Tips How To Improve 3D Printing

05/04/2023

Introduction

3D PRINTING, also known as additive manufacturing, has revolutionised various industries by enabling the creation of complex and customised objects with ease. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced user of 3D printers, there are always ways to improve the quality and efficiency of your prints. In this article, we will explore the best tips on how to improve 3D printing to achieve excellent results.

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Choose the Right Printer and Material

The first step in improving your 3D printing is to choose the right printer and material for your project. There are many different types of 3D printers available, such as Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), Stereolithography (SLA), and Digital Light Processing (DLP), each with its own advantages and limitations. Research and select a printer that meets your requirements in terms of print size, resolution, and material compatibility. Similarly, choose the right material for your project based on its properties, such as strength, flexibility, and temperature resistance, to ensure optimal print quality.

Calibrate Your Printer

Calibrating your 3D printer is crucial to achieving accurate and consistent prints. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for calibrating your printer, which may include levelling the bed, setting the nozzle height, and calibrating the extruder steps. Proper calibration ensures that the print head moves precisely and deposits the right amount of material at the right locations, resulting in better print quality and reduced print failures.

Use High-Quality Filament

The quality of the filament used in 3D printing significantly affects the final print result. Choose high-quality filament from reputable manufacturers to ensure consistent filament diameter, minimal impurities, and optimal material properties. Inferior filament may result in uneven extrusion, clogged nozzles, and poor adhesion, leading to failed prints.

Optimise Print Settings

Experimenting with various print settings is essential to achieve the best results. Adjust parameters such as layer height, print speed, temperature, and infill density based on the requirements of your print. Smaller layer heights generally result in smoother and more detailed prints, while higher print speeds can reduce print time but may compromise quality. Optimising print settings can help you achieve the desired balance between print quality and speed.

Pay Attention to Cooling

Proper cooling is crucial for 3D printing, especially for prints with overhangs, bridges, and intricate geometries. Insufficient cooling can result in sagging, warping, and poor surface finish. Ensure that your printer’s cooling fan is functioning properly and positioned correctly to provide adequate cooling for the print. You can also experiment with different cooling settings, such as fan speed and layer fan, to optimise cooling for your specific print.

Ensure Proper Bed Adhesion

Proper bed adhesion is essential to prevent prints from detaching from the print bed during printing, which can result in failed prints. Clean the print bed thoroughly and use appropriate bed adhesion techniques, such as applying a thin layer of adhesive, using a heated bed, or using a printing surface, such as a PEI sheet or a glass plate. Experiment with different bed adhesion methods to find the one that works best for your printer and material.

Use Supports Judiciously

Supports are structures used to provide stability and prevent overhangs from sagging during printing. However, excessive use of supports can result in a rough surface finish and leave marks on the print. Use supports judiciously, only where necessary, and try to design your models with minimal overhangs to reduce the need for supports. You can also experiment with different types of supports, such as tree-like supports or breakaway supports, to minimise their impact on the print quality.

Post-Processing Techniques

Post-processing

It is an important step in improving the aesthetics and functionality of your 3D prints. There are several post-processing techniques that you can employ to achieve better results.

Sanding and Polishing: Sanding and polishing can help you achieve a smoother surface finish on your prints. Use sandpaper or sanding blocks to gently sand the printed object, starting with a coarse grit and gradually moving to a finer grit for a smoother finish. You can also use polishing compounds or abrasive pastes to further polish the surface to a glossy finish.

Painting: Painting your 3D prints can add a professional touch and enhance their appearance. Use primer to prepare the surface of the print for painting, and then apply paint in thin, even layers for the best results. You can also use techniques such as airbrushing or hand painting to achieve different effects and create custom finishes.

Chemical Smoothing: Some materials, such as ABS, can be smoothed using chemical smoothing techniques. Acetone vapour smoothing is a common method used for ABS prints, where the print is exposed to acetone vapour to smooth out the surface. Be sure to follow proper safety precautions and manufacturer’s instructions when using chemical smoothing techniques.

Assembly and Joining: If your print consists of multiple parts, proper assembly and joining techniques can greatly improve the overall strength and functionality of the printed object. Use appropriate adhesives or fasteners, such as screws or bolts, to securely assemble the parts together. Be mindful of alignment and fitment to ensure that the final assembly is precise and functional.

Practise Good Print Maintenance

Regular maintenance of your 3D printer is essential for optimal performance and print quality. Keep your printer clean by regularly removing dust, debris, and filament residue from the print head, bed, and other components. Lubricate moving parts, such as rods and belts, as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Check and replace worn-out or damaged parts, such as nozzles or belts, to ensure smooth and accurate printing. Following a good maintenance routine can help prevent issues such as misalignments, jams, and print failures.

Learn from Failures

Don’t be discouraged by failed prints; instead, learn from them. Analyse the reasons behind the failure, such as improper settings, poor bed adhesion, or inadequate cooling, and make the necessary adjustments in your print settings or techniques. Keep a log of your print settings and results, and use this data to identify patterns and optimise your prints. Learning from failures and making iterative improvements is an important part of mastering the art of 3D printing.

Experiment with Advanced Techniques

Once you have gained experience with basic 3D printing techniques, you can start exploring advanced techniques to further improve your prints. For example, you can experiment with different infill patterns to optimise strength and material usage, or try multi-material printing to create more complex and functional objects. You can also learn CAD (Computer-Aided Design) to design your own models, allowing you to have full control over the geometry and functionality of your prints.

Seek Community Support

The 3D printing community is a vast and knowledgeable network of enthusiasts, hobbyists, and professionals who are always willing to share their experiences and insights. Join online forums, social media groups, or local meetups to connect with fellow 3D printing enthusiasts and seek their support. You can learn from their experiences, get advice on troubleshooting, and stay updated with the latest trends and techniques in the 3D printing world.

Conclusion

Improving 3D printing requires a combination of selecting the right printer and material, calibrating the printer, optimising print settings, ensuring proper bed adhesion, using supports judiciously, employing post-processing techniques, practising good print maintenance, learning from failures.

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