Do you find yourself frustrated when your finished 3D printed product doesn’t come out just the way you wanted it to? If so, what are some tips on how you can improve your 3D prints? That’s what Tom and Tracy Hazzard discuss in this episode. They define the meaning of quality and improvement and enumerate some of the problems usually encountered during a 3D print process, giving out as well some tips on how to avoid or improve them. They say that for everything you want to print, you need to remember its purpose. 3D printing will take hours and hours of practice but it will be worth it once you get the hang of it.
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How To Improve Your 3D Prints
This is the Ask Us Anything segment. It occurred to me when we were talking to Hector about the whole dialing in of the designs and how they spend a lot of hours getting the quality optimized on the printing, which we know takes a ton of hours. It takes almost equal amounts of hours to the design time, in our case, and even after we’ve printed it for a long time, we learn new things and we fix them. It would be an interesting question for me to ask of you to help our audience how to improve the quality of a 3D print. What’s the attack process?
You have to define first what improvement is to you. Is it just speed because it’s taking too long to print? Is it the quality of the surface, smoothness and things like that? Is it having it come off the build plate and it’s done? You don’t have to clean anything up.
All of those are our goals. We sacrifice speed for the other two things. That’s probably the only thing we do.
I’d like things to print faster but I definitely sacrifice speed for quality and not having to put any labor into it once I take it off the build plate. That’s the biggest thing. Once you get a print to print the way you want it to, you can try to improve the speed. One of the things you can do is try to decrease the amount of infill if you can get away with it structurally and depending on what material you’re printing on, maybe that will help you. Certainly, it will speed up a print if your infill percentage is less.
We start with 100% infill whenever possible because we know it will work.
I don’t know that I always start there but we do print a lot of our prints with 100% infill because we discovered on our particular printer, we use the most that we get the fewest amount of strings or hairs when we do 100% infill.
The least amount of cleanup.
That’s important but I don’t always start there. It does depend. In some test prints we were doing and some lampshade designs that we’re working on, I did 0% infill. The print took twenty hours as it was with no infill. Can you imagine how long it took without infill? There was an issue of quality that you may not think about. It wasn’t just the appearance of the quality of the part as it’s printed, but it was the quality of when you put a light in the middle of it and it acts like a lampshade. I didn’t want the infill to be in there causing a different pattern that you would see as it’s shining through. I wanted the color of the filament material showing through to be as unobscured, unfiltered or altered.
Infill is one of those things that you can dial in that can either speed it up or it can increase the quality of your output print.
Increase quality and strength. If strength is an issue, you’re talking about making something for my kid, that’s a toy that she’s going to play with, I’m cranking that infill percentage up is not going completely solid because I want to be as strong as possible. I also don’t want it to be porous. She’s going to stick it in her mouth, and I don’t want saliva getting in there.
The idea of Vanessa sticking our 3D print in her mouth scares me to death. They’re all prickly and I don’t want that happening. It’s not smooth enough for me.
It’s a food-safe material so I’m comfortable with it.
We usually don’t let her near the 3D prints.
A 100% infill is good there. Dialing in and improving the quality, also quality with printing things that needs support, here’s an area where you can improve your prints over time. Let’s say you get it to print and you’re using software-generated support material from your slicing software or whatever that software is. Sometimes, that stuff is hard to remove, leaves little witness marks off apart, or there’s too much of it. It puts it in more places than you need it. I find printing a lot of things that have circle holes in them, they form well and don’t even need support material. If you put support in the whole print, it’s going to put it in there.
There are different programs if you’re not using a closed system. If your printer is an open system, Simplify3D has a good feature that you can put support only where you want it. You don’t have to have it everywhere. That’s a nice feature but I’ve also become a fan of creating my support material because it breaks off a lot easier. I could put it only exactly where I need it and just make a simple piece. Usually, I’ll make it like an arch. Think of the McDonald’s arches. When I need something to have support but needs to be able to build and stand on its own but then it’s going to join and help support part of the object as it is forming. To make an arch type-shape and have it barely touching the geometry, which breaks off easily.
It makes it easy to do the cleanup at the end, which is also a quality improvement.
It prints quickly. I just extrude a circle shape along with the parabola type of a path.
You want to think about it as the least amount of support materials you have because you have to break them off. They don’t always break off smoothly. You have fewer surface imperfections from doing that and various areas of sharpness and things you have to say and/or clean up.
