, as the thickness is much more consistent. The easy level build plate doesn’t actually make things any easier; if anything it makes problems worse because it can be VERY difficult to get consistent pressure on all four corners while also trying to tighten down the nuts. This ultimately means you have to level the build plate, then ALSO level the vat to fix any slight errors.

PDMS Vat - Resurfaced - After a catastrophic failure of my PDMS vat, I had to resurface the silicone. This involved completely removing the existing silicone, thoroughly cleaning the vat with clean IPA until it was spotless, and then using an inexpensive platinum cure 2-part silicone (QSIL 216). I used a 48hr heated cure for a better finish; This was done inside the Moai with its heater turned on. My replacement PDMS is much stiffer than the original, which is turning out to be a net positive. It’s also resisting damage from the laser better, although I can’t explain why that might be.

Supports - Support generation is a pain in the backside; Cura doesn’t do good supports for SLA on its own, and Asura’s support generation has horrible shaped rafts that you can’t get a blade under. Asura also doesn’t put supports in the correct places; it frequently leaves floating bits that cause print failures. I’ve had to resort to a three application process for orienting the model, generating supports, and slicing.

MORE TO COME: I’ll be updating this guide with additional information as I learn more, I just wanted to get the basics down as quickly as possible for anyone else who may be struggling like I was.

6 Likes

Cura not working in moai printer
New to SLA and getting Moai 130
#2

hi ShadowDrakken,

Thank you for supporting Moai. You point out several areas where I like to address directly.

If you want the resin to have more time to flow, you need to increase pm-reset and decrease pm motor speed. Increase zfollow can lead to high failure rate for the left side of the plate (AB) because the object moves too much down during peel movement and may get crushed by the vat that is completing the peeling motion. Stick with 10. it is a good number. don’t touch it unless you have VERY specialized need (aka material researcher)

Good stuff on the level. zreset number is designed for original pdms. it is a smart thing to change it depending on situation and especially if you have a resurface /non-standard vat. It is not a good thing to do for a beginner starting up, and leveling is usually the place that caught people as it is very different what level means in the FDM printing world. In short, you can get good prints from 10 - 10.9mm but for the sake of PDMS vat longevity, stick with 10.6-10.9. Several users like to print at 11mm, but that is for advanced users who know exactly what they are getting into.

On the slicing and support, we heavily recommended Asura, not only it is our ugly little duckling, but it has several advantages that would probably have made the journey much less painful.

  • The profiles are preset with correct curaengine. you do not have to worry about results. Several new users got caught by wrong Cura version / profiles / accidentally typing wrong number. Our support load dropped significantly after Asura was released
  • The support (2.2.2) settings are calibrated explicitly for Moai and works for both FEP vat and Moai 200. Most of the free software is made for LCD printers with much less peel force and no tilting action. (thus using too thin of the base/support) All software miss spots and Asura does a superb job if you use the latest version with island base. (those settins even work for Moai 200 fep vat which has much higher peel force than Moai 130) This should solve a lot of your FEP vat issue. you can read more about it here wiki.peopoly.net/doku.php?id=moai:fep
  • Latest Asura also now has different print speeds for support and main body which increase print success by overcuring the support. This only works for supports made in Asura since that is the only way Asura can tell which part of the object is the main model and which is not.
  • Asura’s hollowing algorithm is like still one of the best with less polygon errors. It is better than Meshmixer (which is what we set out to do)

wiki.peopoly.net/doku.php?id=moai:asura

All of the info are on Wiki and scattered around the forum. Some of the answers on forum are useful at the time of the post but has since become outdated. When in doubt, search on wiki. Thanks for joining our community and look forward to your future posts

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#3

I’ve used Asura from the beginning. It’s definitely the best for hollowing and for generating the gcode, but for generating supports it’s garbage, plain and simple. That’s why I changed my process to generate better support and orientation.

Every single change I made here was specifically to address a problem that was causing print failures. Since I made these changes I went from a total of 3 successful prints from 2L of resin, to printing successfully for 2 days non-stop. I feel like the results prove themselves.

“All of the info are scattered around the forum” – that’s EXACTLY the problem. There’s no organization, no good starting point. It’s a mess. That’s why I had to write this guide.

But thank you for the communication, it’s one of the things I like about Peopoly; you’re active with the community. I just wish you were more open to listening as much as you are to talking.

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#4

We are here and listening. So when you said “Asura support is garbage” Can you be more specific which part of it is problem for you? If it is something we can address, we love to. You also mention you have tons of problems with FEP vat which is what recent updates to Asura are specific for. I am interested to make your Moai work better for you and we have a lot of users who had problems with fep vat initially but have since switch to 100% fep with changes to settings and use of newer Asura version. The enhanced island base + stronger support tips are specifically for the Moai peel force on FEP vat. Many software like chitubox have settings for LCD printers that too thin and will the base / support snapped off on Moai. Have you tried Asura 2.22 with the new support parameters, that is the only software support we can find that works consistently on a Moai 200 which much higher peel force than Moai 130.

As with the scattering info, all the official info is centralized on wiki.peopoly.net but we still have problem getting users to find the info there first before going to the forum. It is fun to get a reply on forum or Facebook groups but for official info laid out in consistent type, it is why Wiki existed. How do you think we should get people use the Wiki instead of searching the forum?

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#5

@peopoly
I leave a bit of the subject but you mentioned it here because I ask you here, the subject of stronger supports for the FEP is the new thing that you have corrected for asura 2.23 or not? I see that you comment that if those new parameters have been tested in asura 2.22 and I’m a bit confused, please clarify it to me because I’m using the 2.23 beta since you uploaded it

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#6

We just updated the latest 2.2.2 to include the change and the new profiles for it. just delete everything and download it again here

http://wiki.peopoly.net/doku.php?id=moai:asura

The parameters discussed here deals with size, shape of the supports and base.

