Category Archives: 3D Printing

3D Print Logging Catchup

I’m trying to catch up on logging some of my 3D prints.  This isn’t all of them, but it’s an update.

wall face 2.jpg

My wizard found one of these as an item on the wall a while back, and took it with him.  I thought I should print one to have on hand for roleplaying.

Wall Face (Acererak)

cat familiars.jpg

Cat Familiar

mockers.jpg

That is totally just a normal chest.  What could go wrong?

Mocker

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Dog/Wolf Mini for D&D

flatminis guards

I needed more guardsmen for urban encounters.

FlatMinis: Town Guard

pretty woman mini3.jpg

I needed a druid mini for an urban encounter, so I slightly remixed one to add a base.

Pretty Woman

 

3D Printing and Postprocessing Safety

You should follow some basic safety precautions when dealing with 3D printers, and there are more advanced ones for further risk reduction that is particularly important if you aren’t going to monitor your prints closely.  I must note that most of my experience and the related reading I’ve done are related to Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), which are the printers that use an extruded plastic filament, so there are probably other safety precautions I am ignorant of for other printing methods.  If you use something other than an FDM printer, I highly recommend doing your own research to find the to safeguard yourself and your printing area.

I must also note that these are aimed at safety, and will not guarantee you don’t have spectacularly failed prints, but will reduce the risk of property damage, injury, or death (before you get scared and put off 3D printing, I’m not sure that last one has ever happened, but it’s technically possible).

 

Monitor your printer:

You should watch or at least check on your 3D printer periodically while it’s printing.  This helps with keeping your prints from failing spectacularly, and helps you recover for a new attempt at a print faster after a fail, but this is also important for safety reasons.  Monitoring your print ensures that you are more likely to catch any potential fire or other safety hazards before they can cause a problem.  How frequently you need to check on it depends on the quality of your printer, your experience, and the environment you are printing in.  A quality printer in a safety-conscious workspace may not require as much monitoring as a DIY kit in a household with children and pets.

Keep Clear of Hot Nozzles:

FDM printers run by forcing plastic through a hot metal nozzle to make it melt and build up structures.  Keep anything you don’t want burned away from the nozzle.  These have to be hot to melt the plastic (190 degrees Celsius/374 degrees Fahrenheit or higher), so make sure you keep body parts away from the nozzle when it is hot, and make sure kids and pets can’t get too close to the nozzle either.

Take Precautions for Fire Safety:

Related to the above, keep flammable materials away from your 3D printer as much as possible.  You don’t want a flammable item to fall onto the printer to cause obstructions or catch fire.

DO NOT build a wooden support structure OR enclosure for your 3D printer.  This include particle board.  Adding such flammable materials to close proximity with your printer increases your fire risk.

Here are some good fire safety tips in general, brought to you by a person who learned from experience:

Don’t burn your house down 3D Printing. A Cautionary Tale

I recommend reading that article in it’s entirety, but the main things I’ve taken away from it and plan on implementing are: 1) keep an electrical fire rated fire extinguisher near the printer and 2) put a smoke detector above the printer.  That way you have as much advance warning as possible and the capability to put out any fire before it can endanger your home.

Here’s another article I’ve seen on fireproofing your 3D printer.  His involves some rather extreme checking and modifications, but I can see how they could help, particularly for homemade 3D printers.

Everything you need to know to make your 3D printer fireproof!

If you use a heat gun for post-processing, don’t be an idiot.  Get a trivet to put it down on after using so it doesn’t ignite anything.

Don’t Breathe Microparticles and Fumes:

Keep your printer in a well-ventilated area to prevent buildup of microparticles in the air that you can breath in.  I know the science is not definitive on whether they are harmful, but if you don’t want to take unnecessary risks this is one way to reduce them.  If a print is going to go on a long time, it is recommended that you don’t stay in the same room for an extended period of time.  Wait a few minutes after the printer finishes to let the microparticles settle.  Apparently they settle out quickly.  Then go retrieve your print.

If you use materials other than PLA, I recommend getting a fume exhaust system of some kind, as they can put off toxic gases.

Use Common Sense when Post-Processing:

I know this seems basic common sense, but general knife/blade safety is very important.  Cut away from yourself, not towards yourself.  If I were still in the Boy Scouts I’d have to have a corner cut off of my whittling chip.  I recently gave myself a jagged cut when using one of my post-processing chisels because I was careless and trying to cut late at night.  My hands weren’t as steady as I thought they were, and I foolishly cut towards myself.  Anyway, make sure you either clamp or have the piece you are working on held securely in such a way that the force you are putting into the chisel goes straight down into the cutting board.  That way if it slips or goes through easily it goes into the board and not your hand!

 

Comment below if you have any more safety tips you recommend to people for keeping their hobby (or possible workplace) safe.

