Dimensional Print Studio

Ramblin' Dan's

DSC09482I have figured it out! -- Why I am so hung on 3D printing.

I thought it was the actual printing. That is only part of it and was a huge part when I started a couple of years ago. The fascination of the process and how the machines operate is what got me interested. Watching a FDM filament printer running under CNC control was mesmerizing. It’s still that way today, but not like when I first started.

I have owned six different printers and still have five of them today. One of them is a DLP, resin and UV light. My first delta style printer I gave away when I upgraded to a slightly larger Delta of the same make and style. The printers are simply a tool. They create but are not themselves creative.

I realize today that printing is not what keeps me going. Once mastering the machine operation process and understanding several dozen variables and how they interact, printing is quite boring. Load a file, check parameters and material, push start and I am finished for one to twenty hours while the printer does its thing. No fun there.

What I really get excited about is the CAD drawing and the total control of creativity the computer drawing provides. The CAD is also just another tool. The 3D printer gives me the ability (the POWER) to produce a tangible item that I know I can make with the CAD drawing I have created on the computer screen.

It’s not the (brand) name of the CAD program that’s important. Like the 3D printers, some are easier to use or have more features than others. What works for one person may be a problem for someone else. The CAD doesn’t create anything. It is just a tool. It’s all about the person using it and their skills with the tool.

I had to learn the limitations of the printing system and design my creations within those limits. That is the same for any creative or artistic process. It’s that knowledge of the tools that separates the pros from the rookies.

If I couldn’t do the design thinking and the CAD work, I would have lost interest in the whole 3D printing operation. For me there was a period of fun learning to operate the printers (the tool) , but there is no creative outlet in just printing someone else’s CAD designs. Caring for and running the printer(s) is just a job, not an artistic expression. The art is in the design work. The fun for me is creating something original from just a conceptual idea.

The 3D printer is a tool that turns ideas into a tangible reality.

DSC08769I have had some time to think about several blog articles I recently read about desktop 3D printing. They were about the time and effort (and money) we and the machine manufacturers invest for the results obtained at the hobbyist class machine cost level.

Example, an original project promoted for hobbyist. REPRAP. A desktop machine that can build itself. Really? No… a few plastic pieces of dubious quality, Yes. It helped kick start the hobby interest. It is not the best printer design.

Two products, one made with hobby level desktop 3D printing and the other with professional injection molded parts. I know what I would purchase. A friend and I both looked at recently designed (large) kit DIY printed parts 3D machine. The non-printed components (~$700) were an excellent choice. The self-printed (plastic) parts could make the complete printer a very bad investment.

The elephant in the room is 3D desktop printing as a hobbyist uses it, cannot deliver equivalent consistent output of conventional subtractive manufacturing, injection molding, or profession additive manufacturing. We may pretend it does. I can produce a facsimile of these items. Professional quality production 3D printers are not small desktop sized machines.

I ventured into resin (DLP) 3D printed, Lost Wax Casting models. I used a Wanhoa D7 Replicator. (lead picture) I had some success. But overall, factors beyond the actual printing proved wax is still the most consistent and cost effective method for a hobbyist doing lost wax casting. Making jewelry on a hobbyist 3D printing machine is possible but not practical.

Prototype modeling is a desktop machine's strong suit. Scale model, low volume, specialty, static display components. 

What still scares me is some hobbyist using “carbon fiber” PLA and printing propellers for his drone or R/C aircraft engine with his $400 desktop hobby machine. Propeller failure at 20.000 rpm is lethal.

One guy writing about his Moai SLA printer, pretty much summed up what he has. (and all hobbyist have.) A tinkerer’s delight. A good first step in understanding the POTENTIAL of 3D additive manufacturing. The hobbyist grade hardware is basically a toy. A dental lab will not or should not be using a D7 or a Moai.

Technology junkies like myself are attracted to the 3D process and what we and a 3D printer can produce. We invest in our love of things technical and the low-cost desktop printer makes it possible, but so far it is mostly a hobby stuck in “demonstration mode” for me. 

I like what I can do… not knocking my interest. Mostly making unnecessary plastic JUNQUE like 50+ plastic owls...

