colorFabb New FilamentsIf you’re wondering why things have been a little quiet here at 3D Print HQ over the last week or two it’s because I’ve been on vacation.

Well, when I say vacation it was a 192 mile, 12 day Coast to Coast Charity Walk across England. It was a great experience and I met people from all over the world.

Apparently it’s a very well known walk in the USA too and I met lots of Americans along the way. Well, I’m back now and I’ve had a busy week 3D printing again. I’ve been doing all sorts of exciting 3D printing related stuff this week and I know it’s about time I did one thing at a time, but I just can’t help trying out bits of everything.

You’ll see what I mean anyway, so here goes for a summary of what’s been going on at 3D Print HQ this week.

Emmets Gear Bearing Success!

Yes, you read it correctly. After so many attempts at printing this thing I finally printed Emmets Gear Bearing successfully. I kind of concluded a few weeks back that I was printing it too slowly and too hot so my extruder was becoming clogged with cooked PLA.

After lowering the temperature and printing quicker things improved but I wasn’t quite there. So, I made a last attempt at 0.4mm layer height and 0% infill, just to reduce the intricate details (infill printing) and to further speed up printing.

Well, it printed perfectly. As I promised many weeks ago, I was determined to succeed and when I did I said I’d put up a video of it on YouTube.

Maybe I went a step too far but I decided to attach it to an electric drill to really show what this gear bearing can do. Here’s the YouTube video: 3D Printed Emmets Gear Bearing Running on an Electric Drill Enjoy and don’t forget how much effort I put in to printing this thing, it wasn’t easy.

The Amazing New colorFabb Filaments

As exciting as it was to finally print Emmets Gear Bearing, the most notable event this week was receiving two sample packs of colorFabbs new filaments. Let me summarise what’s so cool about them:

  • woodFill – 70% PLA, 30% recycled wood
  • bronzeFill – 20% PLA, 80% real bronze
  • glowFill – Cream colored and glows in the dark
  • XT-Copolyester – FDA (food contact) approved, high strength, high temperature
  • PLA/PHA Colors – 10 glorious PLA/PHA color samples

Just from that short summary you’ll realise these are no ordinary filaments. The first one I tried was the woodFill and what immediately struck me about this is that it smells so much like burning wood when it prints.

3D Printing in woodFillThis isn’t a bad thing as I love the smell and it makes it feel so authentic. I printed a ring, then a nut and bolt and then a comb just to try it.

Although it seemed slightly more stringy than pure PLA when it printed it really does look, feel, smell and sand like wood.

I showed a few people and they were all convinced it was real wood. It does contain 30% real recycled wood so that’s not so surprising.

I’ll definitely be buying a full spool of this as it’s currently my favourite filament and I only have a bit of the sample left.

The next one I tried was the glowFill. Again it seemed a little stringy when printing (maybe I need to tweak my settings) but it really did glow in the dark… and glow well. I printed a little Swampy character but then made the mistake of charging it on a lamp I have. I didn’t realise it was touching the bulb and it melted it, but never mind, I love the stuff and will most probably buy a full spool of this too.

3D Printing in bronzeFillThe bronzeFill was the next to try. I only printed a small ring with this because I have less of this than any other filament. Due to the nature of the print I couldn’t yet say if it was a little stringy or not.

First impressions are that it initially just looks like brown PLA. However, it does require some work to expose and shine up the bronze. At 80% real bronze it has potential, it just requires a bit more work after printing.

I sanded it with light sand paper and it started to shine a little. After applying some Brasso pollish and buffing it up a few times it really started to shine.

Admittedly I’m no expert in this metal sanding/pollishing process so my efforts weren’t brilliant, but I have seen pictures of bronzFill after it’s been properly sanded and pollished and it looks great.

Another notable quality of bronzeFill is that it’s heavy, around 3 times the weight of pure PLA so it’s great for jewellery because it feels good quality and not just like lightweight tack.

3D Printed Dog TagsWould I buy a full spool? If I learn to sand/pollish it properly then definitely yes.

Just be careful though, as being three times the weight of pure PLA you won’t get as much as you might think if you buy it by the kilogram.

I’m still yet to try the XT-Copolyester and most of the colors, but the colors do look glorious and I did print a customised puppy dog tag using the pink.

While I was doing this I also printed a larger one (almost as big as the dog) using some RoboSavvy filament I already had. I think this will hang on her kennel.

123d Catch: 3D Models from Photos

Something else I tried this week but didn’t spend too much time on was 123d Catch. If you’ve never hear of it, it’s some free Stereophotogrammetry software from Autodesk which allows you to create 3D models and prints from photographs of an object.

One advantage of this over conventional 3D Scanners Like the iSense is that the resolution of the model is not limited by hardware, only the quality of the pictures.

For this reason software like this has been used to create some very high end high quality prints. Similar software has even been used on airborne drones to scan and print whole landscapes.

Wooden ElephantI started with a little wooden elephant with a broken ear, but my first attempt didn’t turn out too great. To be fair I had no real idea what I was doing and after a bit of further research I realise I did a few things wrong.

The object sides and edges, background and other reference points need to be easy to identify. Transparent and shiny objects don’t work well either.

There’s a lot to learn about this but rest assured I’ll be learning and doing this a lot more in the coming weeks. This technology is really exciting for the 3d printing enthusiast and I promise I’ll be experimenting and writing more about it soon.

Just like Emmets Gear Bearing I won’t give up until I can scan and print things just from photographs. Thinking about it I guess this is how those MIT students 3D Print High Security Keys from just a few photos. I did wonder exactly how when I originally published that article.

