Welcome to another 3D printing tutorial from HoneyPoint3D.  This week we delve into accessories you will need if you are printing at home.  I am preparing to go to the famous Maker Faire extravaganza this upcoming weekend in San Mateo California, and I will, for sure, see a lot of new 3D printers, filament, software, and all-around creativity.  What I probably won’t see, but is equally as important, is the cloud of tools that you would need to help you get to a good end 3D print.

Watch this video that we made from Chapter 12 of our new book, entitled Getting Started with 3D Printing, published by Maker Media.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself that 3D printing is pretty foolproof, the machine knows what to do, and that the prints just come out fine every time…..I’ll tell you a secret, that’s not true!  I have been 3D printing professionally for several years now, and these “magical machines” still make a fool out of me from time to time.  Thankfully, not nearly as much as they did when I started out, but even now something can “happen” to prints to make them mess up, bind up, pop off the build plate, or otherwise spectacularly fail.

If you are going to run a 3D printer at home you should have a good collection of tools to ensure the best results.  This list I am about to describe to you is not ALL required, not by a long shot, but knowing about these tools and having them at your disposal can be really useful when, and if, you need them.  The common tools in this list, if you totalled them all up in price, would cost under $35 dollars, and then if you get most items on this list, the price jumps to around $50, and then if you get every-everything on this list (the biggie being a rotary tool) then you’re looking at around $130 or so.  Good news is it’s likely you already have most of this tools at home!

Take note that this list has some items on it that will not apply to all printers, For example, some printers have “walled gardens” where you’re more restricted in what you can do (like cleaning out the extruder drive gear if it gets clogged, and so you may not be able to use some of the things I mention here.  Some 3D printers have enclosed filament canisters, so you will not be able to measure the filament to make sure they’re accurate. In general, you want to keep your printer type in mind while you look through this list.

Let’s start with the easy ones first…the tools you would need before you ever click print.  They are called the preparation and verification tools:

  • Digital calipers
  • Gluestick or painters tape
  • Foam sponge

These tools might or might not be familiar to you but they’re pretty simple:  The glue stick and the painter’s tape are both methods for making sure your 3D print adheres to the build plate.  The first layer can peel up and that would be disastrous for your print. You can use specialized build platforms or even hairspray, but you might not like to not breathe in the fumes from the hairspray, and the specialized build platforms work pretty well, but they can wear out over time.

The digital calipers cost around $15 online, and are about a well-known term:  trust but verify.  Even though the manufacturer has stated the filament diameter, do your own test. Take a few measurements along the filament line and get an average, this value is what you should put into your slicer.  All filaments are not made the same!

This makeup sponge can be used as a filament wiper, wiping the filament clean of any debris before that debris finds its way into your extruder nozzle and potentially jamming it.

Here’s a tool you might need while the print is happening:

  • Wire brush

For a number of reasons, sometimes the teeth in the extruder drive gear can get filled with filament material.  This sort of small wire brush is great for brushing into the drive gear while the print is printing in an attempt to clear the teeth.  Then blow the debris clear, and make sure to use a brush that will not drop little pieces of itself into the extruder nozzle!

The next set of tools are used for the post processing…well, process.  After your print is finished you will need to remove the print off the build plate with  a spatula. You may also need to do some things to the print before it is truly done.  

Here are the tools for that:

  • Spatula
  • Pliers, needlenose, and possibly curved
  • Flush cut wire cutters
  • Files
  • Chisels
  • Sandpaper
  • Hobby knife

These tools are pretty straightforward, and some of them I use on virtually all prints that I make.  

Many people like to print with a brim, which is a few printed rings of material that encircle the print (but aren’t actually part of the model) to help the print not pop off the build plate.  After the print is done, the brim can sometimes be removed by hand, but I like to run my knife along the edge to help the print remove more easily.

The other tools are generally used for removing support material from prints, and cleaning up the rough surface texture the support material can leave behind.  Various files, chisels, and sanding paper do a great job here.

If you really want to get fancy you can also use these products:

  • A rotary tool
  • Superglue or epoxy
  • XTC-3D

The rotary tool can be used for cleaning up the surface if you have a steady hand, and it can also be used to do friction welding when you want to adhere multiple parts together.  This takes a bit of practice, but it’s a great way to join even pieces made from different materials.  You might be able to use superglue or epoxies, but make sure to check online if those glues really will stick to the materials you are using. Some materials don’t really hold superglue that well, surprisingly.

If you want to post process your model to look shiny, there are chemicals like XTC-3D which is a type of brush-on epoxy that dries overnight, seemingly “melting” the layers leaving your model with a shiny appearance that actually just fills the layers in.

Hopefully this list gives you some good tips on what tools you should consider purchasing if you be printing at home.  If you want to learn more about what tools you need and setting up your own personal makerspace, check out our book “Getting Started with 3D Printing,” published by Maker Media, the parent company of Maker Faires and Make Magazine. You can find the book on Amazon.com

Thanks, and come back next week for more tips from HoneyPoint3D. Happy Printing!


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