The Essential List Of 3D Printer Accessories

You’ve acquired your first 3D printer and are giddy with excitement. But like all new additive manufacturing adventurers, the more you do with your printer the more questions arise. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back.

Getting the most out of your time with a new 3D printer has a lot to do with the tools and accessories on hand and what you do with them. Let’s take a look at a few of the accessories that should accompany every 3D printer, be it in your home, school, or hackerspace. There’s already enough potential aggravation when it comes to 3D printing, the goal here is to ensure you won’t be without a tool or supply when you need it the most.

Previously we talked about what one should do after getting their own 3D printer to ensure, in so much as can be possible with this sort of thing, long term success. If you haven’t seen that article yet, make sure you add it to your reading list. The regular maintenance and calibration that is unique to 3D printing was covered, as was the need for the operator to personally hone their own skills.

Filament: Avoiding Dragons and Building Your Stock

OK, so obviously you need filament for your 3D printer. But which filament? Personally, I’d suggest you get a few different brands early on so you can see what works for you. As tempting as it might be, don’t just buy the cheapest roll of PLA on Amazon. There be dragons.

Hatchbox brand filament is always a good bet

Depending on what you want to do, you may also want to check out some of the different infused PLAs. For example, wood-fill PLA tends to be much easier to sand than regular PLA, so I like to use it for larger prints which I want to smooth. Just be aware that infused filaments have a tendency to erode your printer’s nozzle pretty quickly.

Now I’ll save you some trouble and tell you what you absolutely don’t need in 2018, and that’s ABS. At the risk of starting a war in the comments, there’s no good reason to still be using ABS anymore. Not only is it unpleasant to work with and potentially harmful to your health (depending on whose research you read), but what little strength advantage it had has largely become moot with newer PLA formulations. If you need strength or temperature tolerance beyond what PLA is capable, save yourself the headache and check out PETG or nylon.

The only possible reason you might still want to use ABS anymore is to do acetone vapor smoothing. But unless you’ve got some assembly line knocking out little statues or art pieces that need to be rapidly smoothed without concern for surface details or mechanical tolerances, you’d be better off just sucking it up and grabbing some sand paper.

Digital Calipers Pay for Themselves

If you’re going to take 3D printing seriously, you need a digital caliper. You can use it to check filament diameter for extruder fine tuning, to verify the dimensions of a calibration print, or to take accurate measurements of a part you want to replicate in 3D. You could get an analog one if you want to pretend you’re Wernher von Braun or something, but the ease of use and effortless accuracy afforded by the most basic of digital calipers just can’t be beat.

Don’t be fooled into buying some Mitutoyo digital caliper that costs nearly as much as an entry-level 3D printer either; you won’t need that kind of accuracy when working with extruded plastic. Even cheap calipers can muster up an accuracy of 0.1 mm and enough repeatability for our purposes. A basic six inch digital caliper with a hard storage case shouldn’t cost you more than $20 USD, and will pay for itself many times over.

Print Removal Tool

As a general rule, a part needs to be strongly adhered to the bed for successful printing. A big piece stuck down properly to the bed can easily be so firmly attached that you could lift the whole printer up by it. That’s exactly what you want while the print is ongoing, but when the print is over it can be a problem.

Image Credit: Gizmo Dorks

You don’t want to just yank the thing off; doing so could damage the printer or break your completed part. You also want to be very careful of using a knife to get under the print and pry it free. It sounds reasonable enough, and surely every 3D printer owner is guilty of doing it on occasion, but there’s a very real risk of slipping and cutting yourself. Even if you manage to get your print off the bed without opening a vein, there’s still a high chance of gouging or scratching the bed because you have to hold the knife at an angle.

To avoid hurting yourself or your printer, you should spend the couple of dollars on a proper print removal tool. Generally speaking these are as thin as a knife blade, but without the sharp edge. They’re also usually angled in such a way that you can hold the handle parallel to the bed. These two design elements mean that there’s a much lower chance of damaging your bed, as the tool won’t be coming in at an angle.

Personally I use a print removal tool by Gizmo Dorks, and I’ve been very happy with it. After two years or so of regular use, the leading edge of the blade has a few nicks in it from some of the more stubborn parts I’ve had to pull up, but nothing serious. For less than $10 USD, you can’t go wrong.