Technomancer’s New Worktable: Mk II

I quickly tired of the clutter, and I’ve always liked toolboxes.  I found this one at harbor freight:

tool chest

Eight Drawer Wood Tool Chest

I’ve seen it before, and the wooden toolbox had always reminded me of the custom toolboxes by dad made for his tools years ago.  I like the echo in style.

It’s felt lined, and I’ve tried to arrange the drawers and their contents similarly to how I had them laid out on the table.  The most commonly used tools are closest to the work area.  Tool trays I’m likely to use around the same time are next to each other instead of stacked, so they don’t obscure each other when open.  I’ll probably be rearranging for a bit as I get used to working with it.

Despite it’s size, it’s definitely freed up work space, and I like that it’s neat and organized.  If any family visits, most of the sharp objects that could be dangerous to kids are in one spot to be locked away from curious fingers.

Also, by collecting most of my tools into one toolbox I’ve made it that much easier for me to do demos for local groups or set up a table at a maker fair.  I’ll just have to throw the rest in there, then put the the toolbox and the 3D printer on a cart and roll it in, instead of making a bunch of trips for things.  If I need to bring my table, I can do that too, since it is portable.

I think this work area is really shaping up nicely.  Now I just need to get a steady build queue going and make the most of it!

Technomancer’s New Worktable

I got tired of trying to use my coffee table as a place to clean up my 3D prints, and I’m not a fan of bending over more than I have to.  Let’s just say I’m not a skinny technomancer, and it was getting to be frustrating with my work flow.  Also, I’m tired of cleaning off my makeshift workspace every time I want to have people over.

I did some searching on the websites for Home Depot and Lowes, and found an inexpensive folding table that was adjustable to a height for comfortable working on items while standing up, and the supports on the legs are high up enough that it doesn’t impeded my ability to use the chest I’ve placed it over.  So now, I have my worktable.

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I apologize for the image quality, but I prefer not to show more of my home than necessary online, so I’ve removed the background.  A technomancer has to be careful about how much he reveals of his sanctum!

Anyway, I haven’t yet had time to make much use of this new setup, so we’ll see how it works.  A few notes about my setup, for those who might want to set up their own workbench:

In the center-ish area is the cutting board and magnifier, since this is what everything else revolves around.  Tools are mostly placed to the left, in order of how frequently I use them, with the most frequently used tools closest to the cutting board.

The lighting in that area of my home was not the best, so I have a desk lamp with the light pointed at the work space, since that is where I’ll need the most light.  The switch for the lamp is on the cable for the lamp, so I’ve wrapped enough of the cable around the base that the switch stays in a easy reach, rather than having to duck under the table every time I need it.  Hopefully there won’t be any induced current issues.

My Maker notebook is on the right.  I’m right-handed, so it’s a lot easier to write notes if i keep them on the right side of the work area.

In the upper right corner are some superglue, whiteout, and nail polish topcoat.  Glue for assembly, whiteout for either covering up mistakes on white PLA or being able to add some white to something printed in another color, and the topcoat is to seal in the ink on items that I have colored in with markers (usually my flatminis).

This is just my initial setup, and it will evolve over time.  As I’m writing this post I’m already thinking of things that I need to start storing on or near the table, and things I use infrequently enough that they don’t need to be on the table (they’re mostly there right now because I’m trying to clean up).  I’m also considering finding some sort of organizer or toolbox to more compactly store the tools within easy reach.

I am slightly concerned that this table won’t be stable enough in the long run, but I think where I’ve got it positioned against a wall should reduce any wobble.

I hope this gives you guys ideas about how you might setup your own hobby tables.

Monoprice Select Mini Pro 3D Printer

Last week my Colido DIY 3D printer failed again, and I got fed up with it, so I decided to order a new 3D printer.

I used the method that I’ve mentioned before in a post and recently added here:

3D Printer Shopping

I wanted a replacement printer that would suit my normal prints: small items for tabletop games.  I wanted something more reliable/easier to run than my Colido DIY.  I also didn’t want it to be too expensive, particularly as the Snapmaker 2 Kickstarter is upcoming.

After going through all of this, I settled on the Monoprice Select Mini Pro (I’ve linked to the company website, but I bought it through Amazon).  I had heard people say good things about them, and I did some poking around.  I particularly liked that it was effectively version 3 of a standing line of 3D printers, which bodes well for it having a lot of the issues worked out.

Here’s what I’ve noticed so far:

Calibration:

This printer being preassembled and precalibrated is working out really well so far.  I’ve been getting better print quality and consistency with this printer than I did with the Colido DIY that I built myself.  I’ve been able to print things I wouldn’t have dared attempt on the old printer, partly due to quality issues, and partly because the printer had the tendency to fail catastrophically in a couple different ways.