The kid who prints a dog cart, for the pup with no back legs, has not created anything new. The fact it was 3D printed doesn’t make it a better product. What it does show IMHO, is that this 3D print technology is getting these kids (and adults) into tangible, hands on making of things. The story gets press coverage because of the use of the “new” 3D print technology.

If hobbyist desktop 3D printing is anything, it is an enabler for tangible creative effort. It’s the new (toy maker) kid on the block. In an age where home machine shops are extremely rare, it brings affordable manufacturing onto a desktop in a home or a school. That’s what is good about 3D printing as a hobbyist.

What’s actually being printed is not necessarily the best way to make things, but it is a very satisfactory way to see designs come into tangible existance.

ZeitmeisterZeitmeister (Not 3D Printed)Very high-resolution 3D printing is associated mostly with layer height designated as Z in most systems. There is also resolution in the X/Y plane. FDM filament printers control X/Y resolution with nozzle diameter and flow rates.

With SLA resin printers, X/Y resolution is the size of the laser spot or focus point. Laser power levels and slow travel can cause light “bleed” and affect the effective dot size very slightly. Generally, the spot size is fixed by the design of the machine and the laser.

DLP and DLM (Digital Light Projection and Digital Light Masking) resin printer dot size is fixed by the number of pixels and their projected size. One to one is the highest resolution but it is possible and common that the image has less pixels than the hardware. A 1K image on a 4k screen, enlarged to fill the screen, is still a 1k image.

By far the most common and manipulated resolution variable with every type of 3D printing is the Z layer height.

There is a very serious factor to consider when attempting very high-resolution 3D printing. That factor is printing time. Time increase as the cube of the size and in inverse proportion to the layer height with FDM printing. Double the size and halving the layer height (Four time the number of layers) could take 16 time longer!

Large FDM printers (prints) and super fine resolution are just not practical together.

DLP and DLM print time are ONLY affected by height and number of layers, and NOT X/Y size. Doubling the height doubles the time. Reducing layer height by 50% does not again double the time as exposure times decrease as layers become thinner. Rather than 200% longer print time, it may be 190% longer.

Doubling the size and reducing individual layer height by half will be 3.8, say... something less than four times longer print time.

Good FDM printers will produce 100um (micron) layers. I have seen claims for as small as 50um. But doing any print of reasonable size, say... within 64 cubic inches (4x4x4) at 50um will take (just for comparision) perhaps 32 hours. The Resin DLP/DLM printer could probably do it in half the time 16 hours) or better as it does a complete layer at once without X/Y travel.

My general rules:

Large prints, 100um to 400um layers then FDM (filament) printing

Small prints, very fine resolution 10um to 100um then SLA, DLP, DLM (resin) printing.

Otherwise, pay the Zeitmiester (time master) his due.

DSC09201I got the original brush-off inspiration when I first started 3D printing now years ago. I am certainly not the first person to think of the idea. I have seen it mentioned by other 3D print people when I was reviewing Amazon user-reviews when picking this new brush. Yep the brush-off is a real brush. A small wire brush to be exact.

It is used to clean the old hot plastic debris off the nozzle of the FDM printer. It works best when the nozzle is up to full temperature.

I use the brush to clear the bit of ooze just before printing starts. The plastic cools immediately in the brush and the user must pick it out and keep the wire bristles clean of the debris. Otherwise, it will melt back onto the hot nozzle. Yuck.

I can print literally for months on the same nozzle by keeping it clean. Neither nozzle brushing nor clearing the brush is a hard task.

My original brush was one I used in my machine shop for cleaning chips from threads (after cutting them) and other metal shop tasks. The handle was wood and a bit grimy. I think it dropped into the waste can, as one day it simply disappeared from my 3D printing area.

DSC09204This new one hasn’t stood the test of time, so I won’t recommend ithe brand-name quite yet. I have used it several times and works better than my original brush. It has stainless steel bristles. 

These brushes are also made with brass bristles. My wife likes to use them around the needle area of her quilting sewing machines to clear lint fuzz.  

I highly recommend this or any similar brush be used to keep FDM printing nozzles in top (clean) condition. You might find one or two more useful around the workshop as well as the sewing machine.

Copyright © TEDatum Publishing . All Rights Reserved.