3D printed test jig to determine the yield point of a centrally loaded 3D printed beam.

One Object To Print, But So Many Settings!

When working with an FDM 3D printer your first prints are likely trinkets where strength is less relevant than surface quality. Later on when attempting more structural prints, the settings become very important, and quite frankly rather bewildering. A few attempts have been made over the years to determine in quantifiable terms, how these settings affect results and here is another such experiment, this time from Youtuber 3DPrinterAcademy looking specifically at the effect of wall count, infill density and the infill pattern upon the strength of a simple beam when subjected to a midpoint load.

A tray of 3D printing infill patterns available in mainstream slicers
Modern slicers can produce many infill patterns, but the effect on real world results are not obvious

When setting up a print, many people will stick to the same few profiles, with a little variety in wall count and infill density, but generally keep things consistent. This works well, up to a point, and that point is when you want to print something significantly different in size, structure or function. The slicer software is usually very helpful in explaining the effect of tweaking the numbers upon how the print is formed, but not too great at explaining the result of this in real life, since it can’t know your application. As far as the slicer is concerned your object is a shape that will be turned into slices, internal spaces, outlines and support structures. It doesn’t know whether you’re making a keyfob or a bearing holder, and cannot help you get the settings right for each application. Perhaps upcoming AI applications will be trained upon all these experimental results and be fed back into the slicing software, but for now, we’ll just have to go with experience and experiment. Continue reading “One Object To Print, But So Many Settings!”

Orca Slicer Is The New Game In Town

Slicers are the neat little tools that take your 3D models and turn them into G-code that your 3D printer can actually understand. They control the printing process down to the finest detail, and determine whether your prints are winners or binners. Orca Slicer is the new tool on the block, and [The Edge of Tech] took a look at what it can do.

The video explores the use of Orca Slicer with the Bambu Lab P1P and X1 Carbon. [The Edge of Tech] jumps into the feature set, noting the rich calibration tools that are built right into the software. They work with any printer, and they’re intended to help users get perfect prints time and time again, with less messy defects and print failures. It’s also set up out of the box for network printing and live updates, which is super useful for those with multiple printers and busy workflows. You can even watch camera feeds live in the app from duly equipped printers. It’s even got nifty features for calculating your filament cost per print.

If you’re not happy with your current slicer, give Orca Slicer a go. Let us know what you think in the comments. Video after the break.

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A Comprehensive Look At FDM Supports

When we first started 3D printing, we used ABS and early slicers. Using supports was undesirable because the support structures were not good, and ABS sticks to itself like crazy. Thankfully today’s slicers are much better, and often we can use supports that easily detach. [Teaching Tech] shows how modern slicers create supports and how to make it even better than using the default settings.

The video covers many popular slicers and their derivatives. If you’ve done a lot with supports, you might not find too much of this information surprising, but if you haven’t printed with supports lately or tried things like tree supports, you might find a few things that will up your 3D printing game.

One thing we really like is that the video does show different slicers, so regardless of what slicer you like to use, you’ll probably find exactly what different settings are called. Of course, because slicers let you examine what they produce layer-by-layer, you can do like the video and examine the results without printing. [Michael] does do some prints with various parameters, though, and you can see how hard or easy the support removal is depending on some settings. The other option is to add support to your designs, as needed manually, or — even better — don’t design things that need support.

This video reminded us of a recent technique we covered that added a custom support tack to help the slicer’s automatic support work better. If you want a longer read on supports that also covers dissolvable support, we’ve seen that, too.

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The underside of the rotational base of the Gen5X 3D printer. A belt connects a pulley on the bottom of the stage to a stepper motor on the right side. The carriage for the stage looks organic in nature and is printed in bright orange PLA. The stage can rotate within the carriage which is mounted on two stainless steel rods connected to teal mounting points on either side of the printer (ends of the X-axis).

5-Axis Printer Wants To Design Itself

RepRap 3D printers were designed with the ultimate goal of self-replicating machines. The generatively-designed Gen5X printer by [Ric Real] brings the design step of that process closer to reality.

While 5-axis printing is old hat in CNC land, it remains relatively rare in the world of additive manufacturing. Starting with “a set of primitives… and geometric relationships,” [Real] ran the system through multiple generations to arrive at its current design. Since this is a generative design, future variants could look different depending on which parameters you have the computer optimize.

The Gen5X uses the 5 Axis Slicer from DotX for slicing files and runs a RepRap Duet board with Duex expansion. Since the generative algorithm uses parametric inputs, it should be possible to to have a Gen5X generated based on the vitamins you may have already. With how fast AI is evolving, perhaps soon this printer will be able to completely design itself? For now, you’ll have to download the files and try it yourself.

If you want to see some more printers with more than 3-axes, check out the RotBot or Open5X.

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Arc Overhangs Make “Impossible” 3D Prints

An accidental discovery by [3DQue] allows overhangs on FDM printers that seem impossible at first glance. The key is to build the overhang area with concentric arcs. It also helps to print at a cool temperature with plenty of fan and a slow print speed. In addition to the video from [3DQue], there’s also a video from [CNC Kitchen] below that covers the technique.

If you want a quick overview, you might want to start with the [CNC Kitchen] video first. The basic idea is that you build surfaces “in the air” by making small arcs that overlap and get further and further away from the main body of the part. Because the arcs overlap, they support the next arc. The results are spectacular. There’s a third video below that shows some recent updates to the tool.

We’ve seen a similar technique handcrafted with fullcontrol.xyz, but this is a Python script that semi-automatically generates the necessary arcs that overlap. We admit the surface looks a little odd but depending on why you need to print overhangs, this might be just the ticket. There can also be a bit of warping if features are on top of the overhang.

You don’t need any special hardware other than good cooling. Like [CNC Kitchen], we hope this gets picked up by mainstream slicers. It probably will never be a default setting, but it would be a nice option for parts that can benefit from the technique. Since the code is on GitHub, maybe people familiar with the mainstream slicers will jump in and help make the algorithm more widely available and automatic.

What will you build with this tool? If you don’t like arcs, check out conical slicing or non-planar slicing instead.

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RotBot Adds A Extra Dimension To 3D Printing, With A Twist

It always seemed to us that the Z-axis on a 3D printer, or pretty much any CNC machine for that matter, is criminally underused. To have the X- and Y-axes working together to make smooth planar motions while the Z-axis just sits there waiting for its big moment, which ends up just moving the print head and the bed another fraction of a millimeter from each other just doesn’t seem fair. Can’t the Z-axis have a little more fun?

Of course it can, and while non-planar 3D printing is nothing new, [Stefan] over at CNC Kitchen shows us a literal twist on the concept with this four-axis non-planar printer. For obvious reasons, it’s called the “RotBot,” and it comes via the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, where [Michael Wüthrich] and colleagues have been experimenting with different slicing strategies to make overhang printing more manageable. The hardware side of things is actually pretty intuitive, especially if you’ve ever seen an industrial waterjet cutter in action. They modified a Prusa printer by adding a rotating extension to the print head, putting the nozzle at a 45° angle to the print bed. A slip ring connects the heater and fan and allows the head to rotate 360°, with the extruder living above the swiveling head.

On the software side, the Zurich team came up with some clever workarounds to make conical slicing work using off-the-shelf slicers. As [Stefan] explains, the team used a “pre-deformation” step to warp the model and trick the slicer into generating the conical G-code. The G-code is then back-transformed in exactly the opposite process as pre-deformation before being fed to the printer. The transformation steps are done with a bit of Python code, and the results are pretty neat. Watching the four axes all work together simultaneously is quite satisfying, as are the huge overhangs with no visible means of support.

The academic paper on this is probably worth a read, and thankfully, the code for everything is all open-sourced. We’re interested to see if this catches on with the community.

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Go Big Or Go Home: 0.6 Mm Nozzles Are The Future

Most desktop fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printers these days use a 0.4 mm nozzle. While many people have tried smaller nozzles to get finer detail and much larger nozzles to get faster printing speed, most people stick with the stock value as a good trade-off between the two. That’s the conventional wisdom, anyway. However, [Thomas Sanladerer] asserts that with modern slicers, the 0.4 mm nozzle isn’t the best choice and recommends you move up to 0.6 mm.

If you know [Thomas], you know he wouldn’t make a claim like that without doing his homework. He backs it up with testing, and you can see his thoughts on the subject and the test results in the video below. The entire thing hinges on the Ultimaker-developed Arachne perimeter generator that’s currently available in the alpha version of PrusaSlicer.

We’ve experimented with nozzles as small as 0.1 mm and, honestly, it still looks like an FDM 3D print and printing takes forever at that size. But these days, if we really care about the detail we are probably going to print with resin, anyway.

There are a few slicer settings to consider and you can see the whole setup in the video. The part where an SLA test part is printed with both nozzles is particularly telling. This is something that probably shouldn’t print well with an FDM at all. Both nozzles had problems but in different areas.

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