3D Printing Tips and Tricks

Tips for beginners to get amazing prints from their 3D Printers

3D printing technology has come a long way, from mega factories and research centres to our very own desktops. Desktop 3d printers are still undergoing the evolutionary phase and are not as easy to use as a normal (2D) printer. While all these printers are capable of amazing you by making awesome things for you, it is important that we know the basics of getting good prints from these printers. Buying/making a new 3D printer and then not being able to get any useful prints from that will hurt the adoption of the technology in general, as it will hurt your pocket.

Here, we have compiled a few important tips to get good prints from your 3D printer.

Keep in mind

  • The printer in your hand is not a magic box in itself. You have to master it to make it work magic for you. Initially, you will need lots of patience, time, and perseverance to get the best out of these simple technological marvels.
  • Hit and trial methods, accompanied by knowledge and experience, will make your day. Do not forget to note every action you take and its consequent result. These notes will stand you in good stead during your journey in the world of 3D printing.
  • Start printing with small, simple models. We understand that it is difficult to control one’s excitement when you see those simple models being printed well and one wants to print everything!! But relax. The printer is yours, and it does not walk away from your desktop. Master it slowly and steadily, and you will be printing larger and more complex models in no time.
  • The Internet is your friend. As with every other thing, you can learn a lot about 3D printing from the various resources on the internet. Reprap wiki, RepRap forums, IRC chat, and YouTube are some suggested resources. Read, re-read, implement and analyse. Share your experiences to help others benefit.

First things

Before you start a print check the following things:

•    All the electronic and mechanical components are working well. Check the end stops, motors and the fans.
•    All the belts should be tight. If the belts are loose, tighten them using the mechanism given in your printer or by using belt clamps. The more you tighten the belts, the better will your prints be.
•    The extruder assembly and the nozzle should be free of any debris like filament from previous print etc.
•    Bed Leveling: The print bed has to be absolutely level. For most DIY reprap variety printers, it is ideal that you level the bed before every print. To check the level of the bed, just slide a paper sheet between the nozzle and the heated bed. The sheet should slide in easily. Check the level on all four corners of the print bed.
•    Extrude some filament before you start the actual print. Check that the extrusion is proper and consistent.

How to get the filament stick to the heated bed and make it stay there:

•    The print bed has to be absolutely level. See point regarding this above.
•    Clean your print bed properly. Oil and dirt can prevent the filament from sticking well. Use acetone and a soft cloth/lint free towel to clean the print surface.
•    If you have a heated bed, switch it on. While it is said that PLA does not need heated bed, it is better you use the heated bed. Keep the temperature at 55-60 Celsius for PLA and about 110 degree for ABS.
•    Use a glass surface to print. If you the filament does not stick to the glass also, then use Kapton tape or blue painters tape to print on.
•    You can also try some hacks for making your filament stick. Try using a hair spray available in the market .It works really well. Just spray a little on the heated bed from a distance. Avoid the hair spray from falling on the moving parts.
•    ABS Juice – Add some scrap ABS to a bottle of acetone and let it dissolve. Now use this ‘juice’ to clean your print surface normally. This should make your prints stick well.
•    Room Temperature – The room should be warm. If required, you may use a room heater to maintain room temperature. Though not always feasible, using glass boxes over the printers also works well.

Some other useful tips

•    Do not keep your filament open while not printing. Try and cover it with a polythene sheet etc. to prevent it from attracting oil and dirt.
•    Filament Feed: Try to keep the filament feed simple. The filament roll should be placed in a manner as to allow the filament to be fed straight. You may use a filament guide to guide the filament straight into the extruder.
•    Use a piece of sponge tied with a zip tie to clean the filament as it enters the extruder.

Maintain your printer

•    Check all nuts, bolts, washers, belts etc regularly. Tighten them if required.
•    Oil the smooth rods, X axis threaded rods regularly. Use very light oil.
•    Maintain the extruder really well. Open it up once in a while and clean the drive gear/hobbed bolt. Replace the springs regularly.
•    Keep a 0.3 mm drill handy to clean clogged nozzles. You can find them on our store. You can also use a guitar wire to great effect for cleaning clogged nozzles.