3D printing creates physical objects from computer-created 3d designs (not photos or other 2 dimensional objects). All of the printers at the Xavier Library Makerspace are fused filament printers, sometimes called extrusion printers. These types of printers interpret computer code and build objects layer by layer using melted plastic. Check out this great 3D glossary to learn all the lingo!
A successful 3D print requires properly functioning hardware, well kept and appropriate plastic, and proper environmental conditions.
Before an object can be printed, it must be "sliced" using slicing software. The slicing software converts a computer-created object into layers and paths that a 3D printer can understand and execute. The slicing software allows custom settings to be made:
Once an object has been sliced, the resulting file can be sent directly to the printer (or saved on an SD card or flash drive).
Filament should be flexible and not brittle. If the filament is too brittle, it is easy for it to break while printing and cause a print to fail. Makerbot recommends that only their brand of plastic is used with their machines (of course), but there are several other cost-effective options available that work just as well.
Filament must be stored in a low humidity environment. A desiccant like a silica gel can be used to ensure this environment in your storage cabinet.
Although it is not required to watch the printer at all times when it is operating, occasionally check the filament feed. If the filament binds or twists on the spool, the print will fail and it may cause damage to the machine. Do not allow the end of the filament to be loose during storage to help prevent the filament from crossing under itself.
PLA often has issues with jamming when extruding. In these cases it can be helpful to use an oil with a high smoke point to lubricate the filament. We use sunflower oil other people have had success with canola.
The build plate is the surface on which a 3D print is printed. Ensure that the plate is level at all times and that the extruder is at the proper position over it. Leveling the plate is easy and should be done regularly. The surface also needs to be clean. This can be done with rubbing alcohol and a lint free cloth.
There are a few things that can be done if your print is having difficulty adhering to the plate: