Experimenting with Wood Filament

I’ve always wanted test wood filament on my personal 3D printer; I had a chance in college to use it on the machines in fab shop and loved how it looked and felt. Most wood filaments are primarily PLA with some wood mixed in and the filament I decided to purchase was no exception. I went with Hatchbox, which is 80% PLA and 20% wood. Honestly, I would have guessed the wood percentage to be higher because the spool appeared/smelled like wood!

I was a bit nervous to load it in to my printer due to my printer’s history with clogs, so I researched the optimal settings online. Most people said to go with standard PLA settings, although some tried increasing both the nozzle and bed temperature slightly with decent results. Instead of 210 nozzle and 55 bed (standard PLA preheat settings on the Prusa), I bumped it up to 220 and 60. I cleared out the last bit of my clear ABS and loaded my wood filament- it took a bit longer to extrude and I had a minor heart attack during those first few minutes. But alas, it came through the nozzle in a clear and steady stream.

My first few trials fell short- I do recommend bumping the bed temperature up, potentially using a glue stick, and lowering the nozzle as I had initial difficulties with the filament refusing to stick. But once I got my settings jussstt right, I had absolutely beautiful results. Check out this gorgeous vase I printed (model here):

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After my first successful print, I decided I wanted to try post processing. I had watched youtube videos of people sanding and staining their models and was curious how well it worked. I purchased Minwax Polyshades Stain and Polyurethane in Antique Walnut and some high grit sandpaper and went to town:

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I was disappointed with how the vase turned out and do not have a final picture- the stain clumped and was not fully absorbed by the print. However, I had much better luck with a small frog I printed. Here it is pre-sand and stain:

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And here it is sanded and one layer of stain:

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The final product:

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Overall, it turned out very well! I felt like the most important part of the process was sanding the model down, as it seemed to help the stain absorb into the filament. I plan on continuing to test and will keep you all updated with new progress!

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Example Prints

Short post- but I wanted to show some of my recent prints. Check out this D&D dice roller I printed. It turned out beautifully (gray PLA, set at 20% infill):

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Here is an actual useful print, mounts for my brother’s router:

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Documenting my Failures (and ultimate Success) with the Prusa Printer

As many of you know from my previous post, I left off discussing the misalignment of my Pinda Probe over the print bed. I wasn’t sure how big of an issue it was going to be, until I tried calibrating the XYZ axis. The nozzle began hitting the bed after the 3rd pinda position and I had to abort the calibration. I was pretty confused how to fix this problem and began digging around Prusa’s support site and different blogs/websites dedicated to Prusa printers. The most useful site I found was the Pinda misaligned page on the Prusa site. I determined my issue was shown in this diagram:

 

My Pinda had managed to front shift during the repairs of my extruder (see the post below for a rant of that godforsaken clog). The page said that to fix this problem, “just unscrew the M12 bolts holding it, move the Z-frame back (or front, depending of the position of the pinda relative to the heatbed probe circles, and tighten it back”.

Well, “just unscrewing the M12 bolts” turned out to be more difficult than I imagined. First of all, I didn’t put together the printer (yes, I’m one of those people who bought it pre-assembled) so I wasn’t quite sure where the M12s were located. I finally found this video by Josef Prusa which shows the exact location under the printer (around minute 8:00).

 

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After finding the bolts, I discovered that I probably needed to work out a bit more, as I could not loosen them. Even my boyfriend struggled and we sat for a while baffled at how we would possibly loosen them. FINALLY, with some help of WD-40, we were able to undo them. I realigned the Pinda within the circle and tightened the blots…. to only realize my Z frame was skewed. It took a couple tries, but I finally got it to sit perpendicular. Overall, it was a bit of a process, but the printer ended up calibrating fine (I’m still getting “XYZ calibration all right. X/Y axes are slightly skewed”, but that’s a fix for another day).

Here’s a pic of a quick test print, which I’m quite pleased with:

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I’ll post some more photos later of future prints, but in the mean time, happy printing!

Regarding my Prusa i3 MK2S

Hi all!

I apologize for the delayed post, for as you know, I have been quite busy with my new Prusa printer. It has been a bit of a rocky road to start, but I’m still really excited for what this printer has in store for me and all the great things I’ll print in the future! So I’m going to give a step-by-step of my first few weeks with it- hopefully this will give insight to other users on some common issues.

So here we go, the unboxing:

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This of course was so so exciting for me! I’ve loved 3D printing since college and always dreamed of having my own printer to meddle with. I decided to purchase the Prusa i3 MK2S assembled and received the printer quite quickly (I know Prusa Research just expanded their labs and therefore have faster turnaround time on their orders). Once I received the printer, I unboxed and began following the initial calibration tests. Check out these gummy bears hanging out with my newly unboxed printer:

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So here is where my issues begin. First issue was, as some of you may have guessed.. an extruder clog. To those of you who have never used a 3D printer, an extruder clog is one of the most common issues with 3D printers. A clog is never a quick or easy problem to resolve. I first noticed the clog when trying to load the filament for the very first time. I was quite frustrated, as I hadn’t even printed anything, but this ultimately became a very vital learning experience for me and I’m glad I had to go through it.

