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Library Technology – Reviews, Tips, Giveaways, Freeware

How To Use 3D Printers

Posted In Technology Reviews, Products Review - By Techtiplib on Saturday, February 23rd, 2013 With 1 Comment

3D modeling isn’t just for engineers toiling endlessly on CAD programs anymore. New tools built with ordinary people in mind make it possible to design whatever parts or prototypes you can imagine, and bring them to life with the power of 3D printing.

More importantly, these tools have found real, practical roles. Some, like traditional CAD programs, help people visualize objects in three dimensions.

Now it’s one thing to make a model look good on the screen, but quite another to make a model that looks good and actually works in real life. The process of modeling for 3D printing is much the same as 3D modeling anything else, but with a few specific requirements.

The following are a few tips on how to use 3D printers.

1. Solid foundation

An unleveled build platform will cause many headaches during a print. Monitor this situation closely.

You can quickly check the platform by doing the paper test. Use a single sheet of paper to judge the height, then move it to all four corners and the center with the paper between the platform and the extruder.

2. Cleaning

Regularly clean your build platform with rubbing alcohol. The oil from your hands will not allow the object you’re printing to stick to the build platform.

For a heated platform, Kapton tape is best covering the platform because it can withstand the heating and cooling of the platform better than painter’s tape.

3. Set-up

When you are printing an object for the first time, do it on the lowest quality setting of the printer. Know the plastic with which you are printing.

The two most popular types are ABS and PLA. Each plastic has its own characteristics, like melting temperature and extruding speed. Make sure your printer’s profile is right for the plastic you are using.

4. Triangulate the mesh

Gcode generators need all polygons to be triangulated before slicing and creating the gcode for your print. Although Skeinforge and Slic3r will happily triangulate the model for you, you can save some time if you do it before you export- especially if you use the gcode generation multiple times- for creating hollow, filled, low and high quality versions of your model.

5. Check the Vertex Normals

Vertex Normals define the way your model is built, which faces are facing outwards, what is the front and back of the surface. In order to print a solid model, the gcode generator needs to know which side of the surface is the outside surface and which side is the inside for filling.

6. Base surface

In order to create a high quality printed model, it needs to lie flat on the print surface. If the bottom layer is not completely flat, extra fluff support will be necessary to print subsequent layers, and the model might detach from the surface during printing.

The easiest way to achieve a flat base surface is to highlight all vertices at the bottom of your model, switch over to Discreet Scale mode and scale down on the Y axis to zero:

7. No holes

Surface holes can appear as a side effect of merging separate objects, or doing complex operations that add/remove vertices. In order to slice the model into layers and define what needs to be filled and where the inner and outer contours are.

It mustn’t contain any surface holes. If it does, the gcode generator can produce unexpected results.

Before you export your model, run a final check and make sure that there are no holes in the polygon structure. Mesh>Fill Hole will automatically create all missing polygon faces for you.

8. Avoid overhanging

Ideally the best design is where you don’t have to use any fluff support to print your object. Design your model with the capabilities of your 3D printers in mind.

Try designing/modifying/positioning your 3d model in a way that it can be printed without external fluff support.

Printing with the use of 3D printers can be a daunting task but once mastered, prove extremely beneficial to your small business endeavors. Keep these tips in mind when beginning to explore the capabilities of this new technology yourself.

Author Bio:

Yo Noguchi is an experienced freelancer, guest blogger, and frequent contributor to a blog hosted by Benchmark Email, one of the world’s global provider of event marketing services.

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