Reducing Seams In FDM Prints With Scarf Joint Seams

One unavoidable aspect of FDM 3D printing is that each layer consists out of one or more lines that have a beginning and an end. Where these join up, a seam is formed, which can be very noticeable if the same joint exists on successive layers. Taking a hint from woodworking, a possible solution is now being worked on that involves scarf joints. This research is covered by [Michael Laws] in a recent Teaching Tech video on YouTube, where he also details his own printing attempts with a custom 3D model, and a guide by [psiberfunk/Adam L].

The idea for a scarf joint was pitched practically simultaneously by [vgdh] on the PrusaSlicer GitHub, and [Noisyfox] on the OrcaSlicer GitHub. The basic idea follows the woodworking and metalworking version of a scarf joint, with the overlap between two discrete parts across two heavily tapered ends. As with the woodworking version, the FDM scarf joint is not a silver bullet, and with the under development OrcaSlicer builds a lot of the parameters are still being tweaked to optimize the result.

If it can be made to work, it could mean that scarf joints will soon be coming to an OrcaSlicer and PrusaSlicer release near you. Theoretically it should mean faster prints than with randomized seams as fewer print head adjustments are needed, and it may provide a smoother result. Definitely an interesting development that we hope to see come to fruition.

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EasyThreed K9: The Value In A €72 AliExpress FDM 3D Printer

The hot end of the EasyThreed K9 is actually pretty nifty. (Credit: [Thomas Sanladerer])
The hot end of the EasyThreed K9 is actually pretty nifty. (Credit: [Thomas Sanladerer])
Recently, [Thomas Sanladerer] bought an EasyThreed K9 off AliExpress for a mere €72, netting him an FDM printer with a 10 x 10 x 10 cm build volume. The build plate is unheated, with optional upgrade, and there is no display to interact with the device: just a big multi-function ‘play’ button and five smaller buttons that direct the print head to preset locations above the build plate to allow for build plate leveling using the knobs on each corner. There’s also a ‘home’ button on the back for homing the print head, which pretty much completes the user interface. As the printer comes in a rather small box, the first step is to assemble the parts into something resembling a 3D printer.

What follows is both a mixture of wonder and horror, as the plastic build quality is everything but convincing, while at the same time, the self-contained nature of each of the three axes of the cantilevered design makes for very easy assembly. The print head has a nifty flip-up cover for easy access to the hot end, which makes the best of the anemic 24-watt power supply for the entire printer. A cooling fan with an air duct even provides part cooling, making this print head a contender for the ‘cheap but not terrible’ category. You can check out his full video review below.

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3D Printing A Nifty Sphere Without Supports

[DaveMakesStuff] demonstrates a great technique for 3D printing a sphere; a troublesome shape for filament-based printers to handle. As a bonus, it uses a minimum of filament. His ideas can be applied to your own designs, but his Giant Spiralized Sphere would also just happen to make a fine ornament this holiday season.

Printing two interlocking parts and using vase mode ensures a support-free print that uses a minimum of filament.

The trick is mainly to print the sphere in two parts, but rather than just split the sphere right down the middle, [Dave] makes two hollow C-shaped sections, like a tennis ball. This structure allows the halves to be printed in vase mode, which minimizes filament use while also printing support-free.

Vase (or spiral) mode prints an object using a single, unbroken line of extruded filament. The resulting object has only one wall and zero infill, but it’s still plenty strong for an ornament. Despite its size, [Dave]’s giant ball uses only 220 grams of filament.

A video (also embedded below) shows the design in better detail. If you’d like to experiment, we’ve previously covered how PETG’s transparency is best preserved when 3D printing by using vase mode, slightly overextruding, and printing at a higher temperature to ensure solid bonding between each layer. Continue reading “3D Printing A Nifty Sphere Without Supports”

A 3D Printed Grinder For Printed Lens Blanks

When one thinks of applications for 3D printing, optical components don’t seem to be a good fit. With the possible exception of Fresnel lenses, FDM printing doesn’t seem up to the job of getting the smooth surfaces and precision dimensions needed to focus light. Resin printing might be a little closer to the mark, but there’s still a long way to go between a printed blank and a finished lens.

That gap is what [Fraens] aims to fill with this homebrew lens grinding machine. It uses the same basic methods used to grind and polish lenses for centuries, only with printed components and lens blanks. The machine itself consists of a motorized chuck for holding the lens blank, plus an articulated arm to hold the polishing tool. The tool arm has an eccentric drive that wobbles the polishing tool back and forth across the blank while it rotates in the chuck. Lens grinding requires a lot of water and abrasive, so a large bowl is provided to catch the swarf and keep the work area clean.

Lens blanks are printed to approximately their finished dimensions using clear resin in an SLA printer. [Fraens] spent a lot of time optimizing the printing geometry to minimize the number of print layers required. He found that a 30° angle between the lens and the resin pool worked best, resulting in the clearest blanks. To polish the rough blanks, a lapping tool is made from polymer modeling clay; after baking it dry, the tool can hold a variety of pads and polishing compounds. From there it’s just a matter of running the blank through a range of abrasives to get the desired final surface.

Are the lenses fantastic? Well, they’re probably not going to make it into fine optical equipment, but they’re a lot better than you might expect. Of course, there’s plenty of room for improvement; better resins might result in clearer blanks, and perhaps degassing the uncured resin under vacuum might help with bubbles. Skipping the printed blanks and going with CNC-machined acrylic might be worth a try, too.