I tried both the the cold pull method and heat creep method (meaning I heated my nozzle to over about 230 Celsius to loosen any stuck PLA filament). Unfortunately, this did not remove the filament clog. Prusa provides an acupuncture needle you can insert into the nozzle to try and remove any stuck filament. Here you can see I ended up bending mine by pushing too hard on it:

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And here is how far I got my filament into the nozzle (you can see I’ve already begun taking apart the extruder… you’ll hear more about that loose fan in a moment):

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I decided to resort to both Google and Prusa customer service, since at this point I had no idea how to remove the clog. I found this article, whose author had a very similar clog to mine- he ended up taking apart his extruder. I was hesitant to do so, as I had purchased my printer assembled and had no background in the mechanics of the printer. However, Prusa customer service got back to me and said the same thing; I would have to take apart the extruder to clear the clog. They provided video instructions on how to disassemble the extruder, which helped me greatly and, yes, led to me removing the clog. Here are the links to those videos (1 and 2) if anyone else runs into a similar clog with their Prusa MK2S printer or E3D V6 hotend.

Firstly, it was really just unscrewing the motor, two fans, and housing, without damaging any of the wiring.

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After this is where it became more difficult. Essentially, after removing the housing, you are left with your nozzle (the tiny piece where your filament comes out), hot end (the box-like piece where all your wires connect and heat up- thus the name), and the heat break and heat sink (the pieces through which your filament travels to the hotend- there is typically also teflon tubing to help the filament flow correctly). See the below image as to what this all looks like:

I deduced that my filament was stuck in the heat break, as this is quite common and the location where my acupuncture needle got to. This meant I would have to disassemble everything further- I removed the heat break from the heat sink and then the heat break from the hotend (probably the most difficult part as it was screwed in factory tight- it helped to heat the hotend up a bit to loosen the pieces):

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And looked what popped out- that’s right, the clog! Sorry for potato quality, I was shaking from excitement:

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So there you have it, how to remove a clog from your extruder. This, of course, was not the end of my troubles as I had to reassemble everything. As soon as I began to reassemble, I realized that the wires from the cooling fan had broken off. I took this photo with just the black wire broken off, but as soon as I moved the fan, the red wire fell off as well:

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*SIGH* Out comes the soldering iron:

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Thankfully, soldering the wires worked and the fan powered up as I booted up the printer. And we are back in business!

Everything calibrated fine and I was able to begin printing.

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So exciting! Unfortunately, I do have to end the post with another issue… between the prints in the photo and now, my Z and Y axis became misaligned. The nozzle is hitting the bed every time I try to calibrate, and the PINDA is not aligned correctly (you can see it’s shifted forward, a bit outside of the white dashed circle):

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I’m hoping to get this fixed relatively quickly, and am cautiously optimistic due to my victory over the Battle of the Clog. WISH ME LUCK!

A big shout out to the customer service over at Prusa Research and to my boyfriend, who put up with my cursing and helped me unscrew the hotend/solder the fan!

Becoming Furiosa from Mad Max: Fury Road

My boyfriend, myself, and two friends decided that we wanted to take on Mad Max for Halloween. It was on of my favorite movies of 2015 and I loved Furiosa’s character (a strong, bad-ass, independent female main character- what’s not to like?), so I decided I would go as Furiosa.

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I knew immediately I wasn’t going to shave my head or cut off my arm, so I had to work around those parts of her costume. To start off, I purchased a basic costume from Amazon I knew I could modify:

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I also purchased a tan short sleeve shirt, high waisted black pants, 3 worn leather belts, faux welding goggles, a black infinity scarf, and some children’s hockey shoulder pads. All this was the basis for my costume. First and foremost, I knew I had to change out the belt. One of major pieces of Furiosa’s costume, the belt had to be done correctly. I actually was able to find the designed buckle ornament on Thingiverse: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:943629 (shout out to EmmJ for the design!) I printed the ornament on a Mojo 3D printer and this is how it turned out:

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Looks pretty good, right? So the next step was giving it a nice shine and smoothing it out. I did this by using acetone vapor to smooth out the print. You can do this by soaking paper towels in acetone and placing them in a large metal can. Flip the can upside down and then place your 3D print under the can (being careful to not let any of the paper towels directly touch the print). Note: this can only be done with ABS prints. After that, I spray painted the piece with some shiny silvery chrome spray paint.