Isopropyl Alcohol Cleans Between Prints

A dousing of isopropyl alcohol will remove waxes, oils, and other contaminates from the bed which can greatly improve print adhesion. No matter what you’ve got on your bed, from 3M Blue painter’s tape to PEI, you should be wiping it down as often as every print to help prevent curling and warping.

Some people like to use alcohol prep pads, the kind of thing you’ll find in a first aid kit. This isn’t a bad idea, especially given how cheap they are. But personally I keep a small mister bottle of alcohol and some cotton balls in a box near the printer. Before a print I’ll give the bed a good spray, wipe up with one of the cotton balls, and toss it in the trash. You could also use a microfiber cloth or something along those lines, but you’ll need to make sure it’s getting regularly washed to keep from contaminating the surface.

Fire Protection

The risk of fire, especially with some of the cheaper overseas printers that are now flooding the market, is very real. Though even high end machines aren’t completely immune, as we’ve unfortunately seen in the past. You should have a smoke alarm located near the printer. They are less than $10 USD at the big box home improvement stores, and well worth every penny if it goes off during an overnight print that went awry.

In the past we’ve talked about elaborate fire suppression systems for 3D printers, but a basic “ABC” type fire extinguisher located in the same room as the printer would be more than sufficient if you want to have some defense in the worst case scenario. Again, these are cheap and readily available for a reason.

What Else?

These are a few things which I believe every 3D printer owner should have, they’ve served me well for years and are what I find myself relying on most frequently. But surely there are others out there which are worth mentioning. What would the readers of Hackaday consider to be “Must Haves” when it comes to desktop 3D printing? Better yet, what would you say is something new 3D printer owners should avoid wasting their money on?

108 thoughts on “The Essential List Of 3D Printer Accessories

  1. “Now I’ll save you some trouble and tell you what you absolutely don’t need in 2018, and that’s ABS. At the risk of starting a war in the comments,”

    (Putting the popcorn packet into the microwave oven)

    1. ABS is used for so many commercial products because it is cheap, tough, strong, and withstands reasonably high temperatures. That hasn’t changed in 2018. What has changed is that people whose printers are not made to print ABS have finally started giving up on it, blaming the filament, not their crappy printers or the marketing people who promised their $150 printer was “ABS compatible”, and as usual in the 3D printing community, they have found other plastics that are “just as good”. Except that they aren’t.

      It’s not that hard to make a printer capable of printing ABS reliably, but it makes the printer cost more than $150, which is the only real problem with printing ABS.

      But yes, if you have either a $150 printer, or a $2k printer with an open frame, ABS sucks.

      1. This really illuminates a divide between the maker approach and a principled approach. Makers (or at least the benchy-barfing print enthusiasts following certain YT channels) will select a filament based on how easy it is for their printer to print. A principled approach is to select a filament based on the mechanical, optical, or other properties you want in the finished part.

        1. What mechanical, optical, or other properties make ABS better than PETG? It seems that most of the ABS pushing folks have been printing for a while and have a “my pappy printed with ABS, my daddy printed with ABS, and I’m gonna print with ABS” mentality.

          1. It’s more like ABS h8ters are blaming the material for their difficulty in printing it rather than admitting that they didn’t buy or build the right printer for ABS. ABS is no harder to print than PLA … with the right printer.

            Here’s another bit of news: you can build a printer that doesn’t need autoleveling or manual releveling. It starts with using 3 leveling screws instead of 4…

          2. I started with ABS, have all of my settings dialed in for ABS an d find that it works quite well for me. Never have been able to get PLA to print as well, but maybe I haven’t spent enough money to get some with fairy poop mixed in.

            To be honest though, keep preaching anti-ABS, you won’t hurt my feelings and it’s bound to make ABS cheaper to buy!

    2. Is anybody else still using a J-Head? It has a nylon insert so PETG would be kind of pushing it temperature-wise. Nylon obviously would be totally out.

      Currently I print in PLA with mine. Originally I bought two spools, one PLA and one ABS. The ABS was too stinky for our house.

      I want to print things that can survive in my car on a sunny day though. So… My hope is to either build an enclosure plus air filter for my printer or upgrade to an all metal hotend. Ok.. the choice is obvious… do both! But… I can’t do both right away. It’s a hobby, that means both time and money are budgeted you know!

