X5S Upgrade List & intermediate conclusion

After more and more printing and less and less tinkering, I realized, that everything doumented by now comprises seven posts already [Edit: and that gre further, later on 😉 ]. Time to condese this.

Furthermore, the TronXY X5S still seems to sell quite good (more and more folks ask for “first upgrades” and “most important upgrades” in the FB group) and lists like this, which was obviously made without owning an X5S, are showing up. I disagree with most of the latter. So I wrote down my own, prioritized list here.

But first: the basics

As explained in my first post about the X5S (for reasons of clarity: [1]), this machine is not a good model for absolute beginners. The learning curve on a CoreXY machine is steeper than let’s say on a “Mendel 90” stlye model, like the Prusa i3. And going for the “original” Prusa also has the advantage of delivering the best components available (swedish Bondtech Extruder, british E3D Hot End, german Trinamic driver equipped US-american Einsy Rambo controller board, prepared for OctoPrint, austrian Noctua Fans…) in their genuine version.

If you cut the price by more than half there have to be draw-backs. And there are. Apart from the room for improvement it is the quality of each individual component. Broken acrylic parts belonged to the “teething troubles” of the kit, bad bearings, stepper motors and failing controller boards are still reported – so you better know where to search the sources of trouble and have the spares already lying around, if you pull the trigger on this model.

Community support is available in https://www.facebook.com/groups/169728600253557/ and you will find a lot of tutorials on http://customize-3d.com. Read them – especially “Stepper Driver Current Adjustment” and “Mk7 / Mk8 Hotend Assembly Rebuild“.

To see all my TronXY X5S related posts, use https://burningbecks.wordpress.com/tag/x5s/ and to dig into the archives of all my RepRap related posts, use https://burningbecks.wordpress.com/tag/3d-printer/. 🙂

Printable upgrades are mostly on https://www.thingiverse.com/ and the descriptions there will often contain some extra clues. (I would really appreciate a bit more diversity in STL hosting, but neither have YouMagine and MyMiniFactory the parts you need, nor do Yeggi, Yobi, STLfinder etc. make searching really comfortable.)

As general guides I can recommend “Build A 3D Printer Workhorse, Not an Amazing Disappointment Machine” by Moritz Walter on Hackaday and Mark Rehorst’s Instructable on “An Almost Reliable, High Precision, 3D Printer: Son of MegaMax (SoM)“. Yes, Dr. Rehorst is -strictly speaking- not in the postition to analyze sources of error down to the last detail, as he draws on unlimited resources to eliminate all of them at once. 😉 (Visit https://drmrehorst.blogspot.com/ to see his other builds.)

Enough links, now for the upgrades…

Sanity check: is it unnecessary?

The kit evolved over time. Not all claims on the internet may be true for your specimen!

If you have a received a newer version of the kit, you have a metal plate to mount your Z axis linear rods into. You don’t need to print the (lower) “anti wobble” Z mount stuff from Thingiverse then.

Same goes for “belt straightener” parts. If you have the back plate for your X carriage you don’t need them.

A dual power heated bed (three solder pads for power) may be capable of reaching your required temperature on 12V, where the older ones definitely needed a higher Voltage (separate 24V PSU).

Can’t tell, if TL-Smoothers are effective here. The “salmon skin effect” they counter is caused by worst with the DRV8825 stepper driver from Texas Instruments, which are not equipped on the TronXY board. At least not the red “Melzi” one.** But it doesn’t sport Allegros either, but “Heroic” HR4982MTE ICs [13].

Should your Z axis have problems with motion: try exchanging stepper motors with other axes. You may have received a bad one. Don’t just re-solder them into serial connection, just because the internet said so…

Indispensable / absolutely essential 

Of course: everything that breaks or can’t be put into operation reliably immediately gets priority zero. 😉

1. Metal corner brackets

Metal corner brackets (as well as corresponding T-nuts and 8mm short screws) should be ordered alongside the kit. The frame has to be square or you will run into trouble later. They also give extra stability, which will also help to avoid even more trouble. More info in [2].

Rely on these brackets to keep the frame in shape, not the screws TronXY meant for it – those in the linear shafts on the Z axis may even cause your Y gantry to bend. (You can leave them there, but don’t turn them tight.)

Jpeg

2. Planar build platform

Talking about straight things and stuff that bends in “stock configuration”: you need a rock solid build plate. And that might indeed be a polished granite floor tile! The details on mine (which was outfitted with some Conrad “1522171” BuildTak clone in the meantime) can be found in [3]. Of course (thick) glass also works. As my tile is only 305×305 mm² and it’s pretty heavy, a 6 mm glass sheet, 330×330 is already here – but I will use up that sticker first…

Edit: 6mm glass also works well. If you go thinner that 4mm, PID regulation of the heated bed becomes mandatory. You could see the expasion and contraction of the build plate on your prints with bang-bang control, if your plate is too flexible.

