With 2017 close at hand, could be that it’s time to make a New Year’s resolution to clean up your 3D printing act.
If your printer makes supports that dissolve in a chemical bath, Capinc University, the education and training part of Stratasys commercial and educational reseller Capinc (Peabody, MA), offers some helpful information for DIY regular maintenance that can be used even if things go wrong.
Dave Belanger, senior 3D printing applications engineer at Capinc, says nine times out of 10 if a client is having a problem with his cleaning station it’s because the unit needs user maintenance.
“You would be surprised,” he said. “It’s the last stage of the process, and once you’re done printing you’re on your way to putting your prototype together or to a meeting with the part” and you forgo routine maintenance.
Capinc supplied images of a PM Technologies (Osseo, MN) unit whose pump and heater weren’t working. A quick look helps diagnose the problem – the cleaning station pump sucked in some filament, causing a clog:
To fix the problem, Capinc loosened two bolts to remove the protective shield for the drain, water spouts and heater.
“This is where most problems start,” said Belanger. “It can be avoided by doing this preventive maintenance every time you use your cleaner.”
After clearing out the drain obstructions, he said to access the cleaning station pump, which is located on the underside of the tank. Remove the two hoses connected to it, and take off the cover.
The above image shows the No. 1 reason why people believe their pump is failing. Depending on the size or amount of filament that got caught in the pump, it can cause all kinds of noise, or slow down the pump flow even to the point of stopping the device. To fix the problem, remove the O-ring, wash out the cover to remove the filament, and dry everything with a rag.
The last step is to check the pump itself. Remove the screw holding the circulation fan in place, and pull the fan and the housing right out of its chamber. Check inside for any further filament that may have been pulled in. If not, or once you’ve removed the troublesome bits, put everything back together.
Capinc U posts lots of other helpful information that can be accessed on its website.
If you do enough 3D printing to have stray filament clogging up your cleaner, you may also be interested in some of the post-processing tips from the blogosphere for buffing up your prints beyond removing rafts and supports.
When setting up or adding to your post-processing toolkit, you’ll be borrowing tools and tips from jewelers, model makers, wood workers, and even bakers. Here are some of the tips (I used names of websites or blogs that looked particularly helpful or that have lots of activity, do you could explore them further.):
- Clip off the small nubs left behind after manually removing supports using a micro-shear flush cutter. Used by model makers, flush cutters are designed to leave as flat a cut as possible, and they’re safer than using a craft knife for the same job.
- For those who prefer a craft knife, heating it before use makes for better results, according to one poster. Another tipster recommended a craft knife with its own heating element.
- Printers might take a cue from bakers and use an offset putty knife to remove your object from the print bed because it offers better clearance.
- Speaking of putty knives, a commenter on 3D Hubs says he sharpened the edge of his tool for better performance. He also recommended using WD-40 and a rag after post-processing to restore color to a print.
- The bloggers at the Matterhackers 3D printing store in Foothill Ranch, CA, recommend using a glue stick for print bed adhesion, pointing out that it can be applied more precisely than hairspray and is easier to remove.
- If you’re using a glass build plate with the glue stick recommended by Matterhackers, 3D printing company Fictiv (San Francisco) advises putting the plate in a freezer for 15-20 minutes to make a PLA print pop right off.
- Commenters on an Ultimaker blog post recommend using wet sandpaper for sanding because it keeps plastic cool; quickly running the sanded part through a lighter’s flame to rectify “white-ish” spots; and using a drop of baby oil to restore luster to filed or sanded parts.
- One commenter on Reddit says he uses a thin flathead screwdriver as a mini chisel.
Capinc’s advice about DIY maintenance may help save you money and downtime, and the bloggers’ tips might help you produce better-looking prints, all laudable goals for 2017.