The buckle ornament has a leather backing, so I purchased an 8.5 x 11 piece of worn leather from Michaels. I then measured out a circle with about a half inch offset from the ornament and cut it (I realized I could have done this quickly on a laser cutter, but I ended up doing it by hand with an x-acto blade). Check it out:

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The next part was modifying the belt from the costume to include my new buckle ornament. The most important factor was connecting it and making it sturdy while still also making it look good. I cut off the old ornament from the costume belt and also cut off the dingy, crappy looking belts. I left the leather pieces that hung down to hold the original ornament, as so:

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I then cut two holes in my leather and ran some brass coated jewelry chain and connected that to the hoops on leather pieces on the original belt. On the belt ornament leather backing, there are also approximately 20 one-foot chains that hang down. I added this in by cutting holes all along the bottom of the backing and running jewelry chain through the holes. Here is the finished product (which I was quite please with!):

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And here is everything put together:

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The costume came with a sleeve that was supposed to represent Furiosa’s mechanical arm, which I thought was good enough. I unfortunately do not have any images of the in between steps of spray painting the white hockey shoulder pad you see in the image or adding dirt and cutting the sleeves of my shirt, but both processes were quite simple.

Finally, check out pictures of all our costumes! It was a really fun process and I’m glad I got to go as one of my favorite characters.

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Electroplating 3D Prints

I’ve always been interested in 3D printing in different materials or even possibly coating prints with paint or metal. During my time at UVA’s architecture school, I printed in nylon, wood filament, and many other crazy materials. I’ve also tested smoothing ABS with acetone vapor (works wonderfully). However, I really wanted to try something new, especially now that Techshop was at my disposal. My friend/coworker Brett runs an electroplating class, which I decided to take one day after work. Basically, the idea of electroplating is to use an electric current to coat a conductive object (typically some sort of metal) with, well, a different type of metal. It’s extremely useful and can be used for many different things, such as to decorate, to harden objects, or to protect from corrosion. In Brett’s class, we plated a copper penny with nickel- the process was far simpler than I originally imagined. You mix together nickel acetate (easy buy from Amazon) with vinegar in a plastic container. Once that’s all nice and mixed up, you connect whatever you are trying to electroplate (in our case, copper) to the cathode aka negative side of a small power supply  (6V battery) and the metal you plan to electroplate with (nickel) to the anode aka positive side. Place both in the nickel acetate vinegar bath, turn on the power supply to about 4 V (best to keep the voltage low) and wait. You will begin to see a coating form over your penny!

I was extremely pleased with the results and wondered if I could somehow use the same technique to coat a 3D print. I did some research online and saw that many people had tried it and got some pretty awesome results. It seemed that the cheapest method was using a graphite based coating, which would make the 3D print conductive. I decided I would try out a combination of acetone and graphite powder- the acetone, in theory, would cause ABS plastic to melt a bit (remember acetone vapor smoothing) and therefore act as a adhesive for the graphite. I purchased some graphite powder and acetone and mixed it. Oh my goodness, the graphite got everywhere! My hands were covered in this stuff for days. But, the mixture turned out very well in my opinion. I found an old ABS print I didn’t mind testing on and coated it with my solution. Here is how the solution looked and the graphite powder I purchased (noticed I kept it in a plastic baggy at ALL TIMES):

Once it was coated, I used the same method as Brett showed in class, but rather than connecting a copper penny to the cathode, I connected my graphite covered 3D print (well, I wrapped nickel wire around the print to ensure it was secure and connected that the cathode). Unfortunately, I did not take any photos of that rig, but I do have a picture of how it turned out:

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First try went way better than I expected. I honestly didn’t think it was going to work at all (my coworkers at Techshop had their doubts as well). The dark gray areas are places that didn’t take the nickel, but the lighter areas are locations coated in nickel- success! Now that trial 1 was over, it was time to move on to bigger things. Such as JEWELRY.

I designed a basic parametric bracelet in grasshopper and printed it on a Stratasys Mojo. It came out with a lot of support material, so it had to sit in the bath for a while. Here it is covered in support:

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Afterwards, I coated the bracelet with my acetone graphite solution. I did about 3 coats since the design was so complex; I had to ensure I got every little crevice. Here it is as I’m beginning to coat it:

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Alright, now it’s time to electroplate it! I set up the rig and connected the 3D print using A LOT of wire. I then carefully placed it in the nickel acetate bath and let it sit for 7 hours. It’s like watching paint dry:

Here you can finally see what the rig looks like. That rectangular object is my chunk of nickel, connected to the anode of my power supply. I had to rotate my bracelet every so often since my solution didn’t fully cover it. You can see the nickel beginning to cover the print:

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After seven long hours, I pulled the print out and was amazed at the results and how well the graphite took the nickel. Of course, it wasn’t perfect. There were areas of the print that didn’t take as much and some areas looked a little clumpy. Additionally, the metal was not polished. I purchased some Simichrome and used that the polish it up. It actually worked pretty well. Here is an image of the final product:

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Pretty cool stuff. I plan to test it on other objects, but for now I’m pleased I created a new trendy bracelet I can wear 🙂