Once the heated bed is bent straight by your build surface, you can re-arrage from six point twisting to three point levelling. Advantages described in the post mentioned above or go directly to Mark Rehorst here. As I saw one report of an “extruder spring” carving into the traces of the HBP be careful how you mount them! Isolating washers are a good idea there.

“Levelling Knobs” can be printed. Search for both spellings (levelling and leveling) as Thingiverse’s search function is pretty basic.

You may also wanna look at the Anycubic Ultrabase.

3. & 4. Can alternatively be replaced by a mains voltage silicone heater pad and an SSR (solid-state-relay), if you don’t mind working at this (potentially lethal) level.

3. HBP external MOSFET

The external Power MOSFET Module should also be ordered alongside the fabber. You don’t have to build your own , as in [3] – they cost just a few bucks ready made (mine was delievered with delay). These little guys take a lot of burden (the entire current for the heated build plate) from you controller board and should prolong it’s life significantly. And reduce the rist of burning your house down.

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Also use some thicker wire (or more wires) for the HBP – especially if you solder it into 12V configuration. And use extra flexible wire to prevent it from breaking inside that drag chain. For me leftover speaker cable did the trick. And watch the bend radius of the drag chain.

In any case: be aware that soldering this enormous 330×330 mm² aluminium PCB is not something your 15W electronics soldering iron can do! More on that topic, alongside insulation, measurements of temperatures, voltage drops and so on in [3].

4. 24V power supply

And while we are at powering the HBP and prolongnig the life of electronic components: if you print PET or hotter (ABS, ASA, Nylon, PC, …) get that heatbed run from a second power supply via the MOSFET mentioned above! This can be a 24V PSU – and it should be one, if your HBP can not be soldered to below 1 Ohm. Or use a single, big (e.g. server-)PSU, if you stay at 12V.

Also replace that blue painter’s tape (keeping the sensor in place) with kapton, or you risk a thermal runaway!

More on my PSUs in [1], HBP wiring in [3], changing their fans and easing their respiration is described in [7].

5. Part cooling fan

If you print PLA only, then something else needs your attention: replace the stock “4010” blower and it’s shroud / air duct. Use at least one 5015 blower (again: order one or two with the printer) for parts cooling when printing PLA and watch were your airstream is pointed at!

There are even designs on thingiverse with two blowers. And some comments reveal the ducts had to be modified to avoid blowing at the heater block (like the stock part – but that doesn’t cool enough anyway). Also watch where your Hot End heatsink is cooled, as some of those “Fang” ducts send half the air of the Hot End fan towards the bowden tube (instead to the heat sink). See [7] for my last revamping with the stock hotend.

CR-10 designs are compatible to the Makerbot Mk8 / Mk 10 styled Hot End and the TronXY X-carriage.

The Petsfang is also available in an Tronxy-Version.

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6. Tackle the Z axis de-syncing somehow!

In [4] you can see gauges for the upper- and “hard endstops” for the lower side of the vertical lift. Move Z until both steppers start skipping, maybe even by your starting GCode, and you will have your bed level again. Some guys just use zip ties or sharpie marks to take notice of de-synchronization, but I was okay with the rattles.

Recommended Upgrades / next steps

7. Update controller firmware

Update your firmware to the latest Marlin (or Repetier) version. As described in [4], flash something customizable. Where you can at least configure the safety features yourself. Thomas Sanladerer has made a video to descibe them (and this is his general safety video).

[12] describes how you can configure a “plain vanilla” Marlin 1.1.9, but you may skip that and go for the Marlin bugfix-2.0.x version.

OctoPrint users may consider using Klipper instead, to shift the “heavy lifting” from the 8bit controller into their ‘Pi.

8. Z wobble fix / stabilization

Should Z wobble occur, think carefully about what is bent or overconstraint – the designation deludes. Removing the grub screw from the top flange bearing of the threaded rod may be a better way to counter the thread imprint on your part, than adding even more bearings. The upper TronXY X5S Z axis mount by ljbrumfield on my printer was a precautionary measure, as my JunkStrap had a massive Z wobble problem.

Take a look at the  X5S Z support System by DKDaigle, because that also contains the Z axis sync! Also: contrary to ljbrumfield, DKDaigle doesn’t illegalize remixes. And if Derrick’s parts aren’t massive enough, take a look at Connolly’s version.

If your (unmodified) linear bearings leave their premises, print a “linear bearing hold down thing“.

And get yourself some metal LMF8LUUs to replace the plastic sleeved ones. They will break at some point.

