Printing Tips

I've been using 3D printers for a few years now. I've collected several tricks and tips over the years that I'll share with you here.

Managing workflow

I've found over the years that grouping "like jobs" tends to make the flow go more smoothly. If I'm printing a lot of projects (or the students for that matter), I tend to assess them and leave the more complex, difficult, or "likely to fail" jobs until the end. This way I get the bulk of the jobs done and out of the way. Another method I use is to assign one printer (if you have more than one) for the more complex jobs and use the other(s) for the bulk of the work.

Printing "en masse"

When printing a project where many students have created similar objects, I try to put as many as practical on to the build plate at once. This speeds up printing as you're not starting and stopping jobs. Every time you have to load a job and remove print jobs from the build plate, it slows things down. Printing many things at once helps to cut down on this. In the example below I have printed several bubble wands created by my 3rd graders by arranging them such that I can get many on the build plate at once.

Enhancing your filament spool

Changing filament takes time. Time you could be printing. Poor access to the filament spool is the number one time waster when changing filament. Consider upgrading your filament spool holder so that you can accompany large spools of filament and also be able to access them more readily then the need arises. Early in my 3D printing career, I developed a spool holder to move the filament from the rear of the Makerbot Replicator 2 to the front. This made changing filament much faster as I didn't have to pull out the printer and reach behind it to change the filament.

I have several Makerbot Replicator 2 upgrades and videos HERE. Download them and print them to make your printer work better for YOU.

On the Flashforge Finder's I have adopted another design which gets the filament out of the cartridge and onto the side of the printer where I can use larger spools and change them more quickly.

You can find the Flashforge Finder Spool holder(s) HERE. Download, print, and free up your filament! I have also created a modified version of the bottom half of the spool holder above that may be helpful if you have issues with your spools falling off. You can get that HERE

Storing filament

In order to avoid constantly running out of 3D printer filament (most commonly PLA), you'll need to have some in stock. You may also need to store it when you move from one color to another. PLA is susceptible to prolonged exposure to moisture and heat. It is recommended that you store filament in a cool dry area whenever possible. One thing that I've found helps is storing filament in Ziploc Freezer Bags (gallon size) with a couple silica gel dessicant packets. I also have printed an adapter for my vacuum cleaner to help suck out the air and "vacuum pack" my filament whenever possible.

Choosing filament

There are many different types of filament. The most common type of filament for school 3D printing projects is PLA. You'll normally need 1.75mm PLA in the 1kg spool. Over the past couple of years, I've found 2 particular brands of PLA that I can honestly recommend. They're listed below:

NOTE: "Printer brand" filament can be expensive. These brands are just as good, if not better, for half the price.

Tools of the Trade

There are many tools you should have on hand to make your 3D printing easier. Tools to get the prints off the build plate. Tools to adjust and fix the printer. Tools to remove supports from the prints....and more.

Tools I recommend:

  • thin spatula/palette knife kit (See it on Amazon)
  • Exacto knife (See it on Amazon)
  • and plenty of spare blades (See it on Amazon)
  • PFTE grease (See it on Amazon) *needed to lube your printer
  • Putty knife
  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Scissors (for cutting filament and tape)
  • (optional) Electric Guitar String "E" (for helping to clear nozzle clogs)

These images show my tools scattered around and in easy reach of my 3D printers. You may notice the magnets. These magnets were taken out of old iPad covers from a previous generation of MLTI devices. If you have some, they make great magnets to allow you to stick your tools within easy reach. Just cut and peel the backing of the iPad case and take out the magnet panel.