The Case Against Calibration Cubes

Calibration cubes have long been a staple for testing and adjusting 3D printers, but according to [Stefan] of CNC Kitchen, they’re not just ineffective—they could be leading us astray. In the video after the break he explains his reasoning for this controversial claim, and provides a viable alternative.

Such cubes are often used to calibrate the steps per millimeter for the printer’s steppers, but the actual dimensions of said cube can be impacted by over or under extrusion, in addition to how far the machine might be out of alignment. This can be further exacerbated by measuring errors due to elephant’s foot, over extruded corners, or just inaccuracies in the caliper. All these potential errors which can go unnoticed in the small 20 x 20 mm cube, while still leading to significant dimensional errors in larger prints

So what’s the solution? Not another cube. It’s something called the “CaliFlower” from [Adam] of Vector 3D. This is not a typical calibration model — it’s carefully designed to minimize measurement errors with ten internal and external measuring points with stops for your calipers. The model costs $5, but for your money you get a complete guide and spreadsheet to calculate the required of corrections needed in your firmware or slicer settings.

If you regularly switch materials in your 3D printer, [Stefan] also advises against adjusting steps per millimeter and suggests defining a scaling factor for each material type instead. With this method validated across different materials like PLA, PETG, ABS, and ASA, it becomes evident that material shrinkage plays a significant role in dimensional inaccuracy, not just machine error. While [Stefan] makes a convincing case against the standard calibration cube for dimensional calibration, he notes that is is still useful for evaluating general print quality and settings.

[Stefan] has always done rigorous testing to back his claims, and this video was no different. He has also tested the effects of filament color on part strength, the practicality of annealing parts in salt, and even printing custom filament.

Continue reading “The Case Against Calibration Cubes”

3D Printing With Plastic Cutlery

How many plastic spoons, knives, and forks do you think we throw away daily? [Stefan] noted that the compostable type is made from PLA, so why shouldn’t you be able to recycle it into 3D printing stock? How did it work? Check it out in the video below.

[Stefan] already has a nice setup for extruding filament. However, unsurprisingly, it won’t accept spoons and forks directly. A blender didn’t help, so he used an industrial plastic shredder. It reduced the utensils to what looked like coarse dust, which he then dried out. After running it through the extruder, the resulting filament was thin and brittle. [Stefan] speculates the plastic was set up for injection molding, but it at least showed the concept had merit.

In a second attempt, he cut the ground-up utensils with fresh PLA in equal measures. That is, 50% of the mix was recycled, and half was not. That made much more usable filament. So did a different brand of compostable plasticware.

The real test was to take dirty plasticware. This time, he soaked utensils in tomato sauce overnight. He cleaned, dried, and shredded the plastic. This time, he used 20% new PLA and some pigment, as well. We aren’t sure this is worth the effort simply on economics, but if you are committed to recycling, this might be worth your while.

It always seems like it should be easy to extrude filament. Until you try to do it, of course. Recycling plastic bottles is especially popular.

Continue reading “3D Printing With Plastic Cutlery”

The Best Threaded Holes For Resin Parts

Threaded inserts are great for melting into FDM prints with a soldering iron. The process isn’t so simple for resin prints, since they don’t generally soften with heat. Off course, you can also print the threads directly, screw a bolt into an un-threaded hole, or tap a hole. Following his usual rigorous testing process, [Stefan] from CNC Kitchen investigated various ways of adding threaded holes to resin prints.

After establishing a pull-out force on PLA using threaded inserts (205 kg) and tapped holes (163 kg), [Stefan] tested parts printed with Prusament Tough Anthracite resin. Un-threaded and tapped holes failed at 44 kg and 55 kg respectively, while printed threads were almost twice as strong, reaching 106 kg before breaking. Stephan also tried gluing inserts into the parts using resin and CA glue. The resin didn’t cure properly in the opaque parts (6 kg) while CA was comparable to plastic threads, failing at 52 kg.

Chart of results
TLDR: Print your threads for best results

[Stefan] also tested regular ELEGOO Translucent resin. The higher hardness of the cured resin allowed the parts to hold on to around 100 kg for un-threaded and tapped holes, while printed threads reached 120 kg. Threaded insert glued with resin did better on the transparent parts thanks to improved UV penetration, but were very inconsistent. Inserts glued with CA performed about the same as on the Prusament parts, failing at 56 kg.

In an attempt to improve the performance of the inserts [Stefan] printed some parts with stepped holes to match the geometry of the inserts, which had the advantage of preventing the insert from falling through during gluing. It only made a marginal difference on the Prusament parts but boosted the strength of CA-glued inserts on the ELEGOO resin to 82 kg. Two-part epoxy was also tried, which matched the un-threaded holes in strength.

So for resin parts you’ll probably be best served by just modeling the threads in CAD and printing them directly. If you need to be able to repeatedly screw and unscrew fasteners in a hole without stripping, threaded holes with CA or epoxy might be a better solution.

Continue reading “The Best Threaded Holes For Resin Parts”

Bubbly Filament Works Better Than You Think

Normally bubbles appearing in your extruded filament would be considered a bad sign, but it turns out you can now buy filament that has been specifically formulated to foam. [Stefan] from CNC Kitchen has doing some experiments with these bubbly filaments, and the results have been very interesting.

The filaments in question are VARIOSHORE TPU and LW-PLA, both by ColorFabb. Both filaments have a blowing agent added to the formulation, which releases gas as the temperature is increased. This causes bubbles to form, creating a cellular structure, which decreases the density and increases the flexibility of the printed part. This isn’t the first time that foaming is sold as a feature, but previously it was only done for aesthetic purposes in Polymaker’s Polywood filament.

Before putting the materials through his excellent test procedures, [Stefan] first goes through the process of tuning the print settings. This can be tricky because of the foaming, which increases the effective volume of the plastic, requiring careful adjustment of the extrusion rate. Foaming in the PLA filament reached its maximum foaming at 250 C, at which its density was 44% of the unfoamed filament.

In testing the physical properties, [Stefan] found that the tensile strength and stiffness of printed parts are reduced as foaming increases, but the impact strength is improved. He concludes that the lightweight PLA can have some interesting applications because of the reduced weight and increased impact strength, with 3D printed RC aircraft being an excellent example of this. It should also be possible to change the between layers, effectively sandwiching the foamed layers between solid skins.

[Stefan]’s videos are an excellent resource for those looking to master the finer points of 3D printing with different materials. He has reinforced prints with carbon fiber, played with extrusion widths and developed an ingenious gradient infill technique.

Continue reading “Bubbly Filament Works Better Than You Think”