Main­tain­ing your printer

3D print­ers re­quire some light main­te­nance to op­er­ate at their best, and here we re­veal some pro tips to en­sure longevity

Mac Format - - GET INTO 3D PRINTING -

All 3D print­ers have their own guides for keep­ing them well-main­tained, but there are cer­tain tips that ring true with most home print­ers you can buy now.

First up, and pos­si­bly the most im­por­tant, is to en­sure that you use qual­ity fil­a­ment in your 3D printer, and en­sure it’s the right di­am­e­ter for your ma­chine. If you put sub­stan­dard fil­a­ment in your ma­chine, you’re go­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence a num­ber of prob­lems. You’ll see un­even prints, poor sur­face fin­ish and qual­ity, and in the worst case sce­nar­ios your printer will get dam­aged. So en­sure you read prod­uct re­views be­fore you buy, and try and es­tab­lish where the fil­a­ment you’re buy­ing orig­i­nates.

“There are many dif­fer­ent stan­dards in terms of qual­ity for both 3D print­ers as well as the ma­te­ri­als”, ex­plains San­der Stri­j­bos of col­orFabb, a lead­ing fil­a­ment provider. “All print­ers treat dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als dif­fer­ently, so there is a learn­ing curve to be made by the user when start­ing to print”.

Fil­a­ment fun­da­men­tals

Once you have the right fil­a­ment you must en­sure your printer is cor­rectly cal­i­brated. Be­cause 3D print­ers use heads, which are pre­ci­sion-con­trolled in three axes, a small mis­align­ment can cause poor qual­ity re­sults and print­ing er­rors, such as ex­tra blobs of plas­tic or ob­vi­ous gaps. Although you’ll of­ten spot the re­sult of a prob­lem around the print­head, the re­sult is far more likely to lie else­where, such as mis­align­ment or a feed jam.

As most 3D print­ers use a me­tal axis, it’s good to keep them lu­bri­cated, though how you do this can vary depend­ing on each ma­chine. As a rule of thumb though, you can ap­ply a drop or two of sewing ma­chine oil to the x- and y-axes ev­ery week or two. The z-axis, which raises and low­ers your print bed, may re­quire a lube rather than an oil, so make sure you’re us­ing the right lu­bri­cant for the job. And check belt ten­sions pe­ri­od­i­cally, too.

The last thing to con­sider is your build plate. This is the plat­form that your printer lays plas­tic onto, and to en­sure ad­he­sion – and in some cases to pre­vent warp­ing – some printer man­u­fac­tur­ers will sug­gest putting a thin layer of craft glue on your plate be­fore print­ing. If you do this, you should give your plate a clean when you start to no­tice a glue build-up, or when prints start to suf­fer as a re­sult. As with most things, the more you look af­ter it the bet­ter! Fil­a­ment comes in a va­ri­ety of colours and on reels that are fed into the printer. Meth­ods vary, as do fil­a­ment qual­i­ties. We rec­om­mend these from col­orFabb (col­orfabb.com).

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