Guide to 3D Printing

Note: This section is a work in progress and the team will constantly be adding to it. Watch this space!

1. Give consideration to the function of your print. These are just some of the various questions that will help you decide what material and settings you will use:
Is the object going to be in the sun?
How strong does the object need to be?
How heavy or light does the object be?
Does the object need to be hollow?
For help with material selection visit our filament guide here. Once you have chosen a print medium it is time to optimize your settings to produce the perfect print!

2. Infill is the crosshatching pattern that occurs within the solid parts of a 3D print. This crosshatch system is one of the many key features to 3D printing. It allows objects to be extremely light yet remain strong. This is because the forces put onto the object are dispersed evenly over the entire object. 20 percent is a well rounded fill that provides a balance between strength and weight. It is worth noting that adding more fill provides diminishing returns. Meaning far more filament is required for smaller increases in strength.

3. Shell thickness refers to the thickness of the exposed outer vertical surfaces. Increasing this is good for prints with intricate parts as they become far stronger while the thicker parts of the print can remain light with a smaller infill. Using a infill of 0 percent and a thick shell produces a print that is hollow.

4. Top and bottom thickness. This works in the same way as shell thickness but for the outermost horizontal surfaces. As they can be altered individually it is possible to print 0 percent infill and 0 top thickness to turn a model into a vase or container. The picture below shows what can happen if the top thickness is too thin.

5. Layer Height: Here at ZX3D we use 0.2mm as our standard resolution as it provides a great balance of speed and quality. From here we can judge whether the print needs to be finer or the model is simple and can be done with a larger resolution. Curved surfaces appear far better with higher resolution but vertical surfaces show minimal difference in quality

6. Print speeds: The standard speed in each of the slicing software is again well rounded, aiming at balancing time and quality. It is worth considering on finer prints to slow down each type of print speed to ensure precision while on larger simple prints it may be worth increasing the infill speed in order to speed up the print. Note: Simplify 3D takes care of this automatically, it slows down over layers with a small area and prints faster when it is able to. It is worth noting that with flexible filament it is vital to slow down the print speed to ensure a high quality print and prevent jams from occurring. The more detailed the model the slower the print needs to be, this is shown in the image below.

So now we have decided on what settings will give the best result for the finished product it is time get printing. Print preparation is the key to 3D printing, the difference between a good and great print is all in the first few layers. If the model is orientated correctly with the right supports and adhesion to the build plate the print will work every time.

1. When importing a model it is imperative to ensure it is laying on a flat surface. Sometimes it is possible that an imported model will be on a 1 degree skew. Pressing the lay flat command can prevent this problem from occurring.

2. It is also important to ensure you pick the best surface to orientate your model on. It is ideal to pick the largest possible surface while trying to minimize or prevent the use of supports. This gives the print the best chance of sticking while preventing the use of supports saves material, time and gives a better surface finish.

3. Support types:
There are two ways to do supports, the first is to print breakaway supports with the material used for the model. The second is to use a dissolvable support material in a printer with dual extruders. The dissolvable supports are best to use with fine objects that may break with the removal of traditional breakaway supports. It is advisable to use a wipe and prime tower when using two extruders to prevent the secondary material from ending up in the model.
It is also important to consider the trade off between surface finish with high fill support vs time and ease of removal when selecting the fill percentage for the supports.

There are two options for all printers: Touching build plate and everywhere. touching build plate will only place support on parts of the model that overhang onto the build plate, this leave any other overhanging parts unsupported. Everywhere does just that and places supports on any overhang that exceeds the threshold defined by the used, by standard this is set at 45 degrees.
Support Styles:

For Mankati and Creatbot:

Grid: This support style mimics the fill seen within the model. It is extremely strong and rigid and the pattern allows the supported part of the model to print well. This is only recommended for prints in which the support material is easily accessible and at no risk of damaging the print

Line: This lays down a one layer thick grid then runs a series of uni-directional lines parallel to each other. This makes the supports very easy to remove. The only flaw with this is when the first layer of the model lays parallel to the supports. This makes it difficult because the printer will struggle for the first couple of layers. after 1-2 layers the printer will have corrected itself.

For Simplify 3D:
There are two options, the automatic supports which place them where the software detects an appropriate overhang and manual supports. The manual supports require the user to place columns of support using the cursor. These are best used when there may only be a few small sections that require supports, they can also be used to provide the model with some additional stability