3D Printing Tips & Tricks

I just wanted to share my top 20 ‪#‎3dPrinting‬ tips that I plan to address in my upcoming video next week. I hope my top tips below help you achieve better 3D prints, these methods have served me well! Also please leave your own methods and experiences in the comments below, I want this thread to serve as a great starting point for anyone getting into 3D printing for the first time or someone that keeps having a problem they just can’t get past. Also in the interest of full disclosure all of the links to products mentioned below do link to my Amazon affiliate and help my channel if any purchase is made. Feel free to use someone else’s affiliate or just look up the product somewhere else if you’re not comfortable helping me out.

1) Always level your bed so that material is not only laying down and sticking but appears to be flat on the first layer and merged flawlessly into surrounding lines. Make adjustments manually to the z-axis once the print starts on the first layer just to make sure it’s perfect every time! Also try to select a 3D printer that has a tool-less method of changing the bed leveling so you can quickly make adjustments while printing is underway.

2) Always put some kind of adhesive like packing tape, hair spray or glue stick on your heated bed before printing to ensure nothing lifts. Use a slightly higher bed temp then usual so the thermal shock while cooling down makes the part easier to remove. I usually do 70C for PLA and XT. I recommend Aqua Net Extra Hold hairspray. Also don’t go too crazy with it, just a thin coating on the surface, don’t try to paint it like a car! [http://amzn.to/1TLIicL]

3) Always clean your nozzle with a wire brush between prints to keep any boogers from creeping down as it heats up. I also find the nozzle is less likely to pick up support material and transfer it to other parts of the print if the nozzle stays clean and doesn’t have material residue on it which might touch and pick up other material along the way like a magnet.

4) Increase your material flow slightly to get better layer bonding for stronger parts. I usually use 107% of normal for most materials I use (PLA/XT). It can change depending on the material tolerance but it’s work experimenting with until you get something that looks extra solid!

5) Try to print with material as hot as possible but not dripping from the nozzle on it’s own, I find that when I print at lower temps the material supports it often compromises the strength between the layers since they don’t bond well. Try to find a good balance between the highest temp the material is rated for without burning or dripping and use a lot of fan (unless printing ABS) to solidify the material quickly. Also remember that each 3D printer (even from same MFG) often will have variations in actual nozzle temp and set nozzle temp so use trial and error to calibrate each printer properly and know the ‘true’ temperature.

6) Always track how much material your using either by weight with a scale or by length (1kg roll of most filaments is about 90 meters long). This way when you start a print you always know if you have enough left on the roll to complete it. I use a spreadsheet for tracking mine and when I re-tire the roll I mark the remaining material on it so if I have a small print later on I can swap back to one of the throw always instead of burning through a more full roll

7) If you get a nozzle clog and material isn’t coming out right heat the hot end to melting point then cool it down, wait for it to get to about 150 – 170c depending on material and give the filament a TUG. This will pull the clog out with the filament and you can just snip the end off and re-insert and the clog should be gone. If it’s not gone then take a wire brush like you would use to clean the grill on a BBQ and bend one bristle sideways and run it up through the nozzle to dislodge the clog. I find a combination of these two methods allow me to clear any clog without having to tear a bunch of stuff apart. [http://amzn.to/1fk5z7X]

8) Always use a UPS (uninterruptable power supply)! I have all my 3D printers connected and it prevents you from losing a print if the power flickers or goes out. Most larger UPS’s can run the printer for over an hour giving you plenty of time to hook up a generator or hopefully get the power back on. [http://amzn.to/1gPCOB8]

9) Get a putty knife to use as a spatula to pry prints off your print bed when they don’t come unstuck after cool down. Also use a knife sharpener or grinding wheel to put a blade edge on it to make it that much easier to work under the project with minimal force. [http://amzn.to/1NmZ9Tl]

10) Invest in a cheap set of wax carving tools. They work amazing for removing support material in tight places and finishing up the details on your model [http://amzn.to/1TNw7RL]

11) If you’re making a part just to display on a shelf you can use a 0.8mm wall thickness but for anything structural (Cosplay, Tools, Moving Parts) I recommend doubling the shell to 1.6mm and using a healthy amount of infill. It costs more material but you end up with a much more ridged part.

12) Avoid 100% infill unless you’re printing very small items. It uses a ton of material that is usually unnecessary and also causes the highest probability of warping. I only use 100% infill for structural load baring parts like pins, screws, bolts, etc. Anything that isn’t pulling duty of holding multiple things together I just print at 1.6mm wall with 10% infill and it gets the job done.

13) Invest in a cheap deburring tool. These are generally used for cleaning off burrs that occur when milling metal. They however work just as good for cleaning out holes in 3D models to give them a very crisp edge. I use mine all the time when I’m printing parts that are meant to be assembled together. Much easier to get a good result then just using a box knife or razor blade since it’s self guiding. [http://amzn.to/1fk6aGL]

14) Wrap a small piece of foam around the filament where it enters into the printer and put some tape or rubber band on it. This will help brush away any dust or debris that might be sitting on the filament that could clog the nozzle. Since I’ve started doing this I haven’t had a single nozzle clog!

15) Always use high quality filament like Ultimaker, ColorFabb, Proto, etc. Also keep it dry by placing the spools when not in use in 1 gallon ziplock bags with dried rice or silicon desiccant. Low quality filament or filament that absorbed water sitting in the humidity will lead to prints that are very rough and will make you think your 3D printer is broken.

16) Try to loop your filament around a 2nd point before entering your 3D printer so there is more drag placed on the filament line. I found this reduces (but does not eliminate) filament snags that occur when a lot of retraction is going on and the filament becomes slack on the roll. Experiment around to find the best way to do it, you don’t want to create too much drag on the filament though otherwise the feeder might start skipping and you will also end up with a bad print!

17) If something is too big to print on your build platform then cut it up into more manageable sizes using NetFabb. They have a free version of their software and lots of tutorial on YouTube showing you how to cut big models into smaller segment .stl’s that can be printed and then glued or welded back together!

18) Invest in a cheap piece of crap 3D printer pen. You can use it to fill in defects and close up seams on larger prints. I find it works much better then friction welding with a Dremel or using glue that doesn’t match and leaves a seam. Just weld the seam with the pen, grind it down with a file and then finish it up with sand paper and it looks amazing.

19) Search for your ‪#‎3dprinter‬ on sites like Thingiverse.com and try to find all the upgrades people have created. You will find a lot of these upgrades often improve the abilities of your printer including better resolution, better material management and in some cases reduced noise or faster printing speeds.

20) Don’t get frustrated. 3D printing is more art then science at this stage and you can’t expect to get flawless prints right out of the box. Approach each print with the mind state of how a 3D printer works and find the best orientation to print it in that requires the least support material and gives the smoothest results. I’ve seen people cut models into 20 parts that could have been printed as a single piece just to ensure each part was printed at optimal orientation so that when everything was assembled it looked like an injection molded part!

I hope you guys enjoy these tips, there are a lot more tips that are more advanced and if you guys like this post I’ll start to share them along with the video series I do going into more depth on each one of them.

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2 thoughts on “3D Printing Tips & Tricks

  1. Great tips and can not wait for the next progress video. Keep it up with everything else as well we all are cheering you on.

  2. Great tips, Jerry. You and your videos are the reason I got my first 3d printer and I’m now expecting delivery of my fourth! The best point for me is the last one; it’s a very hands on process, fiddling here and changing there, but the results when it comes together can be awesome.
    Looking forward to seeing the stormtrooper!

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