Did you know you can print everything you want in 3D? Well, not everything, but almost! I recently bought a 3D printer and since then I keep finding new ideas of objects to manufacture. It really changed my vision of plastic products.
I chose the Creality Ender 3 Pro model because it was recommended to me by a colleague (thank you Richard). It is an affordable printer thta is large enough to print objects up to 220 * 220 * 250mm (8.6 x 8.6 x 9.8 inches).
Assembling the Machine
The machine requires some assembly. You have to be thorough because it is easy to do it wrong. Sebonaut and I had to start again some steps because it is really necessary to insert the parts in the right order. Overall, it went pretty well and as you know, I love building stuff.
Calibrate the Plate
Before you can use the 3D printer, you must calibrate the height of the printing plate. To do this, we will move the printing nozzle to the four corners of the plate and adjust the height at each corner so that there is only the thickness of a sheet of paper between the plate and the nozzle.
There are many types of plastic filaments for 3D printing.
PLA : It’s a classic. PLA (polylactic acid) is the most common choice because it is durable and easy to print. That’s what I’ve used so far.
ABS: ABS filament (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is stronger than PLA, but also more difficult to print because it requires higher temperatures. This is the material of the Lego blocks. I bought a roll, but I have not tried it yet.
PET/PETG: PET (polyethylene terephthalate, G means glycolized) is the plastic of water bottles. I think it can be used for food containers, but I’m not sure. I have not used it yet.
TPU: TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) is a little more expensive, but offers many additional object possibilities thanks to its flexibility. Once again, it’s a plastic that I have not tried yet.
If you want to know more, I recommend you this information site on printing materials. It lists 25 types of materials and their properties.
First, you need a digital model to print.
Find Models on the Web
You don’t know what to print? Check out Thingiverse (www.thingiverse.com) I warn you, it’s addictive. You may spend a lot of time browsing and finding tons of templates you want to print. Plus, it’s free! When you have chosen a model, all you have to do is download the corresponding STL file and pass it to the Slicer.
Design Your Own Models with Tinkercad
If you have inspiration, you can create your own models online on Tinkercad (www.tinkercad.com) The interface is so easy to use that even my little Yourinaut, 9 years old, managed to design his own characters for the board game he created. This site is also convenient for importing a template you found on Thingiverse and resizing or customizing it according to your needs. You can then export your creation to an STL file to pass it to the Slicer.
Before you can print the selected model, it must be processed with the appropriate software. I am using Creality Slicer 1.2.1 which comes with the printer. It will virtually slice the object to print and provide the necessary supporting parts, according to the parameters entered in the software. These may vary depending on the printer and the object.
Layer height allows to choose the thickness of the layers, a high value favors a fast but less precise printing (0.1 mm is a normal value). Shell thickness makes it possible to decide the thickness of the walls (0.8 mm does the trick). For the Fill, 15-20% produces a solid and light object. Botton layer at 0.8 mm gives correct objects. On the other hand, if you want the print to be waterproof, you have to increase the thickness of the bottom and the sides. My elephant was printed at 2.4 mm thickness and it still has leaks. I prefer to limit the support parts to “touchingbuildplate” and I configured the addition of brackets to happen only when angles exceed 45 degrees.
At the top of the image, we see the estimated printing time and the amount of plastic needed. The Calicat is a quick example, but a big model like the elephant can easily take 20 hours. The Slicer will then generate a gcode file that contains instructions for the printer.
Once the gcode file is saved on the micro SD card, all you have to do is insert it into the printer and select it from the menu. I advise you to also configure the printer nozzle and plate temperatures. Values will vary depending on the type of wire used. For the PLA, I got good results with the nozzle around 220 degrees and the plate at 60-66 degrees. I was told to put the plate hotter (70 degrees) for ABS, but I have not tried it yet. I prefer to avoid using an adhesion space around the object as in the picture below.
In order to give you an idea of what can be produced from a 1kg PLA roll, here is everything I printed with my rainbow roll and you can see that there is still a little left.
- Space Invaders Guitar Pick
- Sharkz Clip
- Spiral Vase
- Dry Erase Marker Caddy
- Music Book Clip
- Jumbo Elephant Drainer
- Tea Bag Caddy
- Calibration Cat
- Tea Dino
- Fire Crown / Tiara
- Self-Watering Planter (Printed in black, I even resized it with Tinkercad to fit a plant pot I already had)
Challenge for YOU
I’m sure you now want to make your own things, too. Go ahead! And if the purchase price of a printer holds you back, you can still create your designs. There are printing services on the web or even at the library (in Quebec city at least) where you pay for the amount of plastic used.