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3D Printing Basics

There are a few thing that you need to know about in order to operate any 3D printer at the makerspace.

Handling Filament:

When you get a new spool of filament it comes sealed in plastic with a desiccant pack, and the free end stuck through holes in the spool's flanges. The desiccant is there because some types of filament are especially prone to absorbing moisture from the air. PLA and nylon are the worst, but ABS can absorb moisture, too. At the makerspace we have a dry-box for storing PLA and nylon filaments. If you take a spool of filament out of the dry box, be sure to tightly reclose the lid.

When you first unwrap a new spool of filament, there are a couple things you should do. First, weigh the spool and mark the empty spool weight on the label on the spool (if you opened a 1 kg spool of filament and it weighs 1330g, the empty spool weighs 330g). Next, measure the filament diameter in about 20 places using a caliper, calculate the average diameter, and mark it on the spool. Those numbers will be very important for future use of that spool.

Always keep control of the free end of the filament. If you let it go there's a very good chance you'll end up with a tangle on the spool that will cause your print (or someone else's) to fail. When you take filament off the machine, insert the filament's free end into one of the holes in the spool's flanges. If the spool you take off is PLA, put it into the dry-box.

Changing/Loading Filament

This must be done with the extruder heated to about 230-240C for most materials. Heat up the extruder, then operate the filament release level and pull the filament straight up and out of the extruder. Never, ever, cut the filament off at the entrance to the extruder! On some printers (SoM, CubeX) doing so requires disassembly of the extruder to retrieve the stub of filament before new filament can be loaded. Operate the release lever again and push the new filament into the extruder. Then use either the LCD panel or host computer to extrude filament until the new filament is coming out of the extruder nozzle.

The print bed is a key component in the printer. If prints don't stick to it, they fail. How you treat the bed is a big factor in determining your print success/fail ratio. There are a few simple rules:

  1. Keep your grubby little hands off the bed surface! Oil from your hands will prevent prints from sticking.
  2. Keep tools and printer parts, etc. off the bed surface. Oil and dirt from tools will prevent prints from sticking.
  3. Use the proper tool to remove prints from the bed. Allow the bed to cool down to 30-40C, then use one of the yellow handled scrapers that we provide for the purpose. Use it with the bevel side down on the bed surface, slide the edge under the print, and pry. If the print doesn't want to let go where you tried first, move to a different spot and try again. Try to avoid gouging the surface of the bed and your hand- those scrapers are very sharp!
  4. Clean the bed at room temperature with the right solvent. Just spill a few drops of the solvent onto the bed surface and wipe with either a paper towel or clean rag. If the bed has Kapton (brown) or PET tape (blue-green), use acetone. If it has PEI (SoM) use only isopropyl alcohol.
  5. Don't use hairspray or glue on the beds (except for the CubePro and CubeX machines).
  6. Don't use any other tools on the bed. The wire brushes are to be used for cleaning off the extruder nozzle only, NOT the bed!

Leveling and Zeroing the Bed

The purpose of leveling and zeroing the bed is to get the first layer of your print to stick to it. If the first layer doesn't stick, your print fails. Some of the printers at the makerspace need to have the bed releveled once in a while, especially if they have been out of the space at a demo.

The technique for leveling the bed generally involves heating up the bed and extruder to print temperatures (70C and 220C for PLA), putting a piece of paper on the bed, and adjusting the leveling screws until the paper just gets caught between the extruder nozzle and the bed plate. Exact procedure will be provided in training session.

Zeroing is done after leveling- just move the nozzle to the center of the bed and adjust the nozzle or bed height until it just catches the paper between the nozzle and bed plate. The exact procedure will be provided in a training session.

Making It Print

SoM and the Taz printers use gcode stored on SD cards to print. You insert the card into the card slot on the LCD panel, select the file to print, then print. The CubePro, CubeX, Solidoodle, and Stratasys machines require a computer to drive them via USB ports. The CubePro, CubeX, and Solidoodle machines use Pronterface to print. Exact procedures will be explained during a training session.

Final Word

We have a bunch of 256 MB SD cards labeled MMS in the 3D printing area. Those cards are intended to stay at the Makerspace to be available for people to print. Please don't take them home. If you're printing from your own SD card and you have critical files stored on the card, put a tape tag on the edge of the card and put your name on it. If you are going to use a printer and someone else's tagged memory card is in the slot, take it out and leave it at the machine so the named person can retrieve it. Use your own or one of the makerspace cards for your print, not the other person's tagged SD card.

If the MMS labeled memory card is full or nearly so, feel free to delete files from it to make space for your file. Important files should not be kept on MMS SD cards.

If you are doing a small project, you can use filament that's in the 3D printing area (in the dry-box or out). If you're going to do something big or need some other color or type of filament, buy it and bring it to the space. If you don't want others to use it, put your name on the spool. If you don't care if others use your filament, don't put your name on the spool. If you want to print something and you see a perfect shade of green filament without anyone's name on it, feel free to use it for your print.

TLDR: if you are concerned about your stuff, put your name on it, if you aren't, don't. If you are looking to print something and need a memory card or filament, don't use a card or filament with someone else's name on it. Anything tagged/labeled MMS is available for your use.

spacedocumentation/3d_printing_basics.txt · Last modified: 2017/05/16 21:56 by raster