The self-levelling feature saves me a lot of effort trying to figure out how to adjust the printer.  No more turning the z-axis direct drive screws and setting the z-axis stop screw.

Bed:

The metal print bed is rigid and coated, so it should be less prone to gouging and possible warping than the plastic bed I’m used to.

Unlike the previous printer, this one has a heated print bed, which I’ve had no prior experience with,  This will be a learning experience, and broaden my knowledge base.

This bed being coated means I’m not going to have to keep maintaining a layer of painter’s tape.  However… it might be holding too well.  I don’t know if I’ve got something set incorrectly, but it is really difficult to remove prints from the print bed, even with a raft attached.  I’m asking questions in some 3D printing circles to see if I can make it release easier.

Bowden Tube:

I’ve never used one of these before.  This is a tube that directs the filament in a more consistent manner to the print head.  I’m still unsure how I feel about this thing.  I worry that it’s adding another location that could get clogged.  It does make it so that I don’t have to worry about where the path of the filament is too much.

Wifi:

This thing is wifi-enabled!  I don’t have to carry a flash drive or SD card from one room to another to print files, though there is still the option for micro-SD cards and plugging a computer in via micro-USB.  I can even set the extruder and bed temperatures remotely, and tell the printer to print the file after I transfer it over the wifi.  I will note that I’ve had some issues with failed file transfers, which requires power-cycling the printer itself, and reattempting the transfer until it works.  It’s annoying, but not a huge issue so far.  Hopefully a firmware update will help with this.

Be careful to make sure there isn’t something already on the printer when you transfer a file.  Sometimes the printer appears to start a new print as soon as you transfer the file, without clicking the Start Print button.

Headless printing:

This thing can run itself entirely independently, without needing a computer attached to it.  This alone has drastically improved my setup, as I don’t have to have a computer within cable reach of the printer.  No more worrying with an old laptop!

Since there is no computer directly plugged into the computer, you use the onboard touchscreen to control the printer (unless you want to plug a computer in, but that is optional).  This touchscreen can be a bit finicky, but it is nice being able to give commands directly to the printer.  However, there are a couple issues:

  • When a print is finished, the button to return to the main screen is NOT visible.  You need to tap on the right side of the screen, and you will find an invisible home button.
  • PRESSING THE PAUSE BUTTON DOES NOT IMMEDIATELY PAUSE THE PRINT. So, watch out for that if you are trying to stop in an emergency.  You might need to kill the power with the switch on the back of the printer.  So far I’ve only needed to use it once, when I accidentally triggered a movement sequence while there was a print still on the printer.

Slicing:

Slicing software comes with the printer.  It was Cura, if I remember correctly.  However, I use Simplify3D, and they already have a profile from previous iterations of the printer!  I’m continuing to use it to slice my files, and this time I’m trying to apply some lessons learned from previously,  I’m making different printer profiles for different PLA filaments, since they have different temperature ranges.  I used to use one profile for all, and that caused issues with prints because the filaments that you would think only differed in color would not behave the same for the same temperatures.  I’m building these profiles as I go along, based on my tweaks on the default settings for this printer.

 

Summary:

Overall, this printer appears to be a vast improvement over my previous one.  I think this one might even be stable enough to let it print semi-unattended.  The print quality seems so much higher that I might even be able to start printing more standard-style minis, once I tweak a bit more.  It could use a more detailed manual, though.  It’s rather short, and I’m having to poke around various sources for guidance.

3D Printer Refresh

Earlier this week when trying to print another mini for D&D, I made the mistake of leaving the room before it started the first layer.  As it occasionally does, the Colido DIY that I have went past the endstop switch, and gouged the print bed, getting the nozzle stuck in one of the screw holes on the printing bed before I could get to it to yank the power breakaway cable.

I got fed up with the printer.  I can probably still fix it as I have before, but as far as I’m concerned I’m done with this one.  I ordered me a new printer which arrived today.

I ended up getting a Monoprice Select Mini Pro 3D printer, based on using a tool I’ve mentioned previously to find something that fit my criteria.  It’s got a much smaller print volume, but it comes preassembled, precalibrated, has a heated print bed, is self-levelling, and is wifi enabled.

I’ll probably go more into this 3D printer at a later time, giving my review of it so far… especially after I get it fine-tuned.

Suffice it to say, I was tired of running a printer I didn’t feel I could trust, and it was time to get a new one.  As I’ve mentioned before, I eventually want to get the Snapmaker 2, which will get me back up to the larger print volume and expand my manufacturing capabilities, but I needed something in the meantime that wasn’t too terribly expensive.  Most of what I print are small miniatures for D&D games, so I’m not really giving up much except the occasional larger print item that I rarely do anyway.  I’ve currently got one of the provided test print files running on it, and I can already tell you that this printer is much quieter than the last.  I can’t hear it from my computer room like the other one.