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January 31, 2021 3 min read

Welcome back! This is a three-part series on the beginnings of MOFCO 3D and the obstacles we had to overcome that quite nearly sank us.

In Part 1, we explored the beginnings of MOFCO 3D and the challenges we had in setting up the equipment. In this installment, we’re going to take a look at the weekly things that kept us from producing filament for sale.

Empty reels

We were referred to a company that informed us that we needed a three (3) week lead time to order empty reels, but we were in luck. A pallet was available and our logistics partner said we could have it delivered for $X in three (3) days or, for an additional $75, get guaranteed 4:00 PM delivery in two (2) days. WORST $75 decision we've ever made! We waited over a week because the shipping carrier wasn’t honest with us and LIED about delivery attempts and processing time. Long story short, we had to send a “rescue” truck to retrieve it 10 days after it was supposed to be delivered!

Machine malfunction

So finally, it’s "D-Day" if you will. Everything seems to be in position, we have raw materials and supplies. Time to make filament, right? SO wrong! We get to the shop at 7:00 AM. We weigh out 40Kg of PLA for drying. We have the extruder and water temps ready and have set the extruder speeds to ¼ capacity as this is our first attempt. Emotions and anticipation is growing as we initiate the sequence. We introduced colored raw material to the extruder and wait for the filament to be melted…and BAM…30 seconds into the game…we have a MAJOR equipment failure. The die head has been separated from the extractor. BLACK PLA is everywhere. What a mess. Everything stops.

The aftermath

We let everything stop and cool down. There is melted raw material EVERYWHERE! We have to take it all apart, clean it and figure out what happened. We start cleaning up the mess. You can’t get all the material off so we bring it to the exotic car restoration place up the street from us to see if they can sandblast the parts to determine what happened. They do and tell us the threads are shot.

Making the part

Seeing as the manufacturer has stopped communicating with us, we have to find an alternative source to make the part. The first place takes five (5) days to tell us it’s gonna be $975 to make the part, NOPE! We seek alternative choices, but many places are swamped and can’t get to our project for a month, UNACCEPTABLE. We find a machinist just 6 miles from my house and he makes the parts for $450, but they don’t fit!! He’s not open on Friday, but on Monday he makes it right. Time to make filament.

Heating band failure

So, we have the new parts. Let’s fire up the machines again and make some filament. Heating everything up takes about 30-40 minutes. I’m watching the temps. Die head not heating up. Touch it. Cold. Are you KIDDING ME? Fortunately, we have a spare. Shut everything down and install it. Everything heats up fine.

Raw material not entering extruder

OK. This next part is baffling as I can’t explain how the computer program got changes, but without the people at Seiman’s, I’d have thrown in the towel. Here’s what happened. FIRST, the raw material wasn’t being fed into the heating chambers by the screw. For some GOD forsaken reason, the screw was now running in reverse! It was taking previously melted material and forcing it back into the hopper. Since it was in reverse, it cooled and created what you see below.

Enter Seiman’s

The guy I talked with, saved me from, well…going crazy.Long story short, we reprogrammed the motors to run in the proper direction and were able to adjust the speeds. Ready to make filament? More obstacles.

This entire sequence set us back four (4) WEEKS. But we’re not over. As you’ll read in the next installment, we STILL aren’t able to produce filament!

Mike Cipriani
Mike Cipriani

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