MakerBot Upgrades, Dry Brushing and Print the Legend

by Jason King on October 9, 2014

Dry Brushed iPad StandA few times now I’ve mentioned upgrades for my Replicator 2.

My plan was always to upgrade from the standard acrylic build plate (which is often not flat even from new) to a glass one.

Another slight design flaw of the Replicator 2 and many other similar printers is that the filament spool sits at the back of the printer.

There are a number of issues with this. You cannot access the filament easily, you cannot see the filament to spot tangles etc, the filament is pulled upwards against gravity and it’s then fed though a tube which creates unnecessary friction.

The additional friction can contribute to problems if extrusion slowing or stopping altogether, because it puts additional strain on the poor stepper motor which is tugging at the filament to feed it into the hot end.

To cut a long story short, the filament is much better if it’s held above the printer and all of the design flaws just mentioned are solved with an overhead spool holder.

Overhead Spool HolderYou can buy overhead spool holders but they are quite expensive considering how easy they are to make.

Check out my little prototype, made with an old broom attached to a little table using duck tape. Looks messy but it works a treat for now.

As for the build plate, yes you can grab yourself some plate glass and make your own but I decided to buy one of these. I ordered a Performance 3-d Glass Build Plate from America last week.

It’s currently sat at the local Post Office waiting for me to pick it up and hand over another £12 for customs fees.

I’ll do this in the week when they re-open and report back what I think of it. A decent flat build plate is always an improvement though if you want a really good first few layers and a clean good quality print.

Dry Brush Highlighting

One of the problems I have with FDM printers is that besides a few specialised plastics like colorFabbs woodFill, bronzeFill or XT the things we create all too often look like cheap plastic trinkets.

Creating a different finish has always been something I’ve been interested in. Using Copper Spray Paint was one of the first things I tried and the results were pretty good. I also tried copper plating but figured this would be too expensive and trick to make it feasible.

Something I heard about recently though is called ‘dry brush highlighting’. This is particularly good if you have a print which has lots of surface detail which you’d really like to show off, like the Celtic Skulls I’ve been printing recently.

Dry Brushed Celtic Skull

Dry brush highlighting involves using guilders paste, which I bought recently from Amazon, a paint thinner and a stiff bristled brush.

You start by dipping the brush into a little thinner then brushing the guilders paste to get a little paste on the brush. Brush some old card or paper to remove most of the paste so only a little remains on the brush.

Take something you’ve 3D printed which has lots of surface detail and gently brush on the guilders paste to highlight the surface details of the print.

With the few test prints I’ve done I’ve had amazing results. Have a little practice on some old failed prints, or an old raft you’ve kept before attempting a real print.

I eventually plucked up the courage to try this on a green Celtic Skull I printed a little while ago. I’m glad I did, because I used silver guilders paste and it now looks like the skull is made from machined aluminium, which has been painted green and then worn down on the surface with age.

The effect has far exceeded my expectations and I highly recommend using silver guilders paste for this on a dark coloured 3D print. It’s easy to get carried away though and to start dry brushing everything (watch out cat) because it’s so easy and works so well. Expect a lot more of this from me in the future.

One warning though, obviously be careful with the thinners as the fumes are quite toxic and it can damage stuff it comes into contact with. I currently use nail varnish remover because of it’s high content of acetone (melts ABS plastic but is ok on the PLA I use). Not sure if using nail varnish remove is a great idea but it’s only temporary and it works for me.

Also, please don’t do what I did and open the guilders paste, then turn it upside down to read the bottom. The whole lot has a tendency to drop out, as it did with me. Now my carpet is patina green and this stuff will not clean out.

Cover your work area before starting dry brushing, wear old clothes and accept that if you get this stuff on anything it is probably staying there and will not be easy to clean off.

A Higher Res, White T-Rex Skull

Since 3D printing a Purple T-Rex Skull a few weeks back I’ve had the intention of making a higher resolution skull (0.2mm layer height) and in white PLA. After my colorFabb white PLA arrived from Holland recently it was time to give this a go. I’ve had a few failed attempts so far and the bottom jaw always seems to fail on the last bit of the teeth.

3D Printed White T-Rex Skull

For some reason my MakerBot has a problem with printing small areas (like the last few teeth) and stops extruding. It can print for 6 hours with no problem, but the first sniff of a small area to print and it gives up.

Investigations and experiments are still ongoing, but I’m finding that the overhead filament spool has helped a little and printing at lower temperatures also helps.

Anyway, after pausing the printer just before the final few teeth and allowing the printer to cool completely for 40 minutes, it resumed and printed the teeth successfully.

There’s a visible line along the first layer after resuming that doesn’t look great but at least it worked and on balance I think the skull looks great.

I was tempted to dry brush it (in my quest to dry brush everything) but due to the lack of surface detail to highlight and the fact that a pure white skull looks more natural I accepted the fact that maybe this is one thing I shouldn’t dry brush.

Print the Legend and Teflon Time

Just a few things before I dash off. As my printer has now topped 100 hours of printing it was time for a little maintenance again. I detailed this after the 50 hour mark in This Blog Post but thought it was good to remind you again now.

It’s important to do this after every 50 hours of printing if you want your 3D printer working at it’s best. It just involves smearing a little teflon grease in the right places and isn’t difficult.

Last but not least, I read on Facebook the other day that there was a new NetFlix original documentary called ‘Print the Legend’ which is all about 3D printing.

I started watching this yesterday and it’s well worth a look. It’s mostly about how MakerBot and FormLabs started from nothing and built their companies to what they are today. There’s also mentions of 3D Systems and Stratasys as well as a whole load of other inspiring 3D printing related stuff.

That’s a good place to leave it for this week so I’m off now to watch the rest of ‘Print the Legend’, then maybe dry brush something at random.

Thanks for reading and as ever, please Like, Share and Comment. Also, if you want more FREE 3D printing information like this then feel free to Download our Beginners Guide to 3D Printing at Home eBook.

Happy 3D printing.

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