Getting good results from a 3D printer is like Goldilocks’ porridge. There are a lot of things that have to be just right. One common thing that gives people poor results is damp filament. This is especially insidious because the printer will work fine and then after some period time results degrade but it is no fault of the printer mechanics or electronics. There are many ways to attempt to dry filament, but [HydeTheJekyll] prefers using a slow cooker modified to operate with low air pressure.
We assume this works because the low pressure reduces the boiling point of water, allowing the water to boil off at temperatures that won’t distort the filament. The modifications aren’t very severe. You’ll need some hose and a pump along with some silicone caulk and petroleum jelly.
Have you ever thought that Nixie tubes are cool but too hard to control with modern electronics? And that they’re just too expensive? [david.reid] apparently thought so and decided to create his own version of a Nixie tube, and it doesn’t get much cheaper than this.
While working on a 3D printed locomotive with his son, [david.reid] used clear PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol) 3D printer filament to move light from LEDs to various parts of the locomotive. He found this was a success, but roughed up the outside of the filament to see what would happen. Lo and behold, a warm glow appeared on the surface of the tube! Like any good hacker, his next thought was of Nixie tubes, as you have seeninmanyclocks.
His basic idea is that with a little heat you can bend the filament into any shape that you like ([david.reid] uses custom molds). You then use some sandpaper to roughen up the outside wherever you’d like light to show, and add an LED at the bottom to light it up!
[Alec Richter] had a good idea on how he could convert the leftover filament spindles from his 3D printer into multi-compartment storage. An empty spindle is fitted with several trays that rotate out from the circle for easy access. With multiple spools rotating on a central axle, you can really see how a bunch of parts could be organized in a column, though not being able to see through the sides probably limits its use somewhat — most of the modular component storage we’ve seen has clear trays.
He has designed drawer bases with removable compartment trays, along with alignment jigs to help you get the drawer installed perfectly the first time. You can download the designs (14 files!) but you need to sign up for an account first. Also, [Alex]s designs fit very specific spindles so be sure of your measurements, etc.
3D printing technologies have come a long way, not only in terms of machine construction and affordability but also in the availability of the diverse range of different printing materials at our disposal. The common consumer might already be familiar with the usual PLA, ABS but there are other more exotic offerings such as PVA based dissolvable filaments and even carbon fiber and wood infused materials. Researchers at MIT allude to yet another possibility in a paper titled “3D-Printed Self-Folding Electronics” also dubbed the “Peel and Go” material.
The crux of the publication is the ability to print structures that are ultimately intended to be intricately folded, in a more convenient planar arrangement. As the material is taken off the build platform it immediately starts to morph into the intended shape. The key to this behavior is the use of a special polymer as a filler for joint-like structures, made out of more traditional but flexible filament. This special polymer, rather atypically, expands after printing serving almost like a muscle to contort the printed joint.
Existing filaments that can achieve similar results, albeit after some manual post-processing such as immersion in water or exposure to heat are not ideal for electronic circuits. The researchers focus on this new materials potential use in manufacturing electronic circuits and sensors for the ever miniaturizing consumer electronics.
If you want to experiment printing extremely intricate structures, check out how [_primoz_] brilliant technique revolutionized how the 3D printing community prints thin fibers, bristles, and lion sculptures.
Keeping track of your 3D-printer filament use can be both eye-opening and depressing. Knowing exactly how much material goes into a project can help you make build-versus-buy decisions, but it can also prove gut-wrenching when you see how much you just spent on that failed print. Stock filament counters aren’t always very accurate, but you can roll your own filament counter from an old mouse.
[Bin Sun]’s build is based around an old ball-type PS/2 mouse, the kind with the nice optical encoders. Mice of this vintage are getting harder to come by these days, but chances are you’ve got one lying around in a junk bin or can scrounge one up from a thrift store. Stripped down to its guts and held in place by a 3D-printed bracket, the roller that used to sense ball rotation bears on the filament on its way to the extruder. An Arduino keeps track of the pulses and totalizes the amount of filament used; the counter handily subtracts from the totals when the filament is retracted.
Simple, useful, and cheap — the very definition of a hack. And even if you don’t have a 3D-printer to keep track of, harvesting encoders from old mice is a nice trick to file away for a rainy day. Or you might prefer to just build your own encoders for your next project.
If you’re a heavy user of a 3D printer, or a welder, you’ll know the problem of empty spools. You’ve used up all the filament or the welding wire, and you’re left with a substantial plastic spool. It’s got to be useful for something, you think, and thus it’s Too Good To Throw Away. Before you know it you have a huge pile of the things all looking for a use that you know one day you’ll find.
If you follow the example of [Chuck Hellebuyck], you could use them as wheels for a small go-kart (YouTube link). He 3D-printed some hub adapters for the spools to use skate bearings, mounted them of threaded axles to a classic wooden go-kart frame, and set off downhill wearing his stock-car racing helmet.
Of course, [Chuck]’s go-kart is a bit of fun, but it’s probably fair to say that 3D printer spools are not the ideal wheel. Those rims aren’t particularly durable, and with no tires he’s in for a bumpy ride. Perhaps a tire could be found to fit and a tube placed within it, but that would start to sound expensive against those cheap off-the-shelf wheelbarrow items.
But the project does raise the interesting question: what exactly do you do with your empty spools? There have to be some awesome uses for them, so please share yours in the comments. Meanwhile follow Chuck’s go-kart adventures in the video below the break.
On the last day of MRRF, the guys from Lulzbot were printing a vase with some clear Taulman t-glase on their TAZ 6 prototype. It was probably the third or fourth one they had printed, but I was compelled to go over there because they were painting the filament with a blue Sharpie right before it went into the extruder.
It immediately made me think of this video that hit our tips line last fall and fell through the cracks—a short one from [Angus] at Maker’s Muse about creating your own colored filament by spraying clear PLA with cheap spray paint. This is a neat alternative to painting a finished print because the color isn’t going to rub off. The pigment fuses with the PLA in the hot end, providing consistent coloring.
Disclaimer time: [Angus] ran his spray-painted PLA through a WANHAO i3, which is a cheap, modified Prusa that actually has pretty good reviews. The point is, he doesn’t care if the nozzle gets clogged. But the nozzle didn’t clog. Nothing bad happened at all, and the prints turned out great. As you can see in the video after the break, he tried silver and blue separately on short lengths of filament, and then alternated the colors to make the striped Marvin in the main image. [Angus]’ main concern is that the paint probably affects the strength of the print.
Have you tried spray painting filament? How did it go? Let us know in the comments. If you long to print in any color on the cheap but don’t want to seriously risk clogging your hot end, there’s always the drilled-out Sharpie method.