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First 3D printing experiments

Some prints turn out great, some fail completely and most aren't really practically useful ;-). The key "fix" above is the only print we've made so far that actually has a functional aspect to it. I have to admit, most of the prints are just for fun. But it's immensely satisfying to fix even a bloody mailbox key.

I bought an Anycubic Photon S LCD/SLA 3D printer about a year ago on Ali Express, primarily to experiment and to figure out the process. As they say, the journey is the reward. Since I just got the new company started a few weeks after I received the printer, it had to wait in its box for quite a while though. Just didn't had the time to really get into it.

Turns out, the printer itself was the smallest issue to solve. It's a cheap printer for sure but it's quite accurate and a decent build quality for the price. I mean, $400 bucks is not that much for a 3D printer of this kind. The print area is okay for figurines and small form factor prints and it's fairly quick. The print quality is very good, I was honestly quite surprised once the first prints were finished.

Things I learned along the way:

  • A decent slicer/support generator is half the rent. I tried a couple of open source programs but ended up buying a licence of the Formware slicer. It just felt more stable. I'm sure there's good open source software but I just got better results from Formware.
  • There's a good chance that you get about 30% or more failed prints when you're just starting to figure things out. There are a lot of variables and parameters to tweak.
  • Printing highly detailed figurines too small will make it almost impossible to get rid of supports. It's easy to break off an arm or a leg. And the surface finish will suffer if half of the object is enclosed by support structures.
  • In general, the most experimenting is probably happening with support creating and manual modification.
  • Cleaning the prints can get messy. I use a Pyrex glass oven bowl to clean the prints and a couple of stainless steel and glass buckets for the ethanol.
  • Basically everything you need including resin can be bought on Ali Express, far less expensive than the "professional" stuff. I got myself a large UV lamp, a solar powered rotor table and adhesive mirror foil tiles for a couple of dollars.
  • Put the thing in a well ventilated area. The resin smells bad, the odour is probably toxic. We built a chimney made of cardboard that encloses the printer. We put the printer on the ceramic stove right beneath the vent and let it run over night. Sucks all the fumes out of the flat. Only downside is that you can't cook while you print :-P
  • The small printing area puts serious limits on which practical things you can print. Most things like iPad stands or similar, actually useful objects can't be printed. Or they would have to be made into clippable parts but .. I prefer my parts to be solids. :P

It's great to have a 3D printer as an option to solve everyday problems. And there's plenty of figurines to print. But the size factor is a problem though. I'm looking into buying a Prusa or a large format LCD SLA printer, like Phrozen Transform or something similar. I have to say though, I'm a big fan of SLA. Somehow that just clicks more with me than FDM. Especially now that the low-end of the pricing spectrum of SLA printers is quite decent.

Published: 04/20/2020
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