9. Definite Z axis synchronistion

Fear of Z wobble also led me to install my mechanical Z axis sync without idlers. As described in [5], this timing belt just knocks the second motor into dynamic friction, if the first one starts rotating earlier. It works. My bed now stays level. Therefore I don’t have plans to install ABL (automatic bed levelling), which would IMHO only cover up shortcomings anyway.

If I hadn’t had a belt of the right lenth lying around (or my board had failed) I would have gone with a second Z endstop and a second Z motor driver. Marlin allows to #define Z_DUAL_STEPPER_DRIVERS in Configuration_adv.h. Then each threaded rod will be homed independently. You need a different board with that extra stepper driver, like a RAMPS or BIQU KFB for that. Edit: You might also consider the 32bit BIQU “SKR”. [14]

You can also go for a single stepper motor driving both leadscrews. I have even seen a conversion to triple independent leadscrew (that one is also capable of levelling the bed that way). Parts and lists of “vitamins” may be found at the places mentioned under “basics”. 😉

10. Idlers and belts

The stock belt idlers & idler mounts are a constant source of hassle. If you don’t already have bad bearings, you can just print some “collars”, like I described in [3].

Stacked idler mounts need extra clearance, so I went for TronXY X5S X Y Corner Pulley Mount by ljbrumfield, when I installed metal idlers – see [7] for that. Those “20T / 5mm bore / GT2” idlers (eight total, two of them without teeth) normally come with their own bearings. Keep an eye on their quality (smooth running) – don’t apply a cure, that is worse than the disease!

On the other hand stacked idlers are easier to place (and keep in place) correctly, as Mark Rehorst describes in his detailed blog post here. Edit: Re-Stacked the idlers again. [15] and [16] belong together.
Hint: Be aware of what he mentiones about which belt segments have to run parallel to which parts! Motor mounts, gantry plates / carriages and idler mounts have to fit to another! Again DKDaigle did a great job in putting together a package – and he just updated it. Alternatively Connolly also has published a mod, that looks rugged enough.

Changing the belt from steel reinforced to glass reinforced neoprene did not make any obvious difference to me, but some folks complained about their belts failing (by getting stretched too much) and pc-rubber belts are easier to tension.

11.Feeder / Extruder Cold End

My Feeder / Cold End of the extruder didn’t work at all. Maybe that was my personal, “mandatory” bad stepper. Others report their specimens working flawlessly, so I won’t rant on the design here. As stated in [3], I was pretty impressed with the performance of the B’Struder I had printed just for fun. For an ungeared feeder, that is. 😉

Geared ones are mentioned in the post and I have some so called “Cloned Btech Dual Gears” incoming. We’ll see if they are any good. Maybe I will convert to bowden-less with them. (Or throw them away and go for a Titan Aero instead…)

Edit: First version, conversion to Prusa i3 Mk3 carriage, done! See [11].

Edit again: Second iteration is in [16], which belongs to [15].

12. Let there be light!

A simple LED strip saves a lot of waving the flashlight around! Mine is just zip-tied to the 2020 profile at the moment.

13. Electronics box / LCD screen mount

As I was tired of kneeling down before the LCD, I printed that SgaboLab 45° electronics case and also the appropriate power switch holder. The case also helps with cable management and ventilation. It’s modified – see [4].

14. Top mount cable chain

With the MGN12 carriange I probably don’t need it anymore, but with the old gantry I could cause layer shift by pushing filament into the bowden tube. So I didn’t want the drag chain to bend the carriage either. I mounted the “Top Mount Cable Chain by as24”, but I also realized, that it can come apart, if your carriage reaches the wrong places of the build plate. At least if you keep it seperate from the bowden tube. See [5] for some more info.

By this time I replaced the “as24” chain mount with the  Tronxy X5S Top Mount Cable Chain Remix by Vetterick.

If you use a bowden extruder you can also just use cable wrap to tie those cables to the bowden tube – saves a lot extra weight.

Jpeg

15. Linear rail slides (MGN12 clones)

If your rollers are ground away, consider switching to those MGN12 (clones). The linear rails also add stability to your frame again (and also weight, maybe noise, but I don’t care). I described my upgrade in [5] and [6].

But: never change a running system! Your wheels stay clean and there is no play? Keep everything the way it is. Your quality won’t improve by replacing working components.

If you want to keep the wheels take a look at DMakers and those metal plates. Add eccentric nuts, so you can adjust them.

16. OctoPrint on an OctoPi

Printing from SD card will get your prints to run overnight (hope you have a smoke detector and/or automatic fire extinguisher in place then), but controlling and watching from the sofa via browser and mobile app (used OctoDroid by mariogrip on Android 5, but now it’s OctoRemote for me) via OctoPi is in a different league. 🙂

I don’t think the Raspberry Pi Camera NoIR v2 is the best solution for that (or maybe I just need more light). I was just too lazy to search properly. ^^

More info on that in [8].

