Ramblin' Dan's Workshop

The Sanctum of Fine Art and Invention


IMG 1146Pencil Holder - 4+ Hours PrintingThere is one thing that has become very clear to me about FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) 3D printing is the speed. Print times can be very long for any sizeable part. Putting down layers that are 100, 200, or 300 microns thick takes a lot of time. Some machines boast a 50-micron layer which I have to assume is not very time practical for larger builds. I would use it for very small detailed objects I suppose. Every halving of the layer thickness doubles the print time, all other factors remaining the same.

Better built machines can run faster than lesser designs, but there is still a limit to quality. Fast travel speeds lead to “ringing” and other visual defects in the surface finish. Ringing is wavy lines on the surface caused by vibrations in the print head movement. They get worse with speed.

I have seen videos from some owners with their machines slamming around at very high print travel speeds. I have tried it and the print quality suffers a lot with my machine. As I said perhaps better design machines may be able to perform, but mine will not.

That is OK with me. I purchased my machine for the fun and experience of 3D printing. Not to go into manufacturing. If I want something very high quality, there are any number of outside print services available using very high end machinery and processes.

I have seen at least one entrepreneur who designs scale model parts and has them printed by an outside print service. There is a few days’ delay before he has an item. They are of high quality and he is able to sell them at a small profit. He has no investment in expensive printers or their maintenance. Not a bad plan. His production is Just In Time (JIT) so he doesn’t have to maintain an inventory.

The cost of these external services are not too bad, all things considered. The print service needs a lot of work to keep their machines running. A machine just setting there, still has the same payment due at the end of the month. I would definitely work with a service before even considering an expensive machine purchase in house. For a hobbyist, using a service is a “no brainer”.

If I ever get to a volume or a quality need I will definitely be looking at outside printing.

For now, I have a machine that is a perfect proofer and experimental tool. So I can trade time for dollars and wait for my item to print. As with any CNC, at least for me, it is fascinating process to watch. I am going to have to break that habit. For as long as I have been running CNC, I should be over the fascination. It still lingers and I have to use the excuse that I am making sure at least the first run has no flaws or errors. With today’s software that is hardly a problem… but one can’t be too careful.

I am amazed at the features and completeness and also the free to low cost of the 3D printing software. Maybe I haven’t been paying attention but it is far easier to do the 3D printing CNC than it was when I got into CNC milling operations. The slicers (creating the print layers) is extremely fast and complete. I am amazed at where I stepped into this technology. It’s far ahead of my early CNC days. That’s great!

I see the creative is not hampered by the machine. The time in 3D printing is spent on creating the designs in 3D CAD and creative software. There is a lot of that available. I have some skill in Rhinoceros. That is only a tip of the iceberg. I have some free creative 3D software that runs in Linux called Blender. The printer program Simpllify3D will also run in Linux as well as Windows and Apple OS.

I think I will soon switch my Simplify3D to my Linux box and tether the 3D printer to it. That way I can leave the Linux machine running for hours and have the full access to my WIN10 machine for Rhino and other graphic intensive work. I may need to move the printer closer to the Linux computer, so I will resolve that first.

Bottom line the time is right for getting into this activity. The equipment is good and complete. Lots of hardware competition driving the cost down. The software is complete and very functional. The printing process is very slow, so that needs to be understood. A lot of time will be consumed. That really isn’t that bad. Just don’t sit there staring at the print in progress. Do something else!

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