So, you are new to 3d printing or you have some experience already but encountered some difficulties. No worries these posts give some practical tips to level up your 3d printing skills. Firstly, some tips for beginners to accomplish a solid understanding of the basic know how.
If you are new to the beautiful 3d-printing world it could be scary starting out with your 3d printer. You just spend a significant amount of money on your first printer and you are very careful not to break it first time. These are the absolute basics you’ve got to understand before starting a print.
Absolutely a very important step in preparation of your first print is to get your print bed leveled. This means the print bed needs to be perfectly parallel to the x-axis and y-axis. Some 3d-printers, especially the more expensive ones, have an automatic bed leveling feature. This means the 3d-printer is equipped with a sensor probe. (There are a couple of different sensors used for probing, more on this subject in a future post.) Yet most budget printers do not come with such a sensor out of the box. Assuming beginners won’t be modding there printers straight away, I will be providing a step-by-step explanation on how to get your print-bed in perfect printing condition.
Before we begin, home all the axis of the 3d-printer. This will give us the zero reference off the printer which we will be leveling the bed from. Then disable the steppers to allow us to move the x- and y-axis by hand. Now find a piece of normal printer paper or a different piece of paper about the same thickness. This will be our very high-tech leveling tool.
Now slowly move the printhead to one corner of the print bed. Use your certified leveling tool to create the right distance between the nozzle and the print bed. Place the piece of paper between both elements and feel the resistance when trying to pull it back out. No resistance at all? Bring the bed closer to the nozzle by screwing the appropriate thumbscrew a bit loser. Not able to remove the paper without tearing it? Back off the bed by screwing the thumbscrew tighter. You should feel some resistance, yet it shouldn’t take effort removing the piece of paper. Repeat the same procedure for every corner. I find it easiest to work in a diagonal pattern.
So, now we’re done right? Well, almost. Check every corner a second time. It almost always happens a corner has to be leveled again. Your done when every corner gives the same resistance to the paper.
The perfect first layer
The print bed is leveled, OFF WE GO! Well, hold your horses. To prevent your first try from being an absolute bummer we need to print a proper first layer. Look at it as the foundation for the rest of the print. If the foundation collapses so will the remaining of your print, wasting time and materials. We can adjust the layer height of the first layer by adjusting the settings within the slicer software you use. If you are using the free slicing software “CURA” you should be looking for a setting called “initial layer height”. On a fresh install you’ll need to turn on the visibility of this setting. Click ‘Settings -> ‘Configure setting visibility’ check the box ‘Initial Layer Height’ underneath the tab ‘Quality’. After you have done this the setting should be visible in the custom print settings. Now start printing the initial layerheight calibration file, buy it from the store to sponsor this fabulous site or download it for free from MyMiniFactory. This file will print a rectangle with four parameters. There should be no gaps between the layers. Also, there should be no bulging of plastic between the layers. It should be nice and flat. Also, the layer width should be even all around the rectangle. If its not. This probably means your print bed is not leveled correctly.
Make it stick
To ensure the print does not come lose during a print, you need to make sure the print sticks very well to the print surface. Different printers come with different print surfaces though. The printing material also affects the ability of your print to stick. I shall explain what works for me for the materials I use.
Probably the most common print material you will be using is PLA. It is an easy material to print with due to its favourable properties. It does not shrink very much and has a low melting temperature resulting in less warping. So, what makes it stick? For me painters tape does work wonderfully. You do not need to heat the print bed. I usually set the print bed temperature to 30°C, this ensures a consistent print bed temperature even on cold days.
Some times people use hairspray or glue stick too. However, my experience never has been great using it.
Hell, never even try it. It’s a bloody nightmare. In all seriousness, I have never really had the capability to try this for real since I do not own a 3d-printer with an enclosed chamber at this point. My experience with ABS would not be representative to printers that do have a enclosed printing chamber and contain the heat within. However, from what I’ve tried shrinkage is a real issue, causing a lot of warping and even layer separation.
PETG on the other hand is great. It is rather easy to use with an I3 style printer like I use. It does not shrink as badly as ABS yet it is not as brittle as PLA. What works for me with this material is heating the heated bed to about 90°C. I print without painters tape for this material. The heat causes the glue of the tape to soften, causing it to let go of the surface. I found that bare glass works well. Just make sure you properly clean the glass surface. Any grease or other residue will interfere with sticking POWER.
Just try what works for you
I have given you my way of doing it. Yet, this does not necessarily work for you. My advice would be to just start from here and adjust it to your need. Try and find out what works for you.
Different materials require different temperatures. This is why you should always check the temperature the manufactures say you should use for there material. Usually you can find this on the spool itself. Or at least the box it came in. Most likely it will be a range between two temperatures. Just start exactly in the middle. Start fiddling from there until you think it’s perfect.
For example, this spool of PET says 195-220°C on it. Just start at 210°C and you’ll be fine.
Ready to go
And with this you should be ready to go. Grab a file, slice it, print it AAAND SUCCES!!!
In future ‘3D printing tips’ posts there will be more information about more indebt printing stuff. Think about print speed, infill, wall thickness etc. But for now enjoy making!