Learning the Hard Way
When I got my first 3d printer, I thought I had my very own personal factory that’s as easy to use as a microwave. Boy was i wrong. 🙂
I learned the hard way after breaking mine on the 2nd day that there was indeed an art to 3d printing in general. Clogged extruders, temperature settings, speed settings, crazy materials and general maintenance.
There’s nothing convenient about 3D printing for an absolute beginner who just wants to plug and play and call it a day.
This post is aimed addressing some of the most common technical difficulties a beginner would face no matter what machine you are using to save you some heartbreak and endless hours of trouble shooting.
I aim to provide basic tips to get you started and help improve your first experiences so that they won’t be your last as well as prepare you for certain realities you may face when entering the 3D printing frontier.
First thing I learned about was the handy dandy Print removal tool
They come in many shapes and sizes I learned the hard way that if don’t move with finesse and respect, you can end up with an eyesore at the base of what would’ve been a perfect print or worse, you end up instantly destroying a print that took hours to build while wasting materials. Practice makes perfect on this one.
Rafts build a base for your print and can prevent your job from destabilizing during the print process effectively preserving the intended quality of your print.
For example, printing smaller objects (especially highly detailed ones) often causes the printer to shake more increasing the odds of warping and the print breaking off and failing altogether. A raft can help safe guard against this and is usually easy to peel off.
(Fallout action figure using HatchBox Green ABS. Gorgeous color like a Power Ranger green. Only downsides of ABS for me, is the mild shrinkage when it cools and it just sort of feels out dated when compared to a more modern material like PLA+ but still has a nice, distinctive texture to secure its place in 3D printing).
Some cons of rafting are that it takes up more material, more time, can sometimes negate supports and can leave an ugly blemish on your print when you peel them off.
Adhesives keep your print in place and can yield somewhat varied results depending on your printers bed. You can use hairspray or Elmer’s glue most of the time based on preference (glue can leave a mess when removing and Hairspray’s terrible for the ozone layer).
When applying your adhesive(especially glue), its important to apply an even layer on your print space. And it would be advisable to remove after a print and reapply before a new one. You can easily scrape off the old layer with your print removal tool.
If you DON’T feel like applying an adhesive, you would be risking precious material, effort and time:
(bamtak! Translucent red is an awesome material that yields very solid results when printing medium+ detailed/sized projects. Like the name suggests, it can come out with a sharp, ruby like sheen and transparency making for potentially gorgeous and durable show pieces. Its texture however, at least on my machine, will cause your project to suffer when attempting smaller jobs).
Supports are a kind of scaffold that can help more interesting prints process correctly. Say your printing a statue and there’s an arm sticking out in the air, supports will meet the arm to give it a base to help preserve the quality of that part.
(Sainsmart aluminum pla. A favorite of mine. Light weight yet oddly durable and preserves a certain fresh quality to its prints much longer than regular PLA or ABS tend to. Print quality is superb and leaves a bit of a metallic sheen to its works giving its prints a more solid, industrial look to them. Can really shine when printing on high quality).
If your printer/slicer has an automatic support feature, then model rotation can play a big part in how the print comes out as well as how much and material is consumed during the job.
So it’s important to have a good understanding of how your particular software handles supports. As well as the appropriate tools to remove them.
exacto knives can be nice for removing debris from those nooks n ‘ crannys. Its a horrible feeling to have a print absolutely covered with inconvenient supports that could take hours to remove or ruin your print depending on what exactly happened.
Just the Tip
This was an annoying one. Have you ever printed out something, Usually something that looks like it should be simple to do like a blade tip or something tall and skinny standing straight up and this happens?:
Then you probably noticed that irritating problem when the rest of your print is picture perfect but that one part reveals the whole print to be a waste of time at the last minute!
One solution is to print TWO of those things simultaneously. That way those smaller tips have time to cool off and they won’t be so messed up.
(Hatchbox white PLA. Easy to use under any setting, clear bone white and nice texture all contribute to making this PLA my gold standard for rapid prototyping and sharing ideas. Perfect for absolute beginners and pros alike.)
Another solution would be to slow down your print speed. In this way you generally have less imperfections at the cost of time. It’s also VERY handy when trying to bring out the full potential of more glassy/gooey like materials such as Taulman T-glase or aluminum PLA.
Then I finally learned about minor mechanical malfunctions that can be hard to spot and can have very major effects on your print quality and mental stress level.
The pictures reflect my Robo3D R1+ but can be applied somewhat universally for other machines.
Chewed up filament
That dent you see in the center if that filament is what happens when the extruder gears grind your material because either:
– you have a clogged extruder!
-the screws on the filament holder are loose and are causing the gears not to bite properly!
which can cause a clog if you weren’t lucky enough to have one already.
Before you decide to tighten the back screws, it’d be a great idea to clean the extruder teeth with a steel bristle brush or its equivalent to help prevent any potential future nonsense.
So there’s a few things you can do to get yourself nice and clogged. Filament holder not biting properly, extruder not hot enough to melt the previous materials leftovers, your spool sucks etc. In any case, I know if 3 ways to unclog the extruder:
First you heat up your extruder no matter how you decide to do this then:
1-Use a nozzle cleaning kit which usually comes with needles and and tweezers.
You take a needle and insert it into the hot end without burning yourself.
Clean it out and use the tweezers at the filament holder to remove any debris.
2-take a VERY thin screwdriver and firmly yet carefully push out any material through the heated hot end.
3-you can unscrew your hot end holder and remove the hot end itself to manually remove the clogged material.
However I don’t recommend this method as it’s harder than it looks and easier to get burned or worse: accidently break a wire. So use this as a last resort!
Well That just about covers some of the more basic troubles you may encounter while getting started on this most amazing hobby. 3D printing isn’t always for the feint of heart (i don’t care what these companies try to tell you lol).
My goal here is to help save you some time and undue stress. More importantly, i hope to dissuade anyone from giving up on this most mind blowing adventure that can realistically change the way we live.
As always stayed tuned for updates and Please like and share, comment if you have and questions and please consider a donation if you found this post useful. Your gratitude aids and abets my tech obsession and helps me get more gadgets to research so i can share more knowledge with the world. Thank you for finding me. Cheers!