      So.. my plan is enclosure first, filter shortly after that. Afterall, any kind of plastic is worse to breathe than clean air. Then I can start printing in ABS again including making things for my car. New hotend sometime down the road. Then maybe I can print with PET-G.

      Now I’ve never printed with Nylon. But… what I read about the fumes and particles sounds very much not good. What do you mean by ABS being unpleasant to work with? Other than that it sounds like you are just comparing the toxicity but in that case shouldn’t you actually prefer ABS over nylon? I don’t get it!

      1. Oh.. and meanwhile some of my printer’s printed parts are starting to form cracks. I’d like to print some replacements soon. What can I do? Should I print printer parts in PLA? I thought PLA is too brittle for that. At the moment my best idea is to move the printer to the garage and print some replacement parts in ABS but the garage may be to cold and drafty for that to come out well.

        1. I just got finished re-printing my printer’s parts in ABS because I started getting above the glass transition temperature for the PLA parts, causing them to deform pretty badly. Only things on the x-carriage were affected. With an enclosure (two lack tables stacked on top of each other with some foam board taped on for walls) it has absolutely no problem with ABS. It’s actually easier to print than PLA now.

    3. I disagree about the digital calipers, I have 4 or 5 of them and batteries are flat when I need them or they give up the ghost, I have gone back to dial calipers, always ready for use, only reason for dial is that my eyes are not good enough for the vernier calipers I have had for 40 years.

      1. This is another untruth in the article. Go Mitutoyo, not cheapo. Mitutoyo calipers start at £40 and will pay for themselves in uneaten batteries in a year (well, if you include the hassle). Maplin (RIP) junk will drain in under a month in the draw on standby. Buy proper ones and the convenience is well worth it. As is always the case with tools where you can see they haven’t been abused and there isn’t a rechargeable battery, if you really want to save money go second hand rather than buying cheap rubbish.

        1. Cheap ones eat a battery an about a year. A 3 pack of batteries costs about €1,50. So for the difference €10 vs. €30 or 40 I can buy nearly more than a lifetime supply of batteries. A cheaper solution fo course would be to remove the battery during non use.

          1. You’re assuming the only difference between a POS and a quality caliper is battery consumption. If the cheapo caliper won’t hold the zero position (they don’t), you’ll have to zero it before each and every measurement. Forget once, make something the wrong size, and you’ll pay in lost time and materials, maybe more. Every time you remove the battery or change the battery, you run the very real risk of breaking or losing the battery cover.

            A reasonable quality caliper isn’t that expensive, you won’t be constantly replacing batteries and covers (or putting tape on the thing), and making and remaking measurements (and prints) because you can’t trust the instrument.

            Ever heard the expression “penny wise and pound foolish”?

      2. I bought the really cheap plastic solar powered version of digital calipers. When the battery when dead I first added a super cap and later a single NIMH cell. Since I charged it in the window a couple of weeks ago it works fine indoors even without sun ;)

      3. My ‘analogue’ Mitsutoyo callipers were cheaper than a cheap set of digital ones. Those cheap digital callipers are full of sharp edges and grinding dust from the factory. Buy good, and buy once…

      4. I bought a supercap but haven’t gotten around to putting it in. I really can’t believe that they don’t have a real on/off switch. I zero mine before use without thinking about it anyway.

        I know the more expensive ones are better, but this stuff isn’t hard. It’s just an off switch, or sleep mode on the controller instead of trying to
        read the sensor continually.

    4. Absolutes are rarely if ever appropriate in engineering. The commendable desire to educate people about modern filament options does not sufficiently justify resorting to ridiculous, inflammatory hyperbole.

      I realize you’re trying to make the point that we need to get beyond the “ABS strong, PLA easy” mentality that was in vogue ten years ago (which isn’t accurate even as far as it goes), but saying there is no place for 3D printing ABS in 2018 is implies serious ignorance of materials science / plastics engineering.

      I would certainly concur that in 2018, better options exist than ABS for many of the prints you’d have used ABS for in, say 2012, and I am happy to use many of these options myself where appropriate, but with a good quality printer and awareness of its limitations, ABS is an excellent and cost-effective 3D printing material, which I am happy to use alongside “more modern” materials like PET derivatives and nylons.

      To claim that that the “only possible” reason to print in ABS is vapor polishing is further misleading because in fact many plastics can be vapor polished as well with the appropriate solvent (though consider safe handling requirements.)

