Six Tips to Better DIY 3D Printing

3D printers are the new hotness. It seems like every day there’s some new improvement coming out to make them do more, better, faster, stronger.

Machines like my Prusa Mendel are so bleeding edge that developers are still making radical design changes instead of improving the quality and ease-of-use for normal people.  Since I’ve made every mistake except start a fire, here are a few ideas that I hope will improve your 3D printing experience and make your machine a little more headache-free.

Locktite Blue & WD-40

IMG_2596

This magical stuff is like glue and keeps your nuts where you put them.  In the above picture, the screws on the bottom used to come loose and then the weight of the X carriage (the part that moves the nozzle left/right) would make the white coupler at the top (with four black screws) would come undone mid-print.  Two drops of Blue and it’s hasn’t been a problem since.

On the other hand, WD-40 does it’s customary great job of keeping the X carriage moving up and down the Z axis without any squeaking or friction.  Worth it?  Unquestionably.

Get a blanket

heated bed blanket

Something as simple as a piece of cardboard cut to fit over my heated bed has cut my warm-up time by 80%.  Five minutesis better than half an hour, amirite?  On cold Canadian winter days it will never reach target temperature without a blanket.  I even added a second blanket under the heated bed.

One thing, though: I wish Repetier-Host (my software of choice) would play a sound when the bed reaches temperature.  I still have to watch it carefully and take the blanket off before the nozzle tries to print through it.

Print spare parts

The only thing worse than my machine breaking a part is my machine breaking a part I could have printed.  The extruder sprocket takes more abuse than any other part in the machine.  I keep two spares at all times now that I’ve learned my lesson.

Kapton tape?  No problem!

Putting Kapton tape on the glass surface of my printer is a difficult and annoying process.  If I keep the bubbles out from under the tape I end up putting the 25cm strip crooked.  If I get the tape straight, there’s usually a wrinkle or a bubble in there.  Boo!

Turns out there’s a few solutions:

- 3M PET tape is cheaper and sticks just as well.

- Hair spray directly on the glass instead of tape.  I haven’t personally tried this but I know printers who swear by it.

- This thing was pointed out to me by Reddit user Dedxi.  Thank you!

- ABS glue: Redditor GeekGuy says “It works much better than tape or any of the other things listed. Cleanup is easy (though you might need a dust buster for all of the plastic flakes). To clarify, I make my own ABS glue using a mixture of Acetone and ABS scraps. I paint it directly onto the glass when the bed is heated up. Helps the parts adhere nicely, and it’s easy to remove, simply blow on the glass to cool and lift your print. It works great and is eco friendly!”

- Dish soap is what Redditor observationalhumour recommends:

Clean and document your wiring

wiring, labelled

Here you can see every wire is labelled.  It’s easy to trace which wire does what without having to undo all the cable management.  Here’s what my machine looked like before cable managers.

Makerfarm Prusa

If I didn’t snag a wire when moving it then the moving parts in the machine would take care of it for me.  Compare that to the above pictures!

I also make sure to take a nice clear photo of the wires going into the RAMPs board so that I can reattach them if they ever come undone.  I’ve had poor memory from a young age and I compensate by commenting and documenting.  It’s a life skill.

A good spool is hard to find

laser cut spool

I took this picture months ago, before I cleaned up the wiring.  Notice the lovely laser cut spool from thingiverse on the top. I used to have the coil of ABS sitting on a bar and I had to manually turn it every once in a while.  So much better now.  Next time I need to upgrade this I’ll print parts for a spool like the Lulzbot – one side can be “opened” so you slide your new coil of ABS on instead of winding it up.  So much easier.

Any more?

I hope that saves you some time.  If it does, please share this article with your friends.  Have you got a tip that would help others?  Comment below.

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4 Responses to “Six Tips to Better DIY 3D Printing”

  1. insta says:

    Instead of PET or hairspray, you can apply kapton by first putting soapy water on the glass surface. The kapton will not adhere to the bed and will slide around easily. Then squeege the water out with a credit card and let it dry overnight.

  2. Bluubekt says:

    Regarding your endorsement of using WD-40 as a lubricant: you are terribly mistaken, WD-40 was never designed for or intended to be used as a lubricant; it is a rust solvent and anti-corrosion compound originally used to clean the stainless steel tanks of a liquid rocket engine – it is a hygroscopic water displacer, which coincidentally makes it an excellent PROMOTER of rust in some conditions. In a DIY setting WD-40 should only be used for cleaning metal tools and machinery, after which they should be degreased and lubricated with a high quality lubricant (I use a clear light mineral oil for handtools). Instead, in the case of screw-drive equipment for desktop use, such as a 3D printer, a light lithium grease applied very sparingly should be ideal.

    As a side note (and only because I have seen this happen far too often): do not EVER consider using WD-40 or similar stuff on electronic equipment of any sort – in particular scratchy faders and knobs on audio equipment – the ONLY thing appropriate here is a pure alcohol spray (applied liberally) coupled with (light) mechanical action, and only AFTER you have removed the front panel first (it WILL destroy any labeling on it). Thank you for listening.

  3. Bluubekt says:

    Have to add: If the surfaces you need to lubricate are made of plastic or rubber rather than metal (perspex rails for example), then a silicon based lubricant, such a pure silicon oil, should be used instead. If you use a mineral/petroleum based lubricant on plastics it is likely to accelerate breakdown of the polymer, and it will kill rubber within hours.

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