Of all the things to print ... a coaster.
Rule number one: You are never going to get this right the first time. My first attempt was an ambitious bracelet design from the Cubify Design Feed. It seemed simple enough plus I figured I could actually use a bracelet as a nice Christmas present for someone.
I loaded the design into the CubePro app and remembering my tutorial set the printer configuration to the correct material and created my build. Scoffing at the idea of waiting seven hours for a bracelet like any good/naive newbie does, I thought ‘how important is support material, really?’ and went ahead with my 2 hour print on a relatively low setting.
This is where lack of patience will get you with 3D printing.
Turns out, for some things, it’s very important. I watched in defeat as my little lines swirled around on the build plate as my hopes of kicking off my own plastic themed fashion line were dashed.
So my next option was a coaster, also from the Design Feed, a cute linear design but again looked simple enough for a first timer. This time I went for a slightly stronger build and realised a build time of four hours was probably about right. Lesson learned: 3D printing and patience go hand in hand, if you actually want a decent print, you can’t be skimping on strength or pattern.
Losing a few experience points, one thing I forgot to do before printing was preview the print process beforehand. This would have prevented that flash moment of panic when I wondered why the nozzle was printing dots rather than lines at the start of the print.
However, with a bit of patience and my fingers firmly crossed, this time round I actually managed see a fairly decent print begin to form.
As informed by Simon Chandler at Creat3D during my training, the CubePro is built for quite chunky designs particularly for engineers producing prototypes. However, considering my coaster had some quite tricky shapes and ridges, the printer fared quite well and I was rather pleased with the result.
As the CubePro Trio is built for 3D printing in three colours, I plan on giving the machine a go with multiple colours next time to see how it performs when really put to the test.
I had an interesting little chat last week about how one of the biggest downfalls in 3D printing is that no one seems to want to share their information, meaning everyone has to tackle the same problems as the person before. So in order to break that, here are a few things I noticed about the CubePro during my training and some mistakes to learn from.
It’s a clean looking, sleek machine. Frankly, it looks nice and would integrate well into a workshop or office.
Easy changing of cartridges - Changing the cartridge on a 3D printer has always frightened me. It’s all very manual and I was kind of waiting for one to come along that would just set itself up before I had my 3D printing debut. However this was surprisingly simple. The cartridges are boxed off so it’s literally just a clip in clip out process and then gently feeding the filament through to the head. Not so scary after all.
Interface - The control is very easy. After setup you have only one or two options on the touch screen menu, print or settings. So as long as you’ve got a USB stick and the correct file format (I had enough incorrect ones first before I eventually got this right!) you are pretty much ready to go.
Materials – 3D System’s filaments are chipped so the printer will recognise which material is being used. The good thing is it records how much filament is left at the end of a print and also how much you will need for a given print. Really saves on those dreaded moments when you’re three quarters through and realise you haven’t got enough material.
Don’t be too ambitious on your first print – It will probably fail so save yourself the heartache and go with something small without too many fiddly bits. It's not pessimism thank you, it's being realistic.
Setup is very important – It takes a while to get the printer setup to a perfect standard but once tackled it really makes the difference. Try a test print before you start to check that the build plate is even and the print head is cleaning itself properly.
It’s not a quick process – When I started I never thought a coaster would take four hours to print.
Choose your workspace wisely – If you haven’t got a good solid table to rest the Cube on, this will be a noisy few hours indeed. Unfortunately I had quite an unstable table meaning every move of the print head could be felt like a mini earthquake but given a heavy work surface, away from a wall, I think this could have been avoided.
And that's it, until next time where hopefully you will witness some three colour magic, I think I deserve a cuppa with my shiny new coaster. Oh the little things.