  2. One other reason for ABS: you are making a part (replacement, repair, add-on) that needs to be ABS for externally specified. For example, repairing mounts for an ABS motorcycle fairing (a task I have done many times), or repairing the mounts on an ABS headlight assembly on a car (which I have done more than once), where the repair part needs to be solvent or heat fused to the original.

    Otherwise, I tend to agree that, at this point, ABS really shouldn’t be a go-to for most things for most people.

    1. Its reduced coefficient of friction also makes for mechanical parts which perform well. It’s definitely not the most amazing material in all of creation, but it has its place and my printer handles it without any problem. Having an enclosure, a leveled and heated PEI plate, and some beefy MOSFETs makes it an absolute breeze to print. Never had it warp on me.

      Granted, nylon probably has even better friction characteristics, but I haven’t tried that one yet. I’ve heard it’s enormously hygroscopic and likes weird print bed materials. I need to check it out one of these days.

      I’m not going to embrace ABS with fanboy-like zealotry, but it doesn’t deserve to be chucked entirely. Oh and those studies that say it’s toxic don’t exactly say that. One, they handled truly industrial levels of exposure. Two, they find no mechanism and the methodology isn’t exactly exhaustive. If you work in an industrial plastic factory and get a headache, it’s harder than it seems to properly control for all the variables. And the study that found nanoparticles reminds me of the recent study that had everyone scared to death of teflon. The study merely stated that it was found in the bodies of people who eat food cooked on teflon surfaces. It didn’t say there was any harm done. Teflon is quite non-reactive, which is exactly what makes it useful in the first place. Same with the nanoparticle study–it said particles were found, and hypochondria / yellow journalism filled in the rest to say that this was harmful to one’s health. Maybe, but it’s not scientific to assume.

      I personally just install some ventilation fans and forget it. I assume something in our modern world is eventually going to give me cancer no matter what I do.

      1. It’s funny how people will decide that ABS fumes are toxic because of a half-baked study or two, and will immediately flock to PETG or other plastic because they haven’t seen any studies that say it’s bad for you, as if there’s no toxicity until a study points it out. Melting any plastic is risky business. If you’re not prepared to assume the risk, don’t play with 3D printers.

        It’s like a red head dying his/her hair black because he/she read that skin cancer incidence is higher in red heads.

          1. There’s short-term and long-term effects. No one who worked in a brake factory ever though the dust from asbestos was going to be a problem. I wouldn’t say there’s no harm from breathing fumes and particles from melted plastics. I’d say the level of harm is unknown.

            A lot of hobbies come with risks. Fumes from solvents, adhesives, paints, melted plastic, solder smoke, etc., all come with some risk. If people are afraid of the risks posed by melting plastics they should find another hobby.

          2. How do you know that carbon filter is removing the fumes and nanoparticles?

            That’s the problem with all the amateur attempts to filter whatever the melted plastics produce out of the air. No one actually knows if their device is doing the intended job because no one measures anything because reliable, sensitive equipment capable of doing the measurements is expensive, and even if it were available, few know how to properly calibrate and operate it.

      1. Thirded. I have many pairs of tongs and tweezers, but these are my favorites for 3D printing: long enough to reach the nozzle and wide enough to grab whatever mess is hanging off it:

        Other bits:
        * Angled/flush cutters for trimming filament– worth having a pair just to kick around the printer.
        * Big ziploc bags for filament. Sealing with just spare desiccant packs has kept my filament fresh enough to print without issues (at least PLA and PETG).

        1. My favorites are the Aven 18482 tweezers Makergear bundles with their printers. Have a couple spare pairs for other machines because they’re nearly ideal for the task.

          Agree on the flush cutters, being able to put a clean end on a piece of filament you’re trying to get to feed is super helpful, especially on less-convenient extruder designs. Cooper (Xcelite or sometimes Crescent badged, it’s the same company) makes a damn fine pair.

    1. Definitely a must-have accoutrement. I also like to have a hobby knife for cleaning prints–trimming brims and stringing, etc.

      Lately my favorite technique for making tweaks to prints (like widening a screw-hole that was designed too narrow) is holding an old beater screwdriver over the stove for a few seconds, then sculpting away.

  3. Speaking of digital calipers: the ones I’ve tried kill batteries fast (i.e. in a matter of months, even though they’re used only a handful of times). Are there any that don’t?

    It’s so bad, I’ve gotten in the habit of taking the battery out after each use.

