Slow Cooking Filament

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.

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Print Your Own Filament

Ask anyone with a 3D printer what they make the most. They’ll probably say “trash.” There are extra pieces, stuff that oozes out of the extruder, support material, parts that didn’t stick to the bed, or just parts that needed a little tweaking to get right. No matter what you do, you are going to wind up with a lot of scraps. It would be great if you could recycle all this, and [3D Printing Nerd] looks at the FelFil Evo Filament extruder that promises it can do just that. You can see the video below.

As you’d expect, the device is a motorized auger that extrudes filament through a hot end not dissimilar to your printer’s hot end. You have to run a bag of special material through it first to clean out the plastic path. After that, you can create filament from standard pellets or pieces of old plastic.

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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.

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Heated DryBox Banishes Filament Moisture for Under $20

There has been a lot of activity from [Richard Horne] regarding 3D printing filaments lately; most recently he has shared two useful designs for upping one’s filament storage and monitoring game. The first is for a DIY Heated DryBox for 3D printing filament. It keeps filament dry not just by sealing it into a plastic box with some desiccant, but by incorporating a mild and economical heater intended for reptile habitats inside. Desiccant is great, but a gently heated enclosure can do wonders for driving away humidity in the right environment. The DryBox design also incorporates a handy little temperature and humidity sensor to show how well things are working.

Spool-mounted adapter for temperature and humidity sensor (and desiccant) to monitor storage bag conditions.

The second design is a simple spin-off that we particularly liked: a 3D printed adapter that provides a way to conveniently mount one of the simple temperature and humidity sensors to a filament spool with a desiccant packet. This allows storing a filament spool in a clear plastic bag as usual, but provides a tidy way to monitor the conditions inside the bag at a glance. The designs for everything are on Thingiverse along with the parts for the Heated DryBox itself.

[Richard] kindly shares the magic words to search for on eBay for those seeking the build’s inexpensive key components: “15*28CM Adjustable Temperature Reptile Heating Heater Mat” and “Mini LCD Celsius Digital Thermometer Hygrometer Temperature Humidity Meter Gauge”. There are many vendors selling what are essentially the same parts with minor variations.

Since the DryBox is for dispensing filament as well as storing it, a good spool mounting system is necessary but [Richard] found that the lack of spool standardization made designing a reliable system difficult. He noted that having spool edges roll on bearings is a pretty good solution, but only if one doesn’t intend to use cardboard-sided spools, otherwise it creates troublesome cardboard fluff. In the end, [Richard] went with a fixed stand and 3D printable adapters for the spools themselves. He explains it all in the video, embedded below.

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Towards Sensible Packaging For 3D Printer Filament

Filament-based 3D printers are remarkably wasteful. If you buy a kilogram of filament from your favorite supplier, the odds are that it will come wrapped around a plastic spool weighing about 250 grams. Use the filament, and that spool will be thrown in the trash. Very, very few products have such wasteful packaging as 3D printer filament, with the possible exception of inkjet cartridges or getting a receipt with your purchase at CVS.

For the last few years, [Richard Horne], better known as RichRap, has been working towards a solution to the problem of the wasteful spools for 3D printer filament. Now, it looks like he has a solution with the MakerSpool. It’s the perfect solution for a 3D printing ecosystem that doesn’t waste 20% of the total plastic on packaging.

The design of the MakerSpool is fairly straightforward and also 3D printable. It’s a plastic filament spool, just a shade over 200mm in diameter, consisting of two halves that screw together. Add in some RepRap ‘teardrop’ logos, and you have a spool that should fit nearly any machine, and will accept any type of filament.

The trick with this system is, of course, getting the filament onto the spool in the first place. Obviously, filament manufacturers would have to ship unspooled filament that’s somehow constrained and hopefully vacuum packed. Das Filament, a filament manufacturer out of Germany, has already tested this and it looks like they have their process down. It is possible to ship a kilogram of 1.75 filament without a spool, and held together with zip ties. Other filament manufacturers also have packaging processes that are amenable to this style of packaging.

Whether this sort of packing will catch on is anyone’s guess, but there are obvious advantages. There is less waste for the environmentalists in the crowd, but with that you also get reduced shipping costs. It’s a win-win for any filament manufacturer that could also result in reduced costs passed onto the consumer.

Making Prints More Resilient With Fibre-Filled Filament

For all that we love 3D printers, sometimes the final print doesn’t turn out as durable as we might want it to be.

Aiming to mimic the properties of natural structures such as wood, bone, and shells, a research team lead by [Jennifer A. Lewis] at Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences’ Lewis Lab have developed a new combined filament and printing technique which they call rotational 3D printing.

Minuscule fibres are mixed in with the epoxy filament and their controlled orientation within the print can reinforce the overall structure or specific points that will undergo constant stresses. To do so the print head is fitted with a stepper motor, and its precisely programmed spin controls the weaving of the fibres into the print. The team suggests that they would be able to adapt this tech to many different 3D printing methods and materials, as well as use different materials and printed patterns to focus on thermal, electrical, or optical properties.

Be it adding carbon nano-tubes or enlisting the expertise of spiders to refine our printed materials, we’re looking forward to the future of ever stronger prints. However, that doesn’t mean that existing methods are entirely lacking in endurance.

[Thanks for the tip, Qes!]

Printing Without Supports!

If print supports have ever caused you grief, know that there’s an alternate printing method in the works. First: get yourself a vat of industrial gel in which to print.

Rapid Liquid Printing(RLP) is being developed in collaboration by Michigan-based company [Steelcase] and [Skylar Tibbits’] Self Assembly Lab at MIT. RLP is touting advantages over traditional 3D printing technology such as reduced print times, a higher quality print, and enabling larger scale prints — all without supports!

Working with rubber, plastic, or foam, the printing material is injected by nozzle into a basin of industrial gel. That gel suspends the print throughout the process without bonding to it and the finished product is simply lifted out of the gel and rinsed off. Shown off at the Design Miami event earlier this month, onlookers could pick up finished lampshades and tote bags after mere minutes.

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