3D Printing Tips & Tricks #1

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3D printing can be an extremely rewarding experience. Using your ingenuity to manifest ideas into a 3 dimensional object will always provide great satisfaction. That being said, 3D printing is very much in it's infancy and as a consequence experiences many of the growing pains associated with early incarnations of cutting edge technology.

While the professional 3D printers used by companies at the forefront of scientific advancement can produce high volumes of millimetre perfect models, those of us dependent on desktop 3D printers are met with many obstacles to overcome. 

Below is a short video in which SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk demonstrates the use of 3D printing in the manufacture of space-bound rocket components.

Below you will find some of the best tips & tricks given to us by hobbyists and enthusiasts who have to deal with some of desktop 3D printing's teething pains such as printer vibration, interrupted prints and structurally weak models. 

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While automatic updates can keep your computer software up to date with the latest bug fixes and performance improvements they can cause headaches when it comes to 3D printing.

You don't want to start an overnight 3D print, go to bed and wake up to a half finished model. Windows automatic updates will restart your computer without your approval, stopping you print before completion.

While this is not the end of the world it can be very annoying, especially if the print was needed for something time sensitive like a presentation, gift or a model for clients.

You should also ensure to disable sleep mode on your computer for the aforementioned reasons.

Please consult the image below for information on how to turn off windows automatic updates.

3d printing filament in dublin ireland

3D printing filament Dublin, Ireland

3D printing filament Dublin, Ireland

To completely avoid all issues that may arise from your computer misbehaving, save your files to an SD card. Most consumer models offer SD card functionality, while some of the DIY models can be modified to do so.

This also frees you to leave your printer running at home or at work untethered to your laptop. You are able to bring your laptop with you to a separate room or out of the building altogether.

For students or architects who rely on a desktop computer for study and work, using an SD card means you can set up your 3D printer in a different room to the one you work in. This reduces the sound pollution caused by the printer in action allowing for better concentration and keeps roommates and co-workers happy if they happen to share the same workspace.

3D printing filament, Dublin, Ireland.

3D printing filament, Dublin, Ireland.

A UPS is defined by Wikipedia as 'an electrical apparatus that provides emergency power to a load when the input power source, typically mains power, fails. A UPS differs from an auxiliary or emergency power system or standby generator in that it will provide near-instantaneous protection from an input power interruptions, by supplying energy stored in batteries, super capacitors, or flywheels.'

Basically, using a UPS ensures that any brief lapses in power emanating from the mains socket will not cause your 3D model to glitch or stop printing altogether.

Brownouts can also cause the electronics to partially fail on your 3D printer. This partial failure can result in the heaters remaining on. If this happens while your 3D printer is unattended the heating elements may try to get as hot as possible. This can result in irreparable damage to your hardware.

3D printing filament, Dublin, Ireland.

3D printing filament, Dublin, Ireland.

The following illustration of the importance of the proper orientation of parts regarding their function was provided by a reddit user, 3D printing enthusiast and a structural engineer.

Let's say you have a load bearing rectangle like the one illustrated below.

Now, assuming you have a square cross section, you could print this two logical ways. One would be length ways along the print bed, the other would be to have it stick off the print bed like a pillar.

If you do the latter, the load will apply stress on the space between layers where the plastic has not bonded 100%.

If you print length ways, so as to minimise layers, the stress will be applied to the plastic that has been melted and extruded in a line. This is stronger than two layers of plastic bonded together.

Printing with layers lying down withstand forces better but the results are less aesthetically pleasing. This method should be used with load bearing and functional prints. For stationary and decorative prints, a standing print would result in a smoother texture on the finished product due to less visible layering.

3D printing filament. Dublin, Ireland.

3D printing filament. Dublin, Ireland.

Printing a filament dust filter reduces the occurrence of colgs. Installing one will greatly improve the longevity of your extrusion nozzle and the quality of your 3D prints. The one I have linked below can even be applied after the filament has been loaded into your printer.  


3D printing filament, Dublin, Ireland.

3D printing filament, Dublin, Ireland.

