The Zortrax M200 is known for producing high quality prints and relative ease of use. Part of that is attributable to fine hardware engineering, but it is also a result of Zortrax's proprietary printer control software known as Z-Suite, which limits hot end temperatures to a preset series of profile settings based on the Zortrax-supplied filament being used.
Based on the fact that the M200 uses an all-metal hot end and a thermocouple instead of a thermistor, it's safe to assume more material options will be made available by Zortrax in the future. But, what if someone wants to use an unsupported material now?
Enter Julia Truchsess of Pragmatic Designs, experienced engineer and inventor, with an aftermarket solution called the Z-Temp.
The Z-Temp is a temperature offset switch with visual feedback. It connects to the M200 to allow alteration of the hot end's actual temperature by preset amounts from -90°C to +60°C, enabling effective extrusion temperatures between 140°C and 320°C. A purely hardware solution, it doesn't change anything Z-Suite is doing. It merely changes what the M200 thinks Z-Suite is telling it to do.
"My primary goal was printing with PLA. It's hard to describe exactly what it is about it, but it seems to have a certain precision and tactile feel I like for most jobs," explains Truchsess. "But in addition to PLA, the Z-Temp generally affords the M200 a much wider range of materials, including those by Taulman and colorFabb."
The Z-Temp doesn't just alter hot end temperature. It is capable of turning off bed heating and the device actually changes color to reflect genuine extrusion temperature. Since an M200's temperature setting is embedded into the sliced model Z-code (Zortrax's equivalent of G-code), it also allows extrusion temperature to be changed without re-slicing the model – something Z-Suite cannot do without Z-Temp.
If color visual feedback isn't precise enough for your tastes, the device can be connected to a meter to read exact actual hot end temperatures. Although, with eight different colors to indicate temperature ranges from less than 190°C to more than 300°C, it isn't going to be necessary for most applications.
The Z-Temp has been tested up to a maximum temperature of 320°C, but that was with the addition of build area enclosures like those available at Octave Systems to aid in warpage avoidance.
Note: Use of aftermarket devices such as the Z-Temp may void any Zortrax warranty. Even though detection of the unit may not be possible when installed and uninstalled correctly, concerned users might prefer to wait until their warranty has expired.