    1. All the cheap ones don’t actually turn off. They stay on and drain the battery. Depending on your budget I’d say buy a genuine Mitutoyo if you are serious about have a proper tool, but expect to pay about $100 dollars for a 150mm model. I am however a BIG fan of their Absolute/Digimatic models.

      If you want a cheaper solution, get some old school vernier calipers and practice a bit, you’ll be able to read them fast enough. And their battery never dies.

      1. I have some middling cheap (~$20) ones that -appear- to turn off, but often you see that they’ve somehow turned themselves back on while sitting on the shelf. I’m with Bob, I take the batteries out now…
        These are otherwise good and accurate, I get them from firearm reloading suppliers, usually some house brand.
        As an aside – where you get things determines price fairly often. While calipers are cheaper at the gun houses, they also sell walnut hulls for cleaning for many $/lb – but the pet store sells the exact same stuff dirt cheap as lizard litter. Chemicals you wouldn’t think you could just buy retail are interesting too. Maybe hackaday needs to do an article on “getting stuff cheap because you know what it is, and who sells which marked as what better than the average person”.

          1. Sulfur is normally much easier to get than the acid, because it is no corrosive and not really toxic. So it is much more interesting to make the acid from the sulfur. What can be done, but is some effort.

      2. At work I have Mitutoyo calipers, and I must say that you know were the money has gone when you start using them; the absolute measurements regardless of the state of the jaws when you turn it on, is just one of the features I love.
        What impresses me the most, is the battery life; the set I use is pretty much permanently on, and nearly a year down the line, they are still going strong. At home I own a set of cheap digital verniers, but the battery in those, doesn’t last a week, in the “off” state. The calipers I use for measuring everything(no, not that), are some old style ones that I bought when I was 15, and now 25 years later still work perfectly.

        Will I ever buy a set of Mitutoyo calipers for myself? No, what I do is not worth that much.

        1. Precision tools are not that expensive when considering value, as your work quality is indeed a direct product of the accumulated errors. In this case you will find there are no cheap ways out of the situation.

          The good ones should be purchased directly from a distributer:

          Or US based parts seller:

          Digital is only really useful when using the serial cable to directly read many samples into a spreadsheet.

          I prefer the manual models in the shop, and don’t expect to borrow this tool from anyone competent at their job.
          We will usually force you to buy your real eyes for your own good.

          Stay off amazon/ebay as the real stuff is usually worn out or counterfeit garbage if it lands there… the battery life issue is a very good predictor it is fake… as Mitutoyo makes very good equipment.

      3. I bought my coolant proof absolute Mitutoyo 150mm for £55 as new old stock on eBay. Came with all the factory calibration sheets that my work ones came with full price. Battery still going 4 years on, and the battery had sat on a shelf 3 years before I got them (based on calibration certificate)!

      1. I used to prefer the non-digital ones, due not needing batteries (I’ve mostly used really crappy ones that eats battery like crazy). But given a nice digital one, it’s much better. You are so much faster reading out the values, and they could be more exact than a normal one. At work, I have Mitutoyo calipers, and it’s amazing!

    2. For those in the UK I’ve found that the Clark CM145 for £22 from Machine Mart are good for battery life, had mine 4 yrs and only replaced the batteries once. The build quality is not great however, I’ve had to do a bit of extra finishing on some of the parts that slide past each other to get a smooth glide, but for the price I think they are a reasonable purchase if you want an entry set. Accuracy seems ok too.

    3. Maybe you could 3d-print a battery and electronics enclosure to add to the calipers, filled with a li-poly, charging circuitry, and a micro usb port.

      I hate anything that uses disposable batteries, and since I have the tools and electronics lying around–why not adapt? But for a pair of calipers it might get a little ungainly and chunky for such a small instrument.

    4. I’ve never used digital calipers but I have both a really nice pair with a big dial on it that is unfortunately Imperial only (and that’s why it was cheap). I also have a super cheap pair that does both kinds of units with just a pointer sliding against gradations.

      Even that super cheap pair has worked fine for me. I don’t find it challenging to use in the slightest!

      So tell me, why do I need yet another piece of equipment that is going to need a new battery just when I want to use it?

      Next people will be trying to sell me electric dinnerware!

