The Largest and Strangest Thing I’ve Ever 3D Printed

by Jason King on August 29, 2014

Jase KeyringsSince receiving colorFabbs stunning array of filament samples a few weeks ago I’ve been printing all sorts of colorful stuff.

Again, the demand for keyrings from friends and family is still strong, so I’ve been designing and printing lot of those in various colors.

I decided it was time I created myself one so I designed a ‘Jase’ keyring and printed it using woodFill. It’s quite small so I’ve since printed it in most of the colors of the rainbow too.

This made me think, I should really make some keyrings to give away to people, kind of like a business card. So I designed (Using Tinkercad) and made a few prototypes, before finding a design I was happy with. I’m just printing some now in light blue, but I’ll use some other colors too if they turn out ok.

An Improved bronzeFill Ring

As well as trying out some of the new colorful plastics I decided to have another attempt at designing, printing, sanding and polishing a bronzeFill ring.

bronzeFill RingThis is partly because the last one I made was very small, hollow and not very strong.

This was demonstrated when I broke it within minutes of making it whilst cleaning the cooker. The main lesson I learned from this was… don’t clean the cooker.

Anyway, I designed a bigger, more substantial ring and printed a green prototype with 100% infill, basically solid to give it some weight and strength.

The prototype looked good and fitted great so I committed to printing one in high resolution (0.1 mm layer height) in solid bronzeFill.

It printed really well and after a little sanding and polishing looked pretty good. It was surprisingly smooth after sanding, with no visible layers lines, just a perfect curved surface.

I polished it a number of times until you could really see the bronze shine. It was still a little dull and I didn’t manage to polish it up well, but I still really like it. Unfortunately my photography really doesn’t do it justice.

As an aside, my photography skills (or lack of) is something I really need to improve on for this blog, so I can demonstrate the true beauty of some of the things this Replicator 2 churns out.

A Fully Assembled Adjustable Wrench

If you’ve never seen ZCorp’s 3D Printed Wrench YouTube Video you should watch it now because it’s a classic. It’s one of the best demonstrations of what 3D printing can achieve.

3D Printed WrenchWell, while I was browsing Thingiverse recently I stumbled upon the download for a fully assembled wrench. Wow, I had to give this a try, even though I knew it was unlikely to be a success.

The reason I say that is because this design is very well suited to Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) machines.

In these machines the small gaps between the moving parts will be filled with unsintered powder, which supports the sintered powder above and can easily be cleaned out after printing.

With Thermoplastic Extrusion printers like the MakerBots (and most other desktop 3D printers) this isn’t the case, so the separate moving parts tend to fuse together. This happened to my first few attempts at Emmets Gear Bearing but tweaking the tolerance in the customizable design helped solve this.

Well, my first attempt failed because I used supports and rafts. The raft worked well but the supports didn’t. MakerWare added supports internally to all of the small gaps I’ve just been talking about, which basically fused the whole thing together.

Attempt number two without supports was slightly better but the parts were still fused. So, I’m not sure whether to persist with this because if I succeed it’ll be an amazing print. I fear that I might be wasting my time trying though, until I can afford to buy myself an SLS machine. What do you think I should do, persist with the wrench or move on to something else?

The Largest, Coolest, Strangest Thing

After my recent issues with not being able to print large objects without extruder jams I was feeling brave again. You may remember my Failed Celtic Skull Attempt from a while back. This is a 3.5 inch high (approx) 5.5 hour print, even if printed quickly in low resolution (0.3mm layer height).

Celtic Skull with Rafts SupportsAs much as I love designing and printing little keyrings for people it was time I attempted something bigger.

So, out came the Celtic Skull Design again. I decided to print it fairly low resolution because it has more chance of being successful if it prints quicker.

Also I started at about 7pm so anything other than low resolution would take me well into the early hours of the morning.

I printed it with full supports and rafts as there are some overhangs which needed supporting and the bottom wasn’t flat so a raft should hold it securely onto the build plate.

One thing I noticed is that the filament I was using kept becoming tangled every 5 minutes or so which meant that this thing needed almost constant supervision.

3D Printed Celtic SkullI’ve since discovered that because I hadn’t secured the end of the filament after every time I’ve used and unloaded it, the end seems to have gone though one of the other loops and created a loose knot.

It seems to tighten then suddenly free itself, over and over again while printing, but I was taking no chances. I manually loosened it throughout the print because I really wanted this to work.

Well, by about 12:30am the print finally finished and it looked great, even with the supports and raft still in place. I decided to wait until the next day before removing them and cleaning it up because I needed some sleep.

Just before the end of the print I did remember to film it, so I’ve added two videos to my 3D Print HQ YouTube Channel which you may want to check out…

As you can see from the second video it cleaned up really well and I have to say I think it looks great. I’d love to print it in white or maybe even clear with an LED inside to light it up, especially with Halloween approaching. I only used green because I have quite a lot of this color left.

The Celtic Skull is by far the largest thing I’ve printed and when I show it to people they love it. I’d like to print one for everyone but at 5.5 hours per print it’s not at all practical. I guess I could scale it right down and print a few more out.

More than anything this print has given me the confidence to download/design some much bigger stuff to print. I also think I’ve managed to untangle the filament so hopefully my future large prints won’t need constant supervision.

A Few Last Words

3DPrintHQ Keyring DesignsOne last thing I noticed this week is that I’ve been having a few problems levelling the build plate. It turns out that my build plate itself (the standard Acrylic one) isn’t even flat any more.

It’s significantly lower in the corners than in the middle making it impossible to level it properly.

I’ve known all along that most printer manufacturers scrimp on the build plate to keep costs down, as a decent build plate made of glass or slate for example can cost a lot of money.

This was always going to be one of the first printer upgrades I made and that day is now here. So I’ll be upgrading to a glass build plate before long and I’ll report back how it goes.

Quickly before I go, after a few prototype keyring designs I’ve decided on one I like. So here’s a quick picture of a few prototypes, with the final one in blue.

Thanks for reading and as ever, feel free to Like, Share and Comment. Also you should download our FREE Beginners Guide to 3D Printing at Home eBook if this has inspired you to take the plunge and have a go at 3D printing for yourself.

Until next time, happy 3D printing.

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