Arvos

Code Bits, Projects, & Tech Thoughts

Current 3D Printer Setup

Current 3D Printer Setup

All the hideous details you've never wanted about my print setup.

Printers

MonoPrice Select Mini

Here printing slavikk's Low Poly Skull.

My current printer is the Monoprice Select Mini. I bought the Mini as a second printer when my Prusa i3 started acting up. I wanted something that required little out of the box adjustment, and to be a workhorse for detailed or high tolerance parts, and the Mini absolutely delivers. It came almost perfectly aligned, with only a fine bed leveling needed. I've been printing virtually 24/7 since I bought the printer and I've yet to have a failed print for any (mechanical) reason. I replaced the original bed tape with blue painters tape, acetone washed and buffed it with a kitchen scrubber (my normal procedure across printers), and everything has stuck perfectly.

I've heard from other owners of the Mini that sometimes frame alignments are a bit off, or parts are missing. Maybe I was lucky, but my printer seemed to come with none of the commonly reported issues: My bed came level, no body adjustment for machine level had to be done, the hotend extruded well, my machine included the PTFE insert between the push fitting and the heatbreak (apparently a common omission), and the PID settings that seem to cause issues with poor temperature adjustment were already set correctly. It's possibly MP have been taking feedback from customers and shipping their current units with updates.

There's a pretty extensive community at the MP Select Mini Owners Facebook Group, including a complete Google docs resource with firmware, settings, and troubleshooting guides.

I'd recommend this printer to beginners and experienced hobbyists alike. If you can handle the smaller printable area (only 120x120mm), the out of the box quality and consistency far exceed what you'd find in other printers in the $200 (or even $500) range.

Specs:

  • MonoPrice Select Mini 3D Printer
  • 3mm Steel frame
  • Injection Molded ABS components
  • Single Extruder 1.75mm filament, 0.4mm, to 250C
  • Heated bed to 60C (stably or 80C for short periods)
  • Printable Area 120mm x 120mm x 120mm
  • Layer resolution 200 microns
  • Prints ABS, PLA, PETG

Replikeo Prusa i3 Rework

My oldest printer is a Prusa i3 Rework, from Replikeo. I bought this model beacause at the time (Late 2014) it was extremely cheap, and the i3 Rework addressed some of the issues with the original Prusa i3. If I had to buy this style printer today I'd buy an Original Prusa i3 MK2. I bought the kit to save a few dollars on assembly, and because I'm technical-minded. With a combination of the included instructions, the liked YouTube video instructions, and the RepRapWiki Prusa i3 instructions I was able get the machine assembled and tuned in about 6 hours. It's not the most wonderful printer, and it has some issues, but it's good enough for rapid prototyping and the occasional finished part.

Specs:

  • Replieko Prusa i3 Rework
  • 3mm Steel frame
  • Injection Molded ABS components
  • Single Extruder 1.75mm filament, 0.4mm, to 240C
  • Heated bed to 95C (stably or 115C for short periods)
  • Printable Area 200mm x 200mm x 175mm
  • Layer resolution 200 microns
  • Prints ABS, PLA, PETG

Filament

Because my MP Select Mini has a hotend temperature limit of 250C (the Prusa has a limit of 240C), and my print area is not enclosed, I'm limited to the selection of "low-tech" plastics. Specifically, I can print most ABS, PLA, and PETG as well as some of the specialty plastics such as TPE/TPU, or embedded-material PLA or ABS.

PETG

For just about everything I print my plastic of choice is PETG. Its semi-flexible composition, high strength, low shrinkage (so it doesn't warp), and excellent surface finish all make it a pleasure to print with. I did have to spend a few prints dialing in the correct temperature, speed, and retraction settings, but this is true when switching to any new filament. After figuring out my printer's PETG sweet spot I've not had any issues with the material.

ABS

For prints that really need to hold up I'll break out some ABS. The bed on the Prusa is exposed and moving, so to get decent prints without layer separation or warping I need to coat the printbed with liquid ABS to get any sort of platform adhesion. Then, to reduce the temperature differential between the ABS at glass temperature and the print body I lower my extruder temperature and raise the bed temperature a few degrees from recommended settings. I'll also place MDF walls and a roof around the printer to keep the ambient temperature up, and reduce stress on the cooling print. Because it's a pain I reserve this process to parts that are going to be subjected to high mechanical stress, high heat, and need to be more rigid than PETG can provide - for example, 3d printer components or quadcopter parts.

PLA

For prints that need extremely fine detail I'll use PLA. PLA has a lower glass transition temperature than either PETG or ABS, and a lower melting point. This makes it easier to cool for overhangs, and the low shrinkage means parts are much less likely to warp than ABS. I don't often print decorative pieces, but if I do they're PLA.

Others

I haven't had much experience with "high-tech" filaments like Nylon or Polycarbonate. I hear there's wonders to behold and I'd be a fool not to try them out, but I'm too cheap to build a machine for them... For now at least.


Software

Autodesk - Fusion 360 I've been using Autodesk products of one flavour or another since 2008, so Fusion 360 is a natural choice for me. I do most of my prototyping on paper and when I'm ready to model Fusion is quick and powerful.

OpenSCAD For parametric parts it's hard to beat OpenSCAD. Modelling is done in a language that's syntactically similar to C, so it was easy for me to pick up. The beauty of OpenSCAD is that models can be composed of reusable functional components, and parameters can be adjusted on the fly. This makes distributing parametric parts (users can readjust your models to suit their purposes) elegantly simple. As such, .scad is the default format for parametric models on Thingiverse.

Ultimaker - Cura To make 3D modeled part ready to print, it first must be "sliced" into G-Code, so that the printer can be fed instructions to build the part layer by layer. Ultimaker's Cura has been the most reliably slicing software I've found for my purposes. There are more advanced free and paid software options than Cura, but because it's easy to use, easy to customize your machine and print settings, and has an intuitive graphical interface I tend to use it for most of my prints.

Printrun Once the model has been sliced into G-Code it needs to be fed to the printer over a serial connection. This can be done over an SD card with standard printer modules, but my printer did not ship with a display and I've been too lazy to install one. Therefore I required a dedicated print computer. If I'm rapidly prototyping parts I prefer to connect the printer to my computer, so I can monitor the print while I tweak the design. To do this I use Printrun, for no other reason than it was recommended by Replikeo's instructions and I've been happy so far. Printrun has some nice features, like live printhead preview and a G-Code terminal.

OctoPrint If I'm running a long print or want to turn off my computer, then I'll hook my printer up to my OctoPi. OctoPrint is a Raspberry Pi image that provides a web interface for a 3D printer. This allows me to upload .gcode files and run prints while I'm out of the house, while monitoring the print over a webcam or creating time lapse videos of the print, both features that are built into OctoPrint.


Resources

Thingiverse
Thingiverse has one of the most diverse and involved collection of 3D Printing enthusiasts I've found. It's a hub for sharing 3D models (mostly .stl and .scad files). The website features the Customizer tool, which allows online customization of parametric .scad files, and online creation of sliceable .stl models. This is where I get the prints I haven't designed, and where I upload my designs.

Github
Github is a version control system, and a hub for software creators and makers. Among millions of other software creators, many makers of CNC firmware, 3D printer, 3D printing software host their code on Github. It helps facilitate collaboration on open source projects, and it's where I upload much of my project code.