    5. Do yourself a favor and learn to read vernier calipers. They are much cheaper than digital or dial calipers and never require batteries. Additionally, being able to read a vernier will pay off when using all sorts of vintage machine tools that have vernier scales.

  4. My reason for using ABS is acetone solvent welding. For me it is an absolute killer feature. I divide parts into smaller parts to keep individual print times small, to arrange the layer direction for max strength, to make them small enough for my build volume, reduce need of support, modify parts after printing in case of design errors, etc.
    Sure some of the other materials can be glued, but I prefer solvent welding, always strong, no other material involved, no stain on the model.
    Since ABS is solved in acetone you can also be sure acetone based paints bonds very well on it.

    And after all, at least for me it prints much easier than PLA, I have no idea why but on my printer PLA is often a problem. ABS and PETG are much easier on my machine…

    1. I agree 100% with you here. Solvent welding is the major pull for me with ABS.
      I have to say too, that sanding and vapor smoothing isn’t the same. I’ve made a number of parts that I’ve vapor smoothed because I could not get sandpaper where it needed to be. There ARE good reasons to use ABS.

      1. “thirded” :P
        I only print in ABS. Never a warp (printer is enclosed) and it allows me to do welds with acetone. I don’t like PLA. It won’t survive inside a car in a hot summer day.

    2. welding and smoothing is one thing. But sanding PLA takes ages, it’s way to brittle deforms on a hot summer day (if you leave it in the car), and if you want to make something that lasts… for years and years… PLA is NOT the best choice. It can be even a problem to store the reel of filament for a long period without absorbing moisture. I also had a roll of PLA that constantly broke, VERY anoying. But please do not completely discard ABS because it it melt at a higher temp and has a higher tendency to warp if not treated correctly during printing. A heated bed and an enclosed printer solves these problems. Regarding the smell… use some proper ventilation, which is a good thing anyway even if you don’t have a printer at all.

      Printing in PLA is for beginners, if you want to print something decent… use ABS. Factories have been using this for years and years… there are very good reasons for it. Don’t discards these because you don’t want to trow in a few extra bucks for decent heated bed. It’s like buying a smart and then complaining that it doesn’t drive well offroad and therefore offroad driving isn’t fun. Just use the proper tools for the right job.

      PS: I’ve build my own printer, from scratch been using it for years, Encountered every problem you can think of and improved the design. Even rebuild the whole thing re-using some parts replacing others.
      The first rolls of filament I bought were PLA it worked, no problems. But when I switched to ABS I’ve seen the advantages I decided never to go back to PLA again.

  5. “you should spend the couple of dollars on a proper print removal tool”
    Er, that looks awfully like a cake spatula with an offset handle :-/
    Available in a variety of lengths/sizes and possibly for less than the thing proclaiming to be a “specialist 3d printing tool”.

    1. I thought the same thing, cheaped out, and thought myself clever. But the difference is the thickness of the blade. The print removal tool is way thinner than any cake spatula or palette knife I was able to find, and none of them are any use for getting under a print.

      I spend a lot of money trying to be thrifty. It’s a problem of mine.

  6. Another essential tool: a kitchen scale. Weigh your new spools before using them. Mark the empty spool weight on the spool. When you’re going to start a print and not absolutely certain there’s enough filament left on the spool, weigh it again.

    Use the caliper to measure the filament diameter in 20-30 places and calculate the average value. Mark that average value on the spool. Use volumetric extrusion settings in the slicer and use that average diameter when printing to get consistent results from print to print and spool to spool.

    A wire brush is useful for cleaning the extruder nozzle.

    Blue lock-tite will keep screws and nuts from vibrating loose.

  7. That “print removal tool” is an offset spatula. Any good kitchenware store will have them in many sizes, or check the cake decorating section at a craft store like Michaels.

    1. It looks like it, and I’ll even concede that it might be formed on the same kind of brake given the shape, but it is definitely not the same. As mentioned in another comment, the difference is how thin the metal is, it’s literally razor thin but with a blunt edge.

  8. Recently, I’ve grown very fond of my filament dryer. It’s essentially a food dehydrator with a spool in the middle. It’s pretty much the only way to get good results out of nylon filaments, but I swear I also get better quality out of PLA and ABS after using it. Baking it in the oven is also a possibility, but that’s a hassle, and my husband doesn’t like opening the oven to bake something, and finding a spool of filament.

    1. Granted it does depend on where you live and what kind of humidity you’re seeing day to day, but it’s certainly possible that drying out PLA can help with final print quality.