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#7

The WIKI is unfortunately not a panacea.

The forum is mostly up to date and shows various aspects, which are viewed by many users from different points of view. This is very useful when trying to solve a diffuse problem with the Moai.

To make matters worse, that is the Moai is not static, because he is still in the development phase. Unfortunately, most of them are not aware of this. Quickly you are disillusioned and after a few unsuccessful attempts to move the thing to print you get frustrated. Since user help in the forum simply better, since these usually had the same problems.

The big dilemma in my view is that Peopoly brings to market devices that are neither finished nor mature. The device and the software are constantly evolving and there are just too many variables in the system. To represent this in a WIKI is a Sisyphus work - actually not satisfactorily realizable. So general basic instructions in the wiki are a good starting point and the forum will help with specific questions and problems. The current one seems to me to be a good concept.

What could be better now?

  1. Update WIKI faster on the basis of new development results and the information from the forum
  2. better structure in WIKI
  3. Better breakdown of information related to versions / device types
  4. A decent manual for the delivered device, which provides step by step easy commissioning and operation of the device and the software.

Point 4 could, in my opinion, make a large part of the forum contributions unnecessary.

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#8

@peopoly
the improvements that were introduced for the 2.23 that I test, are in the 2.22 that you just sent me?

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#9

yes. the latest 2.2.2 has that new support curing ability

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#10

Re: Asura’s support generation.

As I stated in my original post, the bases of the supports don’t have any sort of ledge to get a blade under and they don’t generate in the right places, leaving MANY unsupported floating spots that simply fail to print as a result.

I’m fully aware that Peopoly cannot support ChiTuBox. But I still recommend it over Asura for support generation because its supports and its automatic generation of supports are objectively superior.

I use three different apps because each one has its strong and weak points, and I’m maximizing those strong points. Asura lacks auto-orient. Asura’s support generation could use improvement. Until those things are fixed, ProForm is great for orientation and ChiTuBox is great for supports. Asura is great for hollowing and slicing though, so I still recommend it for those steps.

I’m not saying these things to attack Peopoly. I’ve shared what I’ve learned here in a single consolidated post in order to help other newbies like myself to actually enjoy the product. Two weeks ago I was ready to throw the Moai in the trash and write it off as a complete loss. By starting over from scratch, consolidating information, throwing out the wrong/useless/outdated information, and writing up this starter guide I was able to salvage a bad experience and actually start enjoying the product.

I posted this to help others find that same enjoyment.

1 Like

#11

We totally understand you are not attacking us and we are looking to address our shortcomings. The team has gone through some growing pain from the early days and is getting more help with support, and documentations. While Moai is 2 years old, we are still adding new features and making improvements. Asura 2.2.3 is on the way. The ability to print support at different speed can improve quality and print success a long way. We will follow up again.

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#12

@ShadowDrakken, great stuff. This really helped. Thanks for sharing.

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#13

Quick update here; I got the FEP vat working finally, turns out the FEP film the vat shipped with was the problem. This also required me to go back and solve my issues with the Easy Level Build Plate, since the standard build plate causes the FEP vat to overflow. After replacing the FEP everything is brilliant. I’ll be updating my original post this weekend with everything new that I’ve learned.

I swapped out the FEP film on a whim, and I immediately noticed that the new film was crystal clear, while the film it shipped with had an oily looking iridescence. Both the vat and the replacement film are Peopoly’s own branded product purchased through MatterHackers.

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#14

Been trying to level this printer for 2 weeks now and nothing, tried to use a lower Z-reset value and i got it at 1872 to print all cylinders, albeit smaller cylinders in length with regular buildplate and vat. Tried to use the instructional post to use the easy to level buildplate and only 2 cylinder printer, i am at a point now where i don’t know if this printer is any good anymore and don’t know if i should keep it. I wanted a printer that delivered consistent results, but i cant even get the damn thing to print the calibration file correctly. And printing a file then going through the entire hassle of removing the print, cleaning the buildplate, checking the vat for debris and all that stuff is stupid, there has to be a better way of leveling without printing.

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#15

Unfortunately, without modding the printer there’s no way to level without at least one test print.

I do have new guidance on the easy level plate though, I just don’t have time to do a full write-up until either tomorrow or Sunday. But the TL;DR; version is to fully extend the easy level, and use the traditional method of leveling (posted above). Trying to use the “easy” part of the easy level plate fails me every time.

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#16

Im going to do a full reset tomorrow using the regular buildplate and vat, there is on thingyverse a differnt method of leveling, requires printing on an fdm printer some parts.

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#17

Did a full level reset, cleaned and filtered the vat, and only 2 cylinders printed of the DIY test, the 2 that printed came out small, thought reseting would at least make all the cylinders print but no, seems like the quality and the precision of this machine is going down the more i use it. Now rotated left the two nuts underneath the vat to increase pressure on the 2 that didnt print, will see how it turns out, im betting it wont work like nothing on this printer.

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#18

Take your time. That’s the same frustration that lead me down this road. You’ll get there :slight_smile:

Did you go back to the PDMS vat, or still on the FEP vat? I discovered that the FEP vats I received shipped with bad FEP. After swapping out with new FEP I’m finally able to use that vat. Got some last minute tweaks here and I should be able to do a writeup soon.

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#19

I only used a regular vat, and tried the easy to level buildplate, both same results only 2 cylinders printed and at a smaller lenght, now after i rotated the 2 nuts underneath towards left 90 degrees only one cylinder printed, now i have to rotate the nuts in the opposite direction , maybe there is too much pressure on the cylinders that broke, i have no idea.

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#20

Does youre vat have a slight movement? Another user had something similar and was told to ducktabe the vat to the metal part.

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