THE 3D PRINTER DOES THE LABOR
If you can use a CAD program, you’re three quarters of the way to being able to create a professional looking project. CAD programs make it easy to have nice parallel and perpendicular edges, square corners, perfectly circular curves, identical segments and so on. If you sit down and sketch out an idea on a piece of paper, no matter how good you make the drawing, you can still screw up the actual construction. Not necessarily with a CAD program and a 3D printer. When these two tools work together, you get exactly what you designed, exactly how you designed it and if you need a hundred of them, all one hundred will be exactly, the same. Another thing about designing on paper, someone still needs to do the work. No matter what I draw on paper, it always comes down to someone, usually myself, to get out the tools; saws, hammers, chisels, sanders, brushes, levels, squares, wrenches, screwdrivers, tape measures, pencils, drills, glue, clamps, vises, pliers and the like. Most of these get replaced by the 3D printer and it does the physical labor. I get the 3D printer started, then I sit back and wait while it builds the object. Well primarily, I’ll probably still have to sand and paint it, but that depends on the quality of the printer and the quality of the print I need.
MY THREE “FIRST TIME 3D PRINTS”
A DA VINCI JR. 1.0 – When I got my first 3D printer, I was nervous as heck about making that first print. Oh sure, if you hand me a new tool for working with wood I’ve got no problem using it. I may or may not even read the instructions before using it. That’s because, I’ve had a lot of experience, I’m comfortable working with wood. But now, this thing is completely different. A 3D Printer doesn’t look anything like any of the tools I’m used to and the material it’s using is plastic. I’d never really worked with plastic before. I have worked with resins and fiberglass in the past and sometimes they call that “plastic” but it isn’t really or at least it’s not used in the same way, i.e. coming out of a nozzle. Thanks to a lot of reading and encouragement from 3D printing channels, I did manage to get over my fear and make that first print. I printed an example file that was stored on the SD card that came with the printer. It turned out fine and I hardly had to do a thing. That’s because my first 3D printer was a Da Vinci Jr. 1.0, from XYZprinting. Most of XYZprinting’s Da Vinci series comes in an enclosure, which helps maintaining a constant temperature and supposedly my Da Vinci Jr. has a self-leveling bed, but I have doubt’s it’s a true self-leveler. Also, the printer uses proprietary filament and slicer, which means both of those are already set to work with the printer, so no adjustments in those areas were necessary. I dare-say, that is one of the good aspects of proprietary filament and/or software. The manufacturer has already done all the adjustments to make sure it prints fine, but not everything is good in proprietary land. Proprietary filament means your choices are limited to what they offer and if you want filament, you have to pay what they ask. Even proprietary software, i.e. the company slicer, may not be the best slicer available, but you must use it, because their machine won’t accept files created in any company’s slicer.
A GENERIC CHINESE KIT STYLED AFTER A PRUSA – My second first print was made on a FDM 3D printer that I built from a Chinese kit. There was so much that could go wrong, that even though I now had experience with 3D printing, I was still nervous about making the first print on it. Besides worrying about the adjustments that needed to be made, such as tramming the bed, more commonly known as “leveling the bed”, making sure the limit switches were positioned correctly and temperatures were set to the correct levels, I had to worry about whether the whole machine was built right and if the electronics were going to function the way they were intended. Was I worried about that first print on this machine? You bet I was! After the required adjustments and getting over my fears, I got my first print on this machine started. My first print on it was a cube I designed myself in a simple CAD program. There were sample 3D files on the SD card that came with the printer, but I wanted something very simple to print. This way I could keep the number of variables down to as few as possible. So, if I had any errors, they would be easier to track down. Also, I made it small to keep the amount of plastic used, or wasted, down to as little as possible. The cube turned out okay. Besides needing a heat adjustment, it did come out as the cube I designed. I was happy and relieved.
A CREALITY CR-10 – My third first 3D print was made on a Creality CR-10. It is also a Chinese 3D printer that is called a kit, but it really isn’t. They call it a kit because there is some assembly required. I had attached the top half to the bottom half and plug in the clearly labelled wiring in the correct sockets. Since it was a new printer, there were the usual questions about whether it would function the way it was supposed to or blowup in a fiery death when I turned it on or during that first print. Besides discovering its electrical worthiness, there was the tramming, aka. “Levelling” of the bed and adhesion to the build plate to worry about. As it turned out, there was a problem with adhesion because the glass build plate, that came with the printer was warped. It was slightly bowl shaped. I read that many people who purchased the same printer had the same problem, so it was easily spotted and fixed. To fix it: I went with the common recommendation of replacing the glass with a mirror tile I bought at a nearby hardware store. It took a few more attempts to print because I was having problems getting the plastic to stick to the glass, until I went back to using blue painters tape and a layer of glue stick. I learned about blue painter’s tape and glue sticks with the other printers. And so, the first complete 3D print on the CR-10 came out excellent. I was once again very happy.
For the other parts of the series: