Getting Started Guide

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Rick Pollack

Dec 5, 2011, 4:43:49 PM12/5/11
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This was recently written and I have not even proofed it yet but it may still be helpful. Please post your comments. I'll be moving it to the MG website. Thank you Marcus!!


Dec 5, 2011, 8:54:54 PM12/5/11
to MakerGear - Make Today, Change Tomorrow
>  Makergear_Post_BuildV2_Fork.doc
> 836KViewDownload

Hi (unspecified writer of guide), thanks for all this effort, and for
making it look professional and trustworthy. That's important for
people's confidence!

I've got all this software already installed and running on my Windows
7 laptop, but with earlier versions. So I thought that upgrading to
the latest versions would be a good test of the instructions. Despite
having Python 2.6 and 3.1 installed, I'm trying to think like a newbie

This guide feels specific to Windows machines (which is what I have),
but I can't find that mentioned anywhere.

Technically the files you are downloading are 'installation files',
not 'source files'. Personally, I wouldn't put them on the desktop (I
never put anything on the desktop), but I guess that simplifies the

Because the screen capture with the filenames comes so far after the
clickable links, I was surprised to find that I didn't know which
versions you wanted me to install from the pages that opened in my
browser. Because you had just said to 'follow linearly' I wasn't
looking ahead at the screen capture.

There are quite a few versions of Python in the 2.x stream. Python 2.6
is working for me for things that need compatibility with version 2.x,
but I'll install 2.7.2 as well. I'm not sure if that will cause
conflicts with my Eclipse IDE setup of Python, but that's not your

The latest Arduino software is Arduino 1.0, but we need the 'Previous
IDE version' 23.

You don't show where you got the version of Psyco shown in your screen
capture, which looks like it is for version 2.5 of Python, rather than
2.7.2. The Psyco home page says that Python 2.7 is unsupported. I
don't have Psyco on my machine, and pronterface seems to run fine
without it. Unless you are really using psyco, you might like to take
another screen shot of the folder without the psyco installer, so as
not to confuse folks.

Its not clear how to download pronterface from the link you gave. I
can clone it from github, but most people won't have git and github
set up. Likewise SFACT on github. If you rely on people using github,
the instructions are going to have to explain how, or at least point
to a good tutorial. Sorry I can't remember which tutorial I used to
set git up.

Exactly how is the firmware optional? You can't set motor direction,
or endstop function, or calibrate E-steps (amongst other things)
without flashing firmware.

When running pyserial-2.5.win32.exe, I had to select 'Python 2.7' -
which wasn't the default - from a list of my installed versions of
Python. Likewise with pyreadline-1.7.1.win32.exe. Wxpython was smart
enough to work that out for itself.

Since I couldn't find a '' file, I'll have to
work with the version I git-cloned. Again, nobody should be unzipping
folders into the root of their system drive, but I understand it is
hard to write instructions for the sort of people who have never even
used 'Windows Explorer' before. I've had to tech-support some people
like that...

I think ideally we should have people set up a directory (say, '3D' in
their user directory), and store all their firmware, their slicing
apps and their STLs and G-Code files in sub-directories in that. It is
hard to know the line between patronising experienced folk and
confusing beginners...

The github version of pronterface is much prettier than the old one I
was using, though the x/y/z arrangement takes some getting used to.

I'm not sure what you want me to do to 'briefly test pronterface' once
I've got it running. I had to change my baudrate to 250,000 to match
the settings in my (already modified) firmware. I don't know if
pronterface's default baudrate matches the default in the MakerGear
Arduino boards.

One very useful tip that took me a long time to discover:
When you right-click on a shortcut to a python file, windows doesn't
give you the option of adding it to the Start Menu. If you hold down
<shift> as you right-click the python shortcut, the 'Add to Start
Menu' option magically appears. I guess windows doesn't really trust
scripts, but allows it if you 'insist'!

My git-hubbed printrun folder didn't have a skeinforge folder in it,
and the error message from pronterface about it's absence is
ambiguous. I had to create a skeinforge folder manually (inside the
printrun folder) and then copy-and-paste the SFAct files.

