Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What I'm 3D Printing Today - Not Every Print is Perfect

The last time I spoke of 3D printing, I was printing card trays for Viticulture. Basically these:

So, I printed off 5 trays and took them home to paint. I even had cans of spray paint in green, yellow, purple, blue, and orange already. I got through painting four of them.

Look decent right? The cards fit nicely (though the orange structure card stack is just a hair too tall for the rack). Well actually, they aren't ALL great. When I started painting the green one, I realized that print had had issues. The base had curled up while printing. One of the first issues I had encountered while learning the 3D printer, was getting the print to stick properly. It is important that the first layer adhere to the print bed properly for a couple of reasons. The most important being that if the print moves before the print finishes, the layers being printed won't be in the right spot. In fact, usually what happens is you end up with a giant mess. Alternately you get what happened to me. Check out the green tray here:

As you can see, the corners pulled up, which ended up warping the whole thing. I ended up tossing it and will try and reprint the trays. It'd be really nice if there was a good way to recycle the material from bad prints, but I don't know that there is a cheap or easy way to do it. For now, bad prints = trash.

There are a couple things you can do to try and mitigate print problems like this. For the printer I use, the important steps are:
  1. Clean the glass plate that the printer prints onto. You want to make sure there is no dust and no finger prints or oils on it. Either will degrade the melted plastic's ability to stick onto the glass plate.
  2. Heat the plate to a high enough temperature. If the plate is too cool, the extruded material hardens too quickly and contracts immediately. 
  3. The SPECIAL SECRET - spray something on the plate to help the print stick.
So what is the SPECIAL SECRET? Ozone killer. Aqua Net. That's right, I know I said to clean the plate, but once it is nice and clean, spray a bit of Aqua Net onto the surface.

There are other choices of course. Some folks like blue painter's tape. That worked ok for me, but was too much of a hassle between prints and often was a hassle to actually get off the bottom of the print.

Why bother, when the same stuff that gives you great 80s hair works so well? I mean, when you think about it, girls and boys in the 80s were just on the bleeding edge of 3D printing, using their hair.

Ok, that was a little off track. The main point was that the technology isn't prefect. Sure, it is pretty awesome, but it is also frustrating and inconsistent too. Like anything else, sometimes you just have to try again. So I'll re-try the print with a nice clean and freshly sprayed bed. I suspect that the next print will be just fine since the other trays appear to be fine. 

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