Failure is natural. Nothing to be ashamed of...usually. It's what you learn from it that counts. That and the lols.
I started seeing missed steps in my prints. I haven't had this problem for a long time so I went through the basics of tuning up, lubricating moving parts, etc. The problem remained. I started printing test blocks and noticed the problem looked very regular.
This made me think it must be in the software tool chain and I spent a couple days trying to narrow it down. Nothing.
Finally, I took another look at hardware, even going so far as to disassemble things that have been working reliably for a while. Lo and behold, I found this:
These were some old gears that I printed when my quality was still pretty rough. I should have reprinted them a long time ago, but I forgot when they seemed to be reliable.
After you figure out a problem, it always seems so obvious.
The reports of the demise of the test cube are, perhaps, premature. I've read people saying that new firmwares and versions of Skeinforge make test cubes unnecessary, but I'm not buying it just yet. To be sure, one can get a lot closer to a usable print quickly, but there's still plenty of room to screw things up.
I don't know why I keep all the old junk. Maybe to keep my humble. Maybe I hope for a recycling option in the future. Still, in a weird way, I like to see how far I've come and what I've learned from all this fail.
Dave Durant has helped me out from time to time on the Makerbot Google group. He's got an excellent article on configuring skeinforge.
I really like the movie Worlds Fastest Indian. It's based on a true story and if the main character isn't a 'hacker' in his own way, I don't know what he is.
In the opening scenes, the camera pans through his workshop across a shelf full of blown pistons. Clearly this guy has obtained his knowledge and skill at the expense of many failed experiments.
After I got my makerbot working, I tried to find the internet equivalent of that shelf. I figured somebody must have collected pictures of common printing problems, possible causes, and recommended solutions. The forums are full of descriptions and the community, like all communities is evolving its own vocabulary. Raft, tower, splodge, ooze, and shells are a few of the new words in my life. It's daunting for newbies.
But it's been surprisingly difficult to find that kind of information in any organized form. So, I'm starting to collect what I find and what I learn here. I'm adding a new category of 'common print problems' and a tag 'offerings' Hope someone finds it useful.
To start things off: The best collection of images and descriptions I managed to find. Thanks Tony!