Driver Install:

I'm not going to mess with my Arduino setup at the moment, I don't
want to use up 90MB of my satellite internet in peak time.

I didn't realise the MakerGear arduinos were shipping with Sprinter
pre-installed now. That's great.

Where you say "Power up your machine", I've got decades of thinking
that means my computer. Plugging the USB from the computer to the
Arduino >does< apply power to the Arduino. You don't need the ATX PSU
switched on to flash firmware unless you installed the infamous

Why do you have me start the Arduino IDE, and only then start using
the device manager to look up which port the Arduino is connected to?
Surely the opposite sequence of events works better?

In step 3.d, you don't specify the name of the firmware zip file. I
assume it's the we downloaded from the MakerGear Google
group, but calling it by name would be clearer.

3.f Typo alert! Wow, this is the first one - you've done brilliantly
(My wife is a professional editor and proofreader, so I know what un-
proofed manuscripts usually look like). You've asked RAMPS 1.2 users
to change from MOTHERBOARD 3 to MOTHERBOARD 3.

Also I'm not sure what you mean when you say "D10 should be", and "D08
should be" - are you expecting me to check the wiring on my RAMPS
board, or change definitions in the configuration.h file? Should the
next line say "These values are <for> different previous versions of
the firmware" ? And what do I need to do about that?

Configuration step 4: 'Click "Connect" and wait for a minute or two.'
Connection isn't instant, and there can be a moment of fear there when
nothing seems to happen.

After the computer connects to the printer is usually when I would
turn on the ATX power supply.

'Check by clicking "Check Temp"': or you can just click the checkbox
next to "Monitor printer" and get a constant update of temperature.
This is better than having to constantly keep clicking "check temp".

Configuration step 6: Which of the PSU power switch and the usb cable
do you recommend using first in moments of panic? I've been turning
off the power switch - does the USB reset the arduino faster?

SFACT configuration:

Step 3: Yes, turning off heater and bed automatically after a print is
wise. Also wise is adding an End-Gcode to automatically move the
nozzle up a bit, and home it in x and y. That way any drips don't go
on the print, and the print is presented so you can get at it easily
to remove it from the printer.

Typo? With the Dimension button, do you really think that people using
1.75mm filament should tell SFACT they are using 1.65mm filament?
Wouldn't that over-extrude?

I'd love to know the benefits of Hexagonal Grid infill.

Thanks for a great writeup. I've been spending more time reading and
writing documentation than printing lately, so I really appreciate the
effort you've put in. Please put your name to it, so you can bask in
the well-deserved glory. I'd been putting off cloning the latest
pronterface, and this was just the motivation I needed.

Andrew Roberts


Dec 9, 2011, 12:13:34 AM12/9/11
to MakerGear - Make Today, Change Tomorrow
Andrew - thank you for the detailed follow-up.




Dec 13, 2011, 3:47:32 PM12/13/11
to MakerGear - Make Today, Change Tomorrow
Hi! I put this together. Yes, it is specific to windows versions. I
was hoping to have another proofreader look through it for typos. I'll
go through it again soon.
This guide was put together with a bare windows xp box and a fresh
firmware install. Thank you so much for the review.

Some of the changes I will make (and notes on your reply):
//note, I am not being defensive and trying not to come off like that.
I am very much open to suggestion