We suggest that once opened, you store your spools in a re-sealable plastic container that contains either desiccant or a moderate quantity of rice.

Rice has hydroscopic properties, as does 'kitty litter' found in pet shops. 'Kitty litter' is a suitable desiccant and can be redried for multiple uses. This is not the case with rice, however rice is a safer option if children or animals will be able to access your storage bins.

3D printing filament, Dublin, Ireland.

3D printing filament, Dublin, Ireland.

ABS sticks to nothing better than itself. Put some acetone and ABS in a PVC or glass bottle. If left alone for fifteen minutes the acetone will melt the ABS. You can then spray or dab this solution onto your glass print surface to greatly improve adhesion.

3D Printing Filament, Dublin, Ireland.

3D Printing Filament, Dublin, Ireland.

Honeycomb fill pattern.

Honeycomb fill pattern.

If printing a honeycomb fill pattern, make sure to slow down the fill speed. This will greatly reduce the vibration and therefore the noise pollution created by your 3D printer.

Many in the 3D printing community are switching from honeycomb fill pattern to rectilinear ones. This is due to the multiple advantages it offers over honeycomb while still maintaining excellent structural integrity.

Rectilinear fill pattern

Rectilinear fill pattern

Rectilinear does not tend to slow down as often as honeycomb, especially around arches. Rectilinear fill patterns only change direction at the boundaries of objects and can be printed much faster.

The extrusion nozzle will not have to jump back and forth as frequently leading to less vibration, noise and the mechanical degradation of belts and motors.

While honeycomb does tend to look more appealing and give the impression of solidity, the fact that it is made of a lattice of long circular pillars actually undermines the strength of the finished product (see the tip on proper orientation).

3D Printing Filament, Dublin, Ireland.

When using PLA make sure to heat the bed to 80% and print a skirt. This allows you to purge any dry reside PLA left in the nozzle from a previous print and gives a rough idea of object placement before committing to a full print.

The following is reproduced with the kind permission of reddit user /u/printedsolid:http://www.printedsolid.com/firstlayer/

"One of the most simple, yet frustratingly difficult things to get figured out when you are learning about 3D Printing is how to get and keep your prints stuck to the bed. People have all kinds of tricks. Bare clean glass, borosilicate glass, plate glass, PEI, buildTak, aluminum plate, circuit board perf material, Painters Tape, Kapton Tape, Glue stick, hair spray, PVC film, higher temperature, lower temperature, etc. The list goes on.

There is science behind this and there are reasons why some materials work better than others. There are also factors associated with the environment you are operating in and your technique that are difficult to control.

As things often are on the internet, everyone thinks their method is the absolute best and that all of the others don’t work. Don’t worry about them too much. If you’ve got a build surface that works well for you, stick with it (pun intended).

If you’re curious, we typically use either painter’s tape or glue stick/PVA on glass for most materials with a bed temp of 50-70C or Room Temp if I’m using a printer without a heated bed.

On the rare occasion when we run ABS, we use hairspray (Ink3D.ie edit: please see above tip regarding making your own 'ABS glue') on Kapton at 100C.  We’ve played with bare acrylic and PEI but haven’t been too impressed.

Of all of these build surfaces, none of them will work if you don’t get that first layer right.

Here’s the idea: Get your bed cleaned / primed and leveled to the best of your ability. For all prints, run a skirt that is at least a few nozzle widths wide. Run the print speed relatively low during the skirt printing so that you can clearly see what is happening.


3D printing filament tips & tricks, Dublin, Ireland.

3D printing filament tips & tricks, Dublin, Ireland.

If possible with your machine, you can adjust your bed level / tram and nozzle gap during the skirt printing to achieve the desired result. If you get a nice clean skirt that meets the criteria I am going to describe, then let the print continue.  If not, stop the print and restart.

Here are the criteria.  Your skirt should look pretty similar to the one in the picture.

Here’s a little more explanation if you like the details.  Note that some of the details here (specifically the wagon track) vary with nozzle geometry, but it’s good general guide.


While you put some of the above tips into action, please consider browsing our range of high quality 3D filaments by clicking the button below. Great 3D prints start with great  3D filament.