1 of 5
Raised to precision
The layering stopped at the perfect moment
2 of 5
Nothing but the best...
The finished article looks really great
3 of 5
Good from the front...
The two tones of blue PLA worked perfectly at first glance
4 of 5
Not so great from the back
The support material will not come off the back of the phone
5 of 5
The perils of finishing
The support material removal attempt gave me two rather nasty looking cuts to deal with.
What with our various travels and the presence of the Form 1, It’s been a while since I’ve been able to get my teeth into some serious FDM 3D printing, so long that the update to PP3DP’s UP! Plus software passed me by. While those using a PC have had access to V2.0 since July of last year the Mac version took a good six months to make an unannounced appearance on PP3DP’s downloads page.
I’ve moaned before about how buggy the Mac software is - how often it crashes and in all honesty that problem does not seem to have gone away in V2.0. However, there are a host of new features that give the Up! Plus 1st generation a whole new lease of life.
Starting with the pause button - a feature no printer I’d used, as of yet, had. What seems almost a standard issue feature now has only recently come to the UP! Plus and it works brilliantly. You can set the machine to pause at specific heights before your print - so as you can change colours/filaments at the right moment - or if you need to pause unexpectedly during the print, there’s a 'pause now' button too.
With the buggy Mac software I was worried that if the software crashed during a pause would it continue to print when rebooted? My fears were cast aside on the first print I attempted, yes it crashed, but yes it picked up from where it left off as the software re-launched. Storing the layers in the printer's in-built CPU.
Another feature that seems to have been improved is printing in PLA. The UP! Plus is notoriously temperamental when printing in PLA with the material often melting upwards into the extruder head and clogging the gears. It was believed that software V1.15 (only available on PC) did not have this side effect, but so far with V2.0 we’ve had no such problems printing with Faberdashery’s excellent PLA.
So what to print? I was told I had to buy a present for a 30th I’m heading to on the weekend (I hope the the subject is not reading this!) so I decided to try and print something one of the most common objects printed, an iPhone case.
I came across Duann of Shapeways fame’s Thingiverse page, on there I noticed a template case for the iPhone 5 case that was part of a Shapeways competition for users to design their own.
Taking the template I uploaded into Tinkercad, which I’ve only just properly gotten to grips with. Though it may seem as if the features on this free browser-based software are limited, for a beginner to intermediate use of CAD for 3d printing, it is incredibly complex at the same time as being simple.
I knew about uploading SVGs into the software a while back, so with some Photoshop trickery I managed to get a monochrome image of this particular friend’s favourite landmark, St. Rupert’s Tower, which adorns the crest of Everton Football Club.
Converting that image to an svg file is as easy as pie with this free online conversion tool, uploading to Tinkercad couldn’t be simpler and finding the right dimensions and measurement to fit it onto the iPhone case is easy too. There really isn’t a difficult to understand function of Tinkercad, want a hole in your case instead of a solid object? Just press the hole button. Exporting from Tinkercad also couldn’t be easier.
I spoke to educational 3D printing evangelist, Deepak Mehta at a recent event and he was keen to stress the importance of Tinkercad to the educational sector, “Tools like Tinkercad are the catalyst to helping children understand the basics of CAD”. You only have to take a look at Deepak’s Tinkercad profile to see how much time he and son Ritik use the software. And to think it nearly went under!
Time to print
After successfully designing the case now was time to print, complete with colour change and all!
The first print I attempted was with back of the phone facing upwards in two tones of blue PLA. I was aware that the printer would fill the middle of the phone cover with support but thought this would be the best way to keep the detail of the design intact.
Though the finished print looked great after three and a half hours printing at 0.20mm and on the ‘Normal’ speed setting, removing the support material was a touch more complicated than anything I'd previously attempted. The thin walls on the side of the cases mean you can’t be too forceful when removing the support and in the end the support material proved too difficult to remove. Perhaps with a little bit of care and attention the final layer of support could be sanded down.
Next option was to print with the back facing down, printing up to 1.8 mm in blue PLA and the rest in White ABS (to do this you must go into the maintenance panel when paused and add New Spool and change from PLA to ABS). The worry about this option was that the blue PLA might bleed into the white ABS and give a slightly messy appearance.
That worry was realised when I removed the support material but after a brief clean with acetone it came out looking white as a sheet, there are some imperfections in the print, still some burn marks but the pausing and multi-material case looks pretty much like its on screen representation. Does it fit is the question? A question that can’t be answered until Saturday.
So there we have it an iPhone case, designed and printed by me, it’s possibly the most rewarding experience one can have with 3D Printing to design and print something that might actually be useful to somebody.