The problem of contaminated/dirty mirrors has to affect everyone who has a Form1(+) sooner (2 weeks for me) or later (could take months or longer). There are some good threads out there already Attack of the Giant Flake (thanks to @Ante_Vukorepa and other contributors), also a similar one to this IT’S ALIVE! Mirrors Cleaned, Printing Fine! (nice one @Frank_Guthrie), but for those despairing at terrible print quality, particularly after a honeymoon period at the beginning, I thought I’d post a report of my positive FormLabs support experience.
One word of warning right at the start - you’ll find this elsewhere on the forum: DON’T just follow the instructions on how to ‘blow dirt off the main mirror’… you WILL blow it into the back of the printer, sooner or later, and thus contaminate the MUCH more critical smaller fixed mirror and the 2 tiny ‘galvos’ (the movable mirrors that guide the laser spot).
Anyway, the first 2 weeks of printing: blissful… I knew I’d made the right choice for a reasonably priced first 3D printer… way better than any FDM printer I’d seen in the same price class, and I’d seen a lot at the EuroMold exhibitions in 2013 and 2014.
Then suddenly, after 2 weeks, things started going downhill, bit by bit; after another 2 weeks I opened a ticket in despair - that has to be the best thing I did. Support, in the form of @Nicholas_Quinn, was great - he was patient, helpful, responded quickly to mails, didn’t miss questions but took time to answer them in depth.
The problem I had: dirty mirrors. That wasn’t immediately 100% certain, but parts I printed started looking like this (26th may):
Instead of like this (a week before):
or like this:
or like this:
Then things got worse, with practically no area of the parts being good, even small parts:
And then EVEN worse, with numerous failures, and even the ‘non-failures’ being terrible, with a combination of massive flakes firmly attached to the parts, coarse crappy surface even where there were no flakes, jello in the resin after one tiny print… aaargh!
(Thanks to @KevinHolmes for the tall cross file… but beware, it’s not kind to your resin tank!)
The printer was unusable - support ticket opened (if you’re having a problem, use the forum by all means, there’re lots of clever folks here with good ideas, but nevertheless, get a ticket - use both resources parallel; the forum also can’t give you permission to open the printer without voiding your warranty ).
To cut a long story at least a bit shorter than it usually is with me: bit by bit we ruled out things like the tank, the resin, the large mirror (free replacement mirror and PEC-PADs were sent, easy to change); I took a picture of the laser spot, support said it looked like dirty optics, not a degraded laser (and was right on the money):
(what a ‘laser dot’… no wonder that I was getting flakes and jello a-plenty in the tank after even the smallest of print jobs… all thanks to dirty mirrors)
So, I got the ‘ok’ from Nicholas from support to take the back off the printer and ‘go for the galvos’ (DO NOT DO THIS WITHOUT GETTING A TICKET AND BEING TOLD TO DO SO BY SUPPORT!!!).
Once the galvo block was off, I could easily light and photograph the dust in the machine, the dirty small mirror:
The galvos were also obviously dirty - most of it you can’t see… I’m just not good enough with the camera:
The actual cleaning was fairly nervewracking… I was sure I was going to break or scratch the galvos, despite following the instructions to the letter… and indeed the first few wipes made the mirrors look worse than before I started. I was really worried it was going nowhere. But, I persevered - you have to be REALLY thorough not just with the cleaning, but also with examining the mirrors… otherwise you will think they’re clean when they’re not - shine that light on the mirrors from ALL directions, like, a thousand times, particularly with the galvos.
In total I needed about 90 minutes from starting to dismantle the printer to getting it back together and running again, and after the first print, it was obvious the problem was fixed… faith restored, yippee! (Although, there might be room for minor improvement still… plus I didn’t rinse well enough to open up the smaller holes)
(I found the minimum feature test file from @JoshK / @Steve_Johnstone to be a great, quick way to test the printer, better than the butterflies - you can spread the feature tests around on the platform, printing is done pretty quickly, post-printing is easy; it also isn’t harsh on the resin tank, in comparison to the tall cross. It’s not the ‘last word’ in quality testing, I guess, but it’s a good start!)
Most of that time was spent cleaning the mirrors, examining, re-cleaning, re-examining, etc. - dismantling the printer is easy, it’s a simple process and the printer is well-designed.
Anyway, hope this helps at least one person in despair! Even if your problem is not dust or dirt on the mirrors, a ticket for support is the way to go, with parallel help, advice and ideas (and a shoulder to cry on ) in the form of the forum.
P.S. That was also the absolute end to jello in the resin… now there is really no need to filter the resin after a print at all - just search for bits, of course, and don’t forget to ‘stroke’ the silicone base of the tank with love to keep it happy and you’re good to go.