Another area of quality, let’s say if you’re willing to sacrifice time, is about your layer thickness. The thinner your layers, the better your service quality is going to be. Typically when I start a print, I’ll do it about 200 microns and that’s not the thickest that I can print but it’s a balance between printing quicker and getting a decent quality enough to get a good read on is this printing the way you want it to. If I want it nicer, smoother quality, I’ll go down to 100 microns or even less. Thinner layers give you better surface quality for sure but they’re going to take longer to prep. That’s just the reality of it.
What about changing its orientation?
It can have a big effect on print quality and some things might surprise you. Even sticking something at a 45-degree angle from what you might have started to print on, that can have a big effect on how your particular geometry forms. It’s geometry dependent.
Those lampshades that you’ve been working on which are cool, have you turned one upside down and tried it that way yet?
I’m working on that. You’re right. The first time I printed it, right set up in the normal orientation that you would use it and that made some sense because the lampshade is wider at that base than it is at the top. When you print it that way, it’s naturally going to be more stable as it’s printing. If I flip it over 180 degrees, the top is a little narrower. It’s still big enough to print just fine but you’re right. We noticed that there were some lines across the part that were some layers. There were some lines that form because it had some holes penetrating this lampshade and these holes are unsupported. I did it with no support and it had to bridge essentially. I realized as I looked at this part, if I turned it upside down, there would be no bridging that’s occurring. The way the geometry is, it would have an easier time building layer upon layer if it turned it upside down.
The interesting part that I thought was that the top edge is nice and smooth. It almost had a little pattern of the way that it finished off the top edge, which was nice looking at a radius to it. I was thinking that you don’t see that on a lampshade because it’s usually up higher than then you are at the top because it’s meant for like an overhead light or something like that, or a ceiling fan thing. If we flipped it over, the part that you would see was the bottom edge which because it came off the build plate, it was a little rough and not as nice. Turning it over would give us that surface quality improvement as well which is one of the parts you’d see, so I like the idea of it. I hope we will do it.
We’ll be able to do that. No problem. Interestingly, a design can be ever-changing. It’s never done. You’re waiting for the new computer technology instead of just buying one now. It’s always faster tomorrow. At some point, you’ve got to put a stake in the ground and buy a computer. You’re never going to make anything. Design is a little bit similar in that. You can always improve it. At some point, you’ve got to print it and make it a product. Something as good as it can be to that point. This is a great thing about additive manufacturing. We don’t have to tool for it and put that biggest stake in the ground. You can keep making incremental improvements, learn from what you’re doing, and make little improvements. Whether its orientation or the type of material, the temperature and speed you’re running at, the amount of infill and the way you’re doing support material and the machine you use because you get into the machine.
I’ve made a lot of improvements to our 3D printed tie. This thing has existed for a while and I have made improvements to make it easier to get off the printer and not have to do anything to it except break off a few little pieces and make improvements to even some of how it functions and a little bit how it looks. Interestingly, we had a third-party company, Voodoo Manufacturing “printing it for us” in some quantity and I was impressed. They were the first outsource that’s been able to do it with the same quality that we require. They have some different printers that we do, the MakerBot Replicator 2, and it prints it a lot faster at that same quality. That’s great and exciting.
Don’t go giving up your printer first. That’s the last choice. Don’t go switching out your printer thinking it’s the printer problem.
There are many great printers out there and different ones have different technical features and benefits than others. It depends a lot on what you’re printing and the material you’re printing with, one color or two colors. There are many different choices. It’s not any one is a right or wrong answer. It’s what’s the best fit for you.
We hope this gives you a starting point for how to improve the quality of your 3D prints and do that continual improvement process. Don’t give up on your designs. There’s always something new you learn. You should go back to some of the old ones, try them again and see if you can get an improvement.
We could do twenty different episodes on different ways to improve your prints and these are just a few suggestions. They’re probably some of the best ones and the ones that will make the biggest improvements for you. There are people saying, “You forgot this or that.” You’re right. We probably do a bunch we didn’t mention but we can get to it another time. Hopefully, this will help you for now.
If you have any questions for us, any suggestions or tips for ways that you’ve improved the quality, we’d love to hear them. You can ask us anywhere on social media @HazzDesign.
Thanks for reading.
- Voodoo Manufacturing
- @HazzDesign – Twitter
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