17. Silent (axial) fans

Exchange the really cheap ones for silent fans – those don’t cost much either. Description in [7].

18. Cable management

Cable guides for the 2020 profiles can be found anywhere – looking at “things” 2613532, 2666871 and 2843027 could be a good start. And while you’re at giving everything a clean look: you don’t have to buy the colorful groove covers on Aliexpress – just print thing 1478147. (Seen that last thing on Scott’s Printable Printer Upgrades List.)

Out of sequence: filament dry box

For me this is not printer-specific. But it’s also too important to exclude. My last post before this one: [9]

Finally: Stuff I did not change (…yet)

No experience with Capricorn Bowden Tubing yet. And maybe I won’t get it, because everything, that is wrong with bowden extruders (listed here by E3D themselves), is only watered down by it. If you wanna stay bowden and are interested: heard only positive opinions about it, so give it a try!

I do, however, use some genuine Collet Clips – but I also used printed anti-backlash pneufit clips (or just wrapped wires) before, as I don’t like retraction destroying the tube and pneumatic fittings. 😉

IMG_1493
Don’t mind the dust – this picture comes from a different context… (Tag: “Sumpod”)

As a former genuine E3Dv5 user, who received a good “Makerbot Mk 8” specimen with his TronXY X5S kit I have to say:

Be careful!  Exchanging the stock part might not be an upgrade at all.

If you use PLA and tons of retraction, the full-metal hot end (without a PTFE liner) will jam MORE EASILY. (A Volcano could compensate that by enlarging the melt zone, but that might give you more stringing as a tradeoff.) And just now we are talking about a genuine E3D here – not those clones out there with more individual pitfalls…
A larger nozzle (=> Prusa Blog) can also be fitted to the stock Hot End (using 0.6mm at the moment). The smaller melt zone will then limit your print speed (but also your stringing).

Jpeg

Panels or enclosure? Have none, PET still prints fine.
I don’t print ABS – it’s not worth it*. If you go for Nylon or Polycarbonate put the whole printer into a proper chamber – but that’s nothing I tried by now.

Conclusion?

Ah, yes – I announced that. Based on the beginning of [1] and the end of [10] everything is fine. I like printing 25% printer parts on my printers – which I do for about five years now. 😉

With “ljbrumfileld” mechanics and the TronXY Melzi I could not beat*** my colleague’s Original Prusa i3 MK3 (surprise 😛 ). The surface quality and mechanical repeatbility of that machine is just better. Because reasons. And he has all those nice gimmicks – but on the other hand: early adopters also have their share of updates and upgrades to do. 😉

*…unless you want to glue or vapor smooth it. PET’s resistance to chemicals also means that most glues will be useless.

** Apparantly I triggered Cunningham’s Law on the Smoother-Topic on Facebook. Gonna re-write that part maybe. But don’t anticipate too much from those diode smoothers – if you’re not into totally perfect surface quality, ignore them. 😉
Further reading: Nop Head: “StepStuck”reprap.org Forumhackaday.comcabristor.blogspot.com.

*** I have a sample print made with Slicer PE’s highest quality settings and my X5S has (so far) still surface artifacts from some bad idler bearing, wobbling pulley, mechanical vibration or even strange current ripple from the stepper/driver combination. The MK3 doesn’t do this. IMHO there is no point in challenging a machine showing none of the “inconsistent extrusion” problems other Prusa owners have at this point. We’ll come to that later, when my gantry is fully re-built.

References:

[1] Finally: Another 3D-Printer Kit (Tronxy X5S)

[2] Tronxy X5S: Frame, X/Y-Gantry, Hot End

[3] Tronxy X5S: Heatbed and Movement

[4] Putting the X5S to use

[5] Tronxy X5S: X-axis MGN12 linear rail conversion and Z-axis sync

[6] The missing MGN12s on the Tronxy X5S (and other stuff)

[7] Neoprene timing belts and silent fans for the X5S

[8] Junk electronics, new electronics

[9] Filament drybox from paint bucket

[10] The bottom line under all the Junk

[11] The „Prusaic“ extruder – X5S goes direct

[12] Marlin 1.1.9 on TronXY X5S („Melzi“ style board)

[13] Goodbye TronXY Melzi…

[14] …hello SKR, TMC2130 and LV8729!

[15] New Y gantry – stacking the pulleys again

[16] Matched X carriage – including XCR-BP6 and Petsfang

5 thoughts on “X5S Upgrade List & intermediate conclusion

  1. Hi! I also wanted to say thanks. Finally a usefull list of improvements. While my printer is already very useable without any updates, some things could be better. Well, but my prorities are a little bit different. Since it is in my living room, it needs to get less noisy first..

    Like

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