Dimensional Print Studio


DSC09437The Dimensional Print Studio has joined the ranks of multi-color three-dimensional printing. This is with the FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) process using plastic extruded filament. The printer obtained, a GeeeTech A20M (the “M” is for multicolor) printer. 

The A20M uses two filaments and combines the feeds into a single nozzle. This permits blending (sort of) of the two filaments. The colors don’t mix and when fed to the nozzle together, come out the 0.04MM tip side by side in proportion to the feed. Like stripe toothpaste in a tube. 30/70, 50/50, 70/30 it will show in the print.

Much two-color printing is done with a nozzle for each color. No blending is possible. Using a single nozzle, requires a purge area to pump out the old color before printing (100%) with the new color. A “purge pillar” is built up layer by layer alongside the intended print for purging. This pillar is “wasted” and thrown away and is a concern for some stingy printer owners.

Two color printing can take up to twice as long as single color printing. So, two color printing is not popular for many folks. Especially if they have an extreme obsession or phobia about “wasting” material changing colors. 

Waste is a product of all forms of crafting and manufacturing. Does a woodcarver obsess over the 50% waste of material in the form of shavings and chips when carving a figure? Did Michael Angelo obsess over the “wasted marble” when carving David? I think NOT!

Not sorry about the rant above. I’ve just heard about wasting material too many times in 3D printing…

The rewards of having color options are quite enjoyable. For me it has moved my printing further in the realm of an art form, without the need for priming and painting. Or printing multiple pieces to assemble. That will go on, but it is fun to design and see it produced in a single print.

Here are some examples of my first prints. Surely there will be much more to come.


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 This is my first print in two color. It is my own design created in Fusion 360.  The A20M came with a mouse pad!. The rectangle is the purge piliar required to clear color from the single nozzle.
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 This is a key fob I printed with different color loaded.   The W5EHS is my amateur (ham) radio call sign
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 This is a process of blending two colors into a single nozzle printer.  Because the colors don't truely mix, the pink rises higher on the right side and the green is lower on the left.
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 Quilting square coaster I designed in single color has been updated for 2 color printing.  Same pattern, just switch colors when slicing.
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 Here is a blended color FDM owl nect to a DLP resin printed owl.  Another blended color print. This time red to grey


IMG 2178New PETG print after nozzle change.Been messing around for two days trying to figure out how to get decent PETG prints off my A/C Delta printer. Then I remembered my PLA prints were looking a bit crappy for quite a while, too. But PETG is a far fussier material than PLA, so I was thinking, doing a little mental math… 2+2=3.14159265…

Then I looked really close to the printing going on with the top layers on the current test PETG print I was running. “Dang! That nozzle tip looks awful short!” I said to myself.  It’s drawing the shoulder of the nozzle across the top of the print!!

AH… 2+2=4!!  Now the pie is on my face!  The tip of the nozzle is worn off. That hole isn’t 0.4 MM.  It looks like at least 1.0 MM!!!!

Of course, I couldn’t see that at that moment, but it was obvious I needed to change out the nozzle.

With the (very) old nozzle removed, I was able to examine it under my photo microscope and grab these pictures.

Photo on 7 7 19 at 1250 PMThe new on the left the old on the right. Think there was a problem there.  

Lesson learned… Just because it isn’t plugged, doesn’t mean it’s still good…  DUH?!

Yeah, that old nozzle probably made at LEAST 100 good prints or more. The quality was dropping but the present PETG really drove the issue home. I’ll be changing nozzles a bit more often now I see how they wear. 

I was wondering about how nozzles change with time as I was doing my test prints. I have read the claim that flow through them with stuff like carbon fiber wear the hole bigger, but it looks to me that wear off the end is also a big problem. It depends on if the hole is tapered inside or has a fairly long parallel wall hole. This may be a combination of both.

I also read that some nozzles carbon up inside from overheating and the effective hole diameter gets smaller. I bought an expensive steel nozzle months ago and have never installed it. Not even now. I have run a lot of wood PLA through the old nozzle, but it says wood does not wear out the nozzle. That old nozzle has seen PLA. ABS, wood, and PETG. After a good purge, they all flowed fine.

Months ago, when I was playing with printing test parts for a U-Build-It 3D printer, the same spool PETG was not printing quite like I expected. I just blamed it on poor S3D settings. It was probably the point when I should (could) have changed out the nozzle. That old one was in there forever even then.

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A camera microscope is a handy tool for nozzle inspection and photo capture. The left is the new nozzle. The right was exactly the same, now with at least a 4X bigger hole!
Photo on 7 7 19 at 1216 PM Photo on 7 7 19 at 1224 PM


Now wiser than I was yesterday, this old dog can still learn a few tricks…

Glass Print Bed with Aqua Net

I put a round glass print surface on both Delta style printers I have (had), I sold the smaller one. I installed PEI or Buildtak (like) surface on top of the glass on both. I used the glass to assure a perfectly flat printing surface.

I didn’t like the concept of rubbing a glue stick on the surface to get a print to stick. I considered hair spray with the same disdain. But I hadn’t given either method much of a try. I did try a glue stick several times, but considered it a real and unnecessary mess.

But Buildtak was tearing-up with some regularity. Some material like PETG sticks too well. The real mess was getting Buildtak off the glass for the next application. A heat gun (like stripping paint) does a good (but hot) job. Buildtak changes were getting expensive as well.

PEI was also a hit and miss material. When it works, it works well. But then it will start loosing its grip on things…

All stick-on sheets suffer from air pockets. Perhaps the 3M glue gases-off a bit after repeated heatings. I can’t prove that, but I know bubbles form long AFTER initial installation. That’s where a tear-out hoie develops from pulling off prints.

I watched a video on You-tube where a fellow was praising the use of hairspray. Since I had not given it a fair trial, I decided to give it a go. My wife let me use some of her hair spray.

It was a highly perfumed, water based lacquer, for which I can hardly stand the smell, but it worked very well as a “stick-um” for 3D prints. Both PETG and PLA. But it was very hard to wash of the glass, requiring vigerous scrubbing, soap, and hot water.

The video recommended the cheapest “Aqua Net” superhold to be found. My wife found the non-scented variety in 11 ounce cans for $2.00 a can. She bought me 3, which looks like a lifetime supply.

I discovered the Aqua Net is far superior for printing to the variety my wife uses on her hair. No smell what-so-ever and a super flat dry out on the glass. It also lasts through multiple prints, where the perfumed brand pealed off with each print. I don't know how good Aqua Net is for hair use, but printing use it is perfect. And it washes off the glass very easily and cleanly with cold water. It couldn’t be better.

The prints come off the bed with a perfectly smooth contact surface. Rafts are usually not required. The prints will “pop” off the surface if you let the bed cool down. But it works with a non-heated bed just as well.

 Aqua Net is my new standard for bed adhesion in FDM 3D printing. Why did I wait so long?

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