A Couple More Things

Nearly done now, but before I go I just wanted to add one more picture of some other stuff I printed this week (woodFill comb, woodFill ring, glowFill Swampy and custom Coast to Coast keyring) then mention a couple of other important things…

woodFill and glowFill from colorFabbAfter around 50 hours of printing (for MakerBots at least) it’s time to do a little maintenance on your 3D printer.

Basic maintenance on a MakerBot means smearing a little Teflon (PTFE) grease onto the Z-axis vertical threaded rod and the X-axis idler pulley.

Apparently the rods with linear bearings running along them don’t need greasing.

I believe this is because the bronze bushes are oil infused and self lubricating, but applying a little PTFE based grease on them too will do no harm.

The reason I mention this maintenance is that it’s very easy to forget and my MakerBot ran much smoother after doing it, so don’t forget to do it yourself. Obviously the process may differ slightly for different printers.

Finally, if you live in the UK, don’t forget it’s the 3D Print Show in London on the 4th to the 6th September 2014, so not long now. I’m planning to pop along myself so you never know I might see you there.

Thanks for reading and I’ll report back soon with my latest 3D printing related antics. Feel free to Like and Share this and don’t be scared to leave a Comment if you wish.


MakerBot Mini Wireless CameraIn my previous post from this 3D Printing Beginner Series I was still in the situation where some things (Emmets Gear Bearing in particular) just refused to print.

Larger curvier objects still seemed to print well, but small intricate details where extrusion speed slowed down usually resulted in extrusion stopping.

This week I feel much closer to solving this issue, after seeking some expert advice from Andy and Whitney from the 3D Printing Today Podcast.

Suspect MakerWare Setting Defaults

For starters, they told me that the default settings in MakerWare (the software shipped with the 3D MakerBot printers) are not good. 230 degrees for PLA is simply too hot in most cases.

This will result in heat creep, where the cool end of the extruder becomes too warm and pushing the PLA filament though the thermal barrier tube is like pushing string though a tube, it’s not going to happen and can only end in a jam occurring.

Copper 3D Printed CatsToo high a temperature can cook the PLA too. Remember PLA is organic (often made from corn starch or sugar cane) so in theory it can litterally cook, changing it’s state for ever and rendering it useless.

More experimentation shows that I have more successful intricate prints when printing from cold and the printer’s been off for a while.

I have still had a few really good prints this week, like my Cuddling Cats, which I sprayed with the new copper paint. I love this stuff by the way and can highly recommend it. Especially sprayed thin on green PLA, as ageing weathered copper turns a greeny blue over time anyway, so this looks awesome.

Anyway, I’ve had a few other failed prints too, such as the Celtic Skull which would have been my biggest print yet, with my biggest so far being the larger version of the cuddling cats.

Based on what I’ve learned I think that slow extrusion speeds when printing intricate parts causes heat creep, which in turn ends in a PLA jam in the extruder. Unloading and loading the filament again always clears the issue and I can print well again.

Another Failed PrintSo, as I speak I’m now printing my millionth (well it feels like it) gear bearing, with a lower temperature (210 degrees), higher layer height (0.3mm) and a faster extrusion speed (120mm/s).

What this all means is that I’m printing quite a bit cooler and speeding up the extrusion and the overall print time so hopefully the PLA is less likely to become soft in the cool end of the extruder and jam it.

Wish me luck, the print is half way though right now and looking good so far…

Mini Wireless Camera and a Desk Fan

For my birthday last year my girlfriend brought me a mini wireless camera for use in bird nesting boxes. Well, as the birds have refused to nest in my garden, until this year when it was too late to fit it, I have used it as a Cat Cam in the garden and a Mouse Cam in the garage.

3D Printer Camera ViewWell, now it’s been promoted to a MakerBot Cam, as you can see from the images (look in the top left of my MakerBot pic).

It’s pretty useful, because now I can keep an eye on the printer from my living room. It also has sound so I can listen for the dreaded extruder stepper motor click, meaning we have a filament blockage. If nothing else, I can simply see when the print is finished.

You can buy these cameras from various places but mine was from I’m not affiliated with these in any way, but I believe if you use Welcome as promo code you can still get 10% off.

Another piece of equipment I tried this week was a desk fan, to try to cool the Replicator 2 a little in this hot UK weather we’re seeing at the moment. That didn’t really work, so my cat has now adopted that to keep her cool instead. Well I did steal her camera :)

Custom iPhone 4S CaseOne other notable success this week (besides designing and printing more key rings for people with their names on) is a customised iPhone 4S Case for my friends wife.

He asked me if I’d try it so I used the plain case I downloaded from MakerBots Thingiverse, dragged it into Tinkercad and cut out three letters for her name. Luckily it’s a very short Chinese name so this was easy.

The first attempt failed because I didn’t level the build plate beforehand so it warped a little at one end. After a quick levelling of the build plate it worked great and they were very happy with it.

Finally, I just popped into the office (I’m writing this outside in the sun) to check on the gear bearing print and it very nearly printed! It stopped extruding for a few layers in the middle then carried on printing the rest, so hasn’t quite made it, but it’s given me confidence that I might be along the right lines with the “extrusion speed/heat creep” theory.

I’ll let it cool and then try an even thicker layer height and even faster speed. The finish won’t be such high quality but at least it might work. I’ll also search online for a cool end fan upgrade as this might help a lot.

Thanks for reading and as ever, please share this article then download your FREE eBook: Beginners Guide to 3D Printing at Home

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