      PLA that’s been exposed to high humidity for a long time can lead to rough surfaces as the moisture being driven out of the filament in the hot end can cause bubbles which disrupt the flow of plastic.

    2. Yeah, humidity is a big deal. I live in the northeast and our printer is the basement. RIP filament. We went the simple route – a plastic bin with a silica gel desiccant. The silica container is designed to be “rechargeable” in the oven.

    3. Home Despot et al, have $3 & $10 “closet” dryers with absorbant. Maybe overkill, and messy IF you really tilt a bin and spill the contents aftdr a few cupfuls are absorbed, but duct-taped into a corner these might be great. You can replace or recharge them. Dessicant bags need recharging or weighing and are small, making them more iffy.

  9. Reading 3D-Printer articles it sounds as if every 10th home has one or will in 6 months. And the fumes sound so bad that you expect to hear very soon of a US requirement to have a fume detoxifyi g hood within 5 years and a vent hood w exhaust system within 2. I have made such fumes on a very limited scale now and then in my 6-7 decades of puttering/R&D… but I think of the sliceable “air” in parts of China’s manufacturing areas of mom & pop businesses and wonder of our children’s future. Our CO2 is already doubled…! (NOT a good sign. Desktop CO2 sensors mirror our past desttop weather stations.)

    In the mean time. a cardboard box, dryer hose, a 12vdc 5 1/4″ puter fan and ac-dc adaptor. Fan holds open the window and sucks from the hose. Cut the box hole well and the hose screws i to it and dissembles for storage. Bankers’ box is fine/self-stowing. It need not reach down for a seal. It merely mostly covers and semi-encapsulates like a range hood. And yes, a $10 smoke detector above it in an oak frame on crushed red velvet. Print that out for me, he said to his secretary.

  10. Reading 3D-Printer articles it sounds as if every 10th home has one or will in 6 months. And the fumes sound so bad that you expect to hear very soon of a US requirement to have a fume detoxifyi g hood within 5 years and a vent hood w exhaust system within 2. I have made such fumes on a very limited scale now and then in my 6-7 decades of puttering/R&D… but I think of the sliceable “air” in parts of China’s manufacturing areas of mom & pop businesses and wonder of our children’s future. Our CO2 is already doubled…! (NOT a good sign. Desktop CO2 sensors mirror our past desttop weather stations.)

    In the mean time. a cardboard box, dryer hose, a 12vdc 5 1/4″ puter fan and ac-dc adaptor. Fan holds open the window and sucks from the hose. Cut the box hole well and the hose screws i to it and dissembles for storage. Bankers’ box is fine/self-stowing. It need not reach down for a seal. It merely mostly covers and semi-encapsulates like a range hood. And yes, a $10 smoke detector above it in an oak frame on crushed red velvet. Print that out for me, he said to his secretary.

    And Vernier Dial Calipers w No Battery were a staple in R&D elec-mech fir the 30+ years I did it. So. you read a dial fir the lazt 2 diguts. Slows you down overall as much as getting and changing a battery, once you note it is fading.

  11. surprised no one mentioned a feeler gauge set for setting the nozzle-bed gap. ive been experimenting with different gaps from 0.05mm to 0.12mm to get just the right stick on the first layer, without excessive squish or making it really hard to get the print off the bed

  12. I have a pair of medial forceps that I use fairly often for many different things, but most cleaning up any drip from the nozzle as they’re thin and long enough that you can get in and reach stuff without getting fingers close to pinch points. Also, a pair of flush cutters are very helpful.

  13. I’m still on my first two rolls of Exelvan PLA, using a Monoprice mini from one of the earlier batches. I had to replace the bed rails because they were 5/16″ instead of 8mm. How in China of all places they accidentally used 5/16″ rod…
    I don’t have to worry about the PLA absorbing moisture because most of the time it’s very dry where I am.

    As for strength, I’ve printed some worm wheels with 100% infill out of Excelvan clear/translucent PLA. They’re for the vent window gearboxes for 1949-1954 Hudsons. I tried real hard to break the gears but couldn’t. It’s tougher than the supposedly super strong aluminum filled epoxy that requires a three step heated post curing process. (I made a silicone mold from two original gears to cast them.) The epoxy gears and ones cast from various urethane resins from Smooth-On, I could easily snap the teeth even though the hand crank is less than 2″ long.

