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First Steps in 3D Printing

February 2, 2020 10:53   ~4  minutes

Towards the end of 2019, I purchased an Original Prusa i3 MK3S kit. It was an impulse buy, a bit of retail therapy, but also long over due.

I purchased the kit rather than a pre-assembled printer because I'm stuborn and wanted to build it myself- and so I did! For about a week, if I wasn't working, I was assembling the printer and hoping I wasn't in over my head. In hindisght I wasn't sure if I was excited more for actually having a printer, or getting to assemble it myself. Luckily, with the help of a few very patient support agents, I was assembled and ready to start calibrating.

Calibrating

Calibrating was a pain in general but I believe it's because, again, I assembled it myself. Certain screws were not supposed to be tightend all the way for example, so fillament wasn't extruding. Z-index calibration was also hit or miss at first until I adjusted the P.I.N.D.A probe bit more. It's printing now but I feel I still haven't hit the Z-index sweet spot when it comes to first layer calibration. Especially because at times the parts I print don't fit together properly.

Printing Models

I've printed some interesting things I found on sites like Thingiverse like fidget cubes and jewelry boxes, but I seem to always have issues when it comes to print-in-place models. That is, models/objects that are printed already assembled. With these models, at least in my case, the hinges and joints are too fused together and break a part as opposed to lossening.

Depending on the slicer software used, there may be an option to _ignore small gaps_, which does exactly what it says, so hinges aren't completely fused together. I thought I found a solution in the Prusa Slicer's printer profile I used but it didn't quite do the trick. Although I may have gotten a bit closer with when I modified the z-index as well. Might have to reach out to support again.

Designing Models

My front-end design skills can always use improving if we're being honest. As such, I thought designing models would be just as daunting but it's actually quite enjoyable. I'm using Blender at the moment and the learning curve was a bit high at first because it gives me everything as if I know what I'm doing but I faked it 'till I made it, literally, and came out with a print ready model- almost!

My first model was a simple six sided diamond, similar to the diamond on Sim characters only it was hollowed out with the faces removed so only the edges and virtices were left. This didn't quite work because I didn't implement support shafts but I went back to clean the files and that seemed to do the trick.

The second print from scratch was just an infinity symbol so it was much easier to create.

I planned on trying my luck with OpenSCAD but once things started clicking in blender I kept running with it. I still plan to give it a try though, if only to expirement with OpenSCAD's syntax.

Failed Prints + Scraps

It could be to curb my OCD but I've been sorting failed prints and scraps by material and color hoping to eventually recycle and reuse the material for something else. There are several machines, some DIY and some purchased, that take broken down scrap and spit out filament ready for spooling but I would want to build my own of course so that's going to be a 2020 project at some point so I don't feel so wasteful.

Conclusion

There are still some kinks I'm trying to correct with printing print-in-place models and designing models from scratch was more enjoyable than I expected. Although impulsive, I'm glad I invested in a printer and I'm looking forward to the possibilities with it. I planning on printing a new robot chasis as well, along with other parts, once I'm a bit more comfortable with blender.

Brian Ngobidi

Hi! I'm Brian Ngobidi, a technology consultant and security researcher based in New York. Thanks for reading!