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You may have seen recently on social media about Alan Bannister who unfortunately suffered fire damage from his 3D printers bursting into flames! We interviewed Alan to get more of an insight, and also to send a warning that this can happen to anyone unexpectedly! 3D printer fire.
Tell us about yourself
I guess I am classed as retired now.
I was a jointer (splicer) for British Telecom, then worked on Cable TV System for Rogers Cable in Toronto. This was then followed by a wonderful time working for Bell Canada on their Direct to Home Satellite Systems. My role was designing and building Systems for Hotels, Apartment Buildings and Resorts.
Towards the end of my stay in Canada it involved me in providing High Definition TV Channels from Bell within Hotels. This was via the existing, sometimes old coaxial Cables. This at the time was state-of-the art! An American company called ZeeVee provided the equipment and my inquisitive mind went to work.
I set up test rigs at home in King City, Ontario to see just how far I could realistically push these signals and them still be acceptable. I also started using hardware that was not standard issue from Bell to split Signals, which was easier and cheaper. Thanks to the fact that Bell got all their equipment from Echostar in the States, I used some of their newer parts. As a result these worked superbly, allowing Bell to be very competitive in the Hospitality Industry.
After returning to England, I returned to the field I knew – British Telecom. However, the name was now Openreach, and I was now a Subcontractor. It involved me in the boxes alongside the roads where optic fibre cables were being ended and an interface provided to the twisted copper pairs that go to the customer. Within a year my health was such that work became impossible.
Unfortunately, I am actually too sick to work but too young to get a pension. Having had previously 3 heart attacks and in Jan 2000, a triple heart bypass operation in Toronto General Hospital. Thi is where my wife Rita and I were living and working. We have immediate family on both sides of “the Pond”.
My other hobby, well the crucial one, is Lepidoptery. My interest in Moths and Butterflies started with a school head teacher, Mr Archer, when I was about 9 years old. This continues today and this year is probably the first year for a long time that I have not had some species of Moth or Butterfly as larvae, being kept in my enclosures.
What got you into 3D printing?
That was through my love of Jaguar Cars. Upon returning to England I bought an old X Type, trading up to a lovely XJ6 2.7 Twin Turbo Diesel two years ago. During that time I met Mark Burton, of Leeds, who is an independent Jaguar specialist. He is quite a rare creature, an honest mechanic. Apologies to any other, I just have not met them yet. I was at his garage one day and he was installing a custom-made wiring loom, bought in to save his time and energy and noticed he had dozens of old looms. I said that my jointing skills would enable me to create new ones for him, as he wanted them.
On examining the plugs at each end I saw they were not “normal”. It turned out they were 3D printed! Speaking to my best friend, Neil Timewell, I asked if he had experience with a 3D Printer? Low and behold, he had one…. lol..
2 days later he dropped out of a Kossel Anycubic Delta Printer. I then set to work learning and learning. I got to a stage that I was happy I could make the plugs, so I bought my own machine. When I told Neil, he said he was building himself a dual extruder FDM printer and I could keep his Kossel… Next time I saw him; I had to force him to take some money for it. No way I would keep it for free!
So that is how I ended up with 2 machines.
How long have you been 3D printing for?
Not quite a year yet
What has been your best/most accomplished 3D printing project?
I printed the CN Tower, that stands in downtown Toronto and a working model of the Napier Deltic Engine as used in the old Deltic Class 55 locomotives that replaced Steam traction, on the East Coast Mainline.
The pictures from the 3D Printer Fire
From the devastating pictures of your 3D printer fire, did you ever think this would have been possible?
Not really. Although there has to be some risk of anything electronic.
Did you take any precautions when you first started 3D printing?
Again, not really. The addition of a smoke detector that was some 4 feet away, is about all. This was the noise that alerted my wife about the fire, although me closing both doors between that area and our bedroom reduced the alarms volume greatly.
Have you contacted the manufacturer about what has happened so they can investigate their machine?
No. These machines were both used, they had many hundreds of hours on them and I am sure that they were modified way beyond what was stock.
Has this put you off from owning a 3D printer ever again, or avoiding this manufacturer in future?
No, and no. I will have another machine as soon as funds allow. As for the Anycubic Kossel, I would not hesitate to have another at any time at all. The only caveat would be that I run a new, or newer version of Marlin, one that includes a thermal runaway protection to prevent overheating and fire. I cannot confirm this, but I have been told several times that there are new printers being shipped today, where thermal runaway is actually disabled. That just seems crazy, if it is true!
How has this tragic event affected you personally?
My wife and my dry sense of humour keep me going. If we don’t laugh, we cry. After my heart surgery, January 25th, 2000, the surgeon, Lynda Mickle borough, the first ever female cardiac surgeon only gave me 6 months to live. My heart disease was so bad. I was not entered any cardiac rehab, as it was “pointless“. So, here I am 21 ½ years later and still ticking. She was obviously a superb surgeon, just not very good with the crystal ball, thankfully.
What would you say to others that own 3D printers?
Check your firmware for the thermal runaway protection and invest £10 in another smoke alarm to alert you to any potential fires before they start. Also look into some form of automation for fire extinguishers.
Is there anything the 3D printing community can do to help you?
I do not really expect help from our community because of the fire but pass along my story as a warning.
After many suggestions and being hounded by friends, I have created a Go Fund Me page. I found it hard to do because I am normally the guy doing the giving, not the taking. When the hotend on one machine died and the other was down with a broken rod, I shipped filament free of charge as far as Edinburgh so others could carry on making these face Shields for our NHS.
You can also read more details here
Thank you, Alan, for taking the time to answer these questions about your 3D printer fire and hope you get everything back to normal real soon!
A brief note, before printing using any 3D printer that has a heating element please make sure thermal runway is enabled in the firmware Have a look at this article on Stackexchange
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