    The PLA gears need no lube, unlike the Zamak ones, which people can also bend and break the teeth on.

  14. I’d add a few tiny drill bits/needles for nozzle declogging when using non PLA filiments, normally flushing a blocked nozzle will do, but now and again, you gotta get in there with something., sanding and files for finishing prints too, also a dremel with a bit of pla filiment for plastic welding does wonders and adds flexability to what you can print in sections with a little joinery.

  15. “No use for ABS”? I also heard in 2017 that there’s no use for PLA anymore because of co-polyesters. I print in PLA, ABS, and PETG (among others) and I which filament use depends on what I’m printing. “No use for ABS” is like pitching out your salsa because you have maple syrup in the fridge.

    1. I laughed.

      To be honest, I still print some ABS b/c I really like the material properties and have a few spools of the stuff, so sunk cost and all that. Enclose the printer and keep it warm and it’s not so bad.

      But in the last year, I discovered a PETG that’s nearly the same in every way that I care about, with better inter-layer adhesion and print-bed stick-down to boot. This stuff is so sexy that I wouldn’t consider going back to ABS, except…

      Then I go and order a few spools of different colors from the same factory, only to find out that the red and blue filaments (which I love) have an entirely different hardness/ductility than yellow or green, and black is somewhere in between.

      I’ve had similar experiences with PLA. Some of it is brittle and unusuable for anything other than Fillenium Malcoms, while other blends seem nearly as strong as ABS. WTF?

      In short, yeah. Print what works best for the project. ABS is just fine. Have you tried a blend of maple syrup and salsa?

  16. If you have an UP Box you get reliable printing from ABS and it does a good job at peelable support, far better than PLA. Great low hassle printing… good enough we use one at my work, where it has to be low hassle as we are a consultancy and time is v.expensive.

  17. I use an automatic ABC powder extinguisher hung above the printer. It has a glass vial holding it sealed that is rated to break it the extinguisher gets to 62C. That, a smoke cut off on the electricity and a metal cabinet make me much more comfortable printing unattended.
    If you’ve never tried, take a scrap print outside and hold a lighter to it with an old pizza box under to catch the molten plastic as it burns.
    Flammability rating: Burns like a torch.
    Especially support and honeycomb infill. Alarmingly few printers have a thermal fuse on the print head so if one thermally cycled temperature probe falls out or starts misbehaving, or the firmware crashes, you are rolling the dice with your house. Then again people do vapour polishing in their houses and that involves making an explosive atmosphere of acetone and hardly any seem to blow up, so maybe I’m just too careful;)

  18. I like a glass bed. I’ve only printed with PLA so far, and with a proper temperature on the bed, it will stick throughout the print job, then pop right off after it is done when the temp returns close to normal, or I point a fan at it if I’m impatient. The bottom of the prints is perfectly smooth. No prying. No tools (except an optional fan). No glue or hairspray mess or parts to clean. I haven’t tried this with ABS. Yes, every once in a while I have had something pop loose, but it’s just a cooling issue; keep the fans pointed at the hot stuff and not the bed.

    For calipers, I have a cheap set of Huskys that don’t burn through batteries and display to 2 decimal places. I’d recommend something that shows 2 decimal places just for better accuracy on fine stuff. Those cheap 0.1mm calipers may say they are accurate to 0.1 but they usually aren’t. I’m sure mine aren’t accurate all the way down to 100th of a mm, but they’re better than the ones that claim a 10th.

    A set of files is very useful. I like having a hand powered drill for reaming holes without making a ton of noise at night if the wife and kid are asleep.

  19. PLA is just better for the vast majority of people. Even if you have a heated bed and a fairly enclosed print volume. If you need temperature resistance, before you take the part off the bed, just turn the heated bed up to like 80-100C or so and put a small bucket over your part for a few hours. That will cause the PLA to crystallize and should give you resistance all the way to boiling water temperatures (not much strength, but won’t just turn into a wet noodle like untreated PLA will).

    The lack of noxious fumes is very nice. Also, reduces burns. And less questionable for food contact than ABS printed parts.

    ABS is great primarily because of solvent welding. You can easily produce air/water-tight parts this way. But generally speaking, you want to use PLA.

    Other polymers like PETG are nice, too, but I tend to stick with PLA ’cause it JUST WORKS.

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