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Putting 3D Printed Screw Threads To The Test

One of the challenges with 3D printing is seeing how far designs can be pushed before they break. This includes aspects like flexible hinges and structural components, but also smaller details such as screw threads. Often metal inserts with threads are added to FDM 3D prints by melting them into the plastic, but might 3D printed threads be sufficient for many cases?  This is a question which [Adam Harig] sought to investigate in a recent video while working on parts that would connect to a rather expensive camera.

Trusting expensive camera gear to 3D printed threads... (Credit: Adam Harig)
Trusting expensive camera gear to 3D printed threads… (Credit: Adam Harig)

Rather than risking the camera, a few stand-in cubes printed in PLA+ (AnkerMake brand) were used, with these and their internal thread being exposed to destructive testing. For the measuring equipment only a luggage/fishing scale was used. The difference between the test parts was the amount of infill, ranging from 10 to 100% infill, with 0.2 mm layer height. After this the test involved pulling on the metal hook screwed into the plastic test item with the scale, up to the point of failure or the human element giving up.

The results are rather interesting, with the 100% infill version scoring better than than the 50% infill version (the next step down), with [Adam] giving up on trying to pull the test unit apart and with the scale maxed out. This gave him enough confidence to use this design to lift his entire camera off the table. What’s perhaps most interesting here is that the way the test items were printed, the layers experienced a peeling force, which as the final clips in the video show seemed to often result in the bottom layers giving away, which was the part not being held together by the metal screw inside the item. What the effect of dynamic loads are is something that should possibly also be investigated, but it does show that FDM printing screw threads is perhaps not that silly.

(Thanks to [Pidog] for the tip)

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3D Printing On A Spinning Rod

FDM 3D printing traditionally operates on a layer-by-layer basis, using a flat bed to construct parts. However, [Humphrey Wittingtonsworth IV] demonstrates in his video how this process can be significantly enhanced in terms of mechanical strength and print speed by experimenting with printing on a rotating rod instead of the standard flat bed.

[Humphrey] modified a Creality CR-10 3D printer by removing the bed and installing a regular 8mm linear rod under the hotend. The rod is rotated by a stepper motor with a 3:1 belt drive. This lets him use the rod as the printing surface, laying down layers axially along the length of an object. This means parts that can stand up to bending forces much better than their upright-printed counterparts.

Additionally, this rotational action allows for printing functional coil and wave springs – even multi-layer ones – something that’s not exactly feasible with your run-of-the-mill printer. It can also create super smooth and precise threads as the print head follows their path. As an added bonus – it could also speed up your printing process as you’re just spinning a slim rod instead of slinging around an entire bed. So cylindrical parts like tubes and discs could be printed almost as quickly as your hotend can melt filament.

Of course, this approach isn’t without its challenges. It works best for cylindrical components and there’s a limit to how small you can go with inner diameters based on your chosen rod size. Then there’s also the task of freeing your prints from their rod once they’re finished. [Humphrey] addressed this by creating mesh sleeves that snugly fit over his center rod. This limits how much melted plastic can adhere to it, making removal a breeze.

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Art of 3D printer in the middle of printing a Hackaday Jolly Wrencher logo

Make Better 3D Printed Molds, For Thermoforming Plastics

Thermoforming — which includes vacuum-forming — has its place in a well-rounded workshop, and Mayku (makers of desktop thermoforming machines) have a short list of tips for getting the best results when 3D printing molds on filament-based printers.

A mold is put into direct, prolonged contact with a hot sheet of semi-molten plastic. If one needs a mold to work more than once, there are a few considerations to take into account. The good news is that a few simple guidelines will help get excellent results. Here are the biggest ones:

  1. The smoother the vertical surfaces, the better. Since thermoforming sucks (or pushes) plastic onto and into a mold like a second skin, keeping layer heights between 0.1 mm and 0.2 mm will make de-molding considerably easier.
  2. Generous draft angles. Aim for a 5 degree draft angle. Draft angles of 1-2 degrees are common in injection molding, but a more aggressive one is appropriate due to layer lines giving FDM prints an inherently non-smooth surface.
  3. Thick perimeters and top layers for added strength. The outside of a mold is in contact with the most heat for the longest time. Mayku suggests walls and top layer between 3 mm to 5 mm thick. Don’t forget vent holes!
  4. Use a high infill to better resist stress. Molds need to stand up to mechanical stress as well as heat. Aim for a 50% or higher infill to make a robust part that helps resist deformation.
  5. Ensure your printer can do the job. 3D printing big pieces with high infill can sometimes lift or warp during printing. Use enclosures or draft shields as needed, depending on your printer and material.
  6. Make the mold out of the right material. Mayku recommends that production molds be printed in nylon, which stands up best to the heat and stress a thermoforming mold will be put under. That being said, other materials will work for prototyping. In my experience, even a PLA mold (which deforms readily under thermoforming heat) is good for at least one molding.

Thermoforming open doors for an enterprising hacker, and 3D printing molds is a great complement. If you’re happy being limited to small parts, small “dental” formers like the one pictured here are available from every discount overseas retailer.  And of course, thermoforming is great for costumes and props. If you want to get more unusual with your application, how about forming your very own custom-shaped mirrors by thermoforming laminated polystyrene?