3D prints and build plates might as well be oil and water; they don’t want to stick together. At the peak of my frustration many years ago a friend mentioned a company making this amazing adhesive called WolfBite and how they’d recently started using a printer from the same company to great effect.
This was my introduction to Airwolf 3D, and after wild success with the WolfBite on our other printers it seemed logical for the ‘old R&D to inquire about their printers.
The Airwolf AXIOM by all accounts is one of those printers that looks good on paper. When we originally leased one over four years ago from Airwolf the printer offered a lot of convenience that others on the commercial scene simply did not at the mid-tier price point; auto-leveling, high temperature head, a huge build plate, remote monitoring, and a parts department that would actually answer your phone calls.
Four years on the 3D printing world has largely caught up both in the open source and commercial worlds. That said the original AXIOM, which could have gone back at the end of the lease, I had grown to like. As such a deal later and said printer is now a workhorse in my small shop doing random large print tasks.
Let’s take a look at the two quick fixes I put in to resolve problems with said printer given the hours put in on it and the number one reason I’ll consider buying another Airwolf printer in the next year.
Issue #1: Heat Plate Warp
Now, Wolfbite is an amazing product but for ABS or Nylon, if the plate build plate temperature is not even, you’re just going to waste a lot of time. Not amount of Wolfbite will save you as it’s not the adhesive’s fault.
After a few thousand hours of print time over four years, the issue that the Axiom developed was that the heat plate underneath the borosilicate glass had warped away from the center. No manner of careful bending and removal of said glass plate seemed to make it better. Anything not relatively small and dead center would then eventually fail.
The quick fix is diagonal cross supports and washer shims to flex said heat plate back into contact with the glass plate. I cut them out of some aluminum stock I had lying around and grabbed some washers out of the parts bin until I found a fit that seemed satisfactory.
To be clear, this was not an issue when the printer was new and honestly has only popped up recently. I have heard of no one having this issue.
Issue #2: Coupling Collet Cracked
In the midst of printing personal protective gear in larger quantities, I noticed that the bowden tube had come loose. This of course ruined said print run and I had filament still running through with no head pressure. Upon inspection the inner collet which holds the bowden tube in place had failed. This was also a new one to me; I had not in all my years had a collet break. A quick measure or two and a search later, said pneumatic collet for the 3mm was both in expensive and fast to arrive (you’ll find the same part on your Ultimakers and other 3mm brethren).
Again, given the age, the abuse, and the workload I presume this might just be failed maintenance on my part, but if you run into this problem, it’s a quick and cheap fix.
Problems Aside, Would Buy Again
I mentioned in another piece that I have a love-hate relationship with the printer which I should qualify. 3D printers give me a headache as a whole regardless of who made them. I’ve used so many of them, one’s I’ve owned, other’s I’ve used on borrowed time. While over the years they as a whole have improved, I haven’t met one yet that doesn’t have eccentricities.
The AXIOM is no exception. Getting it locked in to print with the materials I needed took time, albright less given the build plate leveling was spot on. I would be remiss to not also point out that it’s easier now given Airwolfs own profiles and software, which take the guesswork out.
There were early problems years ago as well. Our version, with a bowden head (which is no longer sold by Airwolf 3D), was prone to random failures that later had to be resolved under warranty. The remote software was at best nice (meh compared to OctoPrint) but the board eventually failed after about three years. The firmware never really was great with the cooling fans (which people at the office hated but worked around).
For all the bumps in the road, I’d buy another printer from Airwolf without hesitation. The reason comes down to one thing: they respond to support inquiries and actually care.
Case in point: I was pretty sure a power surge, which had taken out the UPS that the Airwolf was connected to and running on had killed the mainboard. I checked and tested every fuse I could see to no avail. Given that it was now out of warranty, I inquired to support with little hope of an answer. Instead, I got a very specific response with a circuit diagram, a visual pointer to a fuse I had missed on inspecting the main board, and the type of fuse I needed to buy should the fuse be out. Sure enough, said tiny fuse was the culprit, $5 dollars and a few days later, the new fuse was installed and the printer was back up and running.
I had no support contract, it wasn’t even a version of the printer they sell anymore, they had no reason to help me. Yet, they did. They didn’t try to upsell me, they didn’t try to make me buy an overpriced part, they just helped. They cared about their product and my issue and helped me resolve it.
While I won’t be upgrading any time in the near future, be assured they’ll be at the top of my list for my next 3D printer purchase.