--I will specify my exact scenario (Windows XP SP3, etc...)
--I labeled them source because I like to keep a folder with all of
the original, unmodified files in there, not just installation files.
I keep the original downloaded, unmodified firmware, unmodified
downloaded profiles, etc, etc... I then copy it out of that folder to
modify it. No matter what happens, I always have the original vanilla
firmware/download to go back to. I didn't intend for this to be a "set
in stone" guide. You are free to put the files wherever you want and I
do assume a certain amount of windows "adeptness". I just thought it
would be easier for the guide to keep everything in one space. I am
completely open to suggestions with this.
--I didn't put a specific pronterface link because of constant new
builds and I didn't want to confuse people so I put a link to the
main github for it. I didn't want to link to specific files with all
the "nightly builds" and such. At least this way, the guide would be
relevant for a little while.
--The python requirement was 2.x. I went with 2.7, and I have to make
an assumption (I hate that word) that any 2.x will work because that
is what pronterface calls for.
--I downloaded Psycho for something else. I didn't see any mention of
it with any of the SFAct install docs so I didn't include it in the
instructions. Do you think I should not have included the screen shot?
Or maybe I should have been more clear as to what I use the makergear
source directory for? Or maybe just take another one with only the
files for this guide. I didn't intend it to mean the user needs to
have the exact file and version as I have.
--At the time of writing, 1.0 was not released. I will edit the
document and mention .023 is no longer latest, but still required.
--As for github, there is a "zip" link up at the very top to download
the zip file. I did not mention that because I wasn't sure how
specific to get. Do you think I should?
--I was under the impression that they shipped with the correct
firmware. That's why I put optional under the download firmware
section. As in, the MG Prusa comes with the firmware with the correct
ESTEPS and such already in it. If I am mistaken, please let me know.
--Regarding your "pyserial-2.5.win32.exe" comment, I did not deviate
from the "next next next..." install unless documented. Did you have
more than one version of python installed? Maybe it was because mine
was a fresh system? I'll go back through that install again and check
to make sure I didn't miss anything.
--Regarding your "Since I couldn't find a ''"
comment, no real reason not to move it to your "C" drive. It was done
for simplicity, but I guess I should be more clear about personal
preferences. Or I could have told them to put it in program files. But
then, if you are on a windows 7 box, it should go in "program
files(x86)". Also, you can snag the zip file from the zip link at the
top of the github pages. If you think we should go the route of
setting up a complete folder structure suggestion for people, we can
certainly do that. I was focused more with getting the person up and
printing when I wrote this.
--I'll edit the "briefly test pronterface" part. I just meant open it
up to make sure it starts up.
--I'll double check the skeinforge folder issue. I am pretty sure the
folder came with mine. It's difficult because there are so many
different versions out there.
--I'll be more specific with the phrase "Power up your machine" :)
--I'll revise the order of starting the arduino IDE. It's needed a few
steps down and should be closer to it.
--The step 3.d issue: I don't know how to respond to this. I guess I
didn't want to be too specific tried to keep using specific filenames
to a minimum. I'll change it to reflect the sprinter firmware.
--3.f typo. Ooops, I'll fix it :)
--I'll clear up the "d10 and d09" thing. I was referring to the
physical wiring. Also, by "these values are different for previous
versions..." I found that the older firmware I was using had my "D"
ports swapped and it was turning my fan on instead of heating my bed.
--I'll fix the connect line in step4. I know what you mean....
--I turn my power supply on beforehand. No real reason. I don't mind
changing the document if you have a reason to do one over the other.
--Agree with the "check temp" thing. I'll change it.
--In my setup, it's much easier to pull the usb cable out. It may not
be for everyone, but my power cable is routed around the back of my
machine. Pulling the usb cable stops the machine instantly. I'll make
a note in the document about disconnecting whichever is more
--Your step 3 comment: I didn't add in info about moving the nozzle
away because mine automatically does if I follow this document. It's
already part of SFACT by default.
--As for filament diameter, I should include something about measuring
it yourself. I put in my actual measurements and according to a few
posts (,103930,104025) I am not the
only one whose 3mm comes out as 2.8
--I can't say the reasoning behind it, but when I switched over to hex
infill, my layers over the infill became WAY less prone to sag into
the infilled area gaps. I'll add a note about experimentation and
personal preference.

Whew, that was a mouthful.
Thank you for taking the time to look through it, you have been
extremely helpful! I didn't realize this had actually been posted up.

Shival Wolf

Dec 15, 2011, 5:12:48 AM12/15/11
I followed these they seem to work but then i started having issues that i have not narrowed down yet.

in step 2 do you have to adjust the extrusion width depending on the hotend size?

Kong Thomas

Dec 19, 2013, 5:06:59 PM12/19/13
Great info you post


I love arduino
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