The beauty of the Maker Select and Wanhao Duplicator printers is that with several upgrades, they can achieve results that rival much more expensive machines. At the top of the list for upgrades, you will always find the Z-Brace Mod as the number one recommendation. The i3 frame design is quite popular and remains a top choice for the budget 3D printer market. The largest drawback however is that the vertical axis lacks necessary support, resulting in what is known as Z-wobble during printing.
Imagine Da Vinci was trying to paint the Mona Lisa during a level 2 earthquake, your results with the stock frame can easily produce similar abominations. By placing your hand on the top of the machine and pushing back and fourth, you can observe the movement that is present. The faster you try to print, the more glaring this problem becomes as the rapid movements accelerate.
The Z-Brace Mod designed by AzzA has been the go to choice for several years. With a trip to the hardware store and a dozen printed parts, you have the perfect DIY solution. On the other hand, what happens if you don’t have the means to cut the metal rods to length? Perhaps you don’t have the filament available to print all of the necessary parts. While the idea of using your 3D printer to upgrade itself right out of the box is exciting, small caveats can create unexpected complications.
If you fall into the categories above or are just looking for a manufactured alternative, Gulfcoast Robotics has designed a Z-Brace Mod Kit to meet those needs. Created to fit the Maker Select, Wanhao Duplicator and Cacoon Create, this kit is a breeze to install and can be done in less than 10 minutes.
Purchased Parts List
Z-Brace Mod Kit - $41.99
The Z-Brace Mod Kit includes all parts needed to complete the installation. This includes (2) metal rods, (2) upper brace mounts, (2) lower brace mounts and all applicable hardware. The hex keys included with the printer are sufficient for attaching the brace mounts, however you will need a 4mm hex wrench for the (4) larger screws, used to secure the rods in place.
To get started, we need to remove the two inner screws from the Z-Axis on each side of the frame. The upper mounting brackets are set vertical, allowing the two outer screws to be left in place. With the original 5mm screws removed, use the longer 10mm screws included with the kit to secure the brackets in place. The flat side should be facing inwards as shown in the picture below.
The lower mounting brackets are installed in a similar fashion, screwing directly into the front plate. Remove the (3) 5mm screws on each side which are holding the beams in place. Take care to hold the beam on each side when removing the last screw, where it will fall once the support is gone.
The lower mounting brackets will sit horizontal with the protruding triangle side facing outwards from the frame. Using your hand, lift the beam and align the screw holes, then secure the mounting bracket into place with at least one screw. Proceed to do this on both sides, ensuring that the mounting brackets are tightened down.
To complete the Z-Brace Mod, we will attach the metal rods to the brackets. Starting with the top, use the larger screws, pushing it through the ball joint and thread into the bracket. Loosely hand tighten, then do the same for each of the other corners until complete. Make a second pass and firmly tighten the screws into place to ensure it is stable.
Depending on your printer, you may find the need to adjust the length of the rods. This is as simple as turning the metal rod ends to either extend or compress the reach. Try and keep both ends of the rod relatively the same length and tighten the screws at the base to ensure they remain in place.
With the Z-Brace Mod Kit installed and ready to use, I would definitely advise using a Carpenter Square to check the alignment of the Z-Axis before printing. You will want as close to a perfect 90° degree angle as possible. Improper tightening of the rods can result in the Z-Axis frame pulling forward, where these can be easily loosened if that is the case.
The Z-Brace Mod should be considered an absolute necessity for the i3 clone printers. The vast improvements they provide to print quality is incredible, addressing a core design flaw in the 3D printer’s otherwise solid frame. I’ve personally used this more complex revision of the printed Z-Brace Mod for months prior with complete success. It did however take several days to install on account of multiple print failures, difficulty cutting the rods and other minor issues that arose.
The Z-Brace Mod Kit from Rep Rap Champion on the other hand gives you a professional grade, ready to use solution. It is a well manufactured product, simple to install and serves the exact same purpose as the DIY options. Small details in the design such as precision rod ends and metal brackets gives an increased sense of quality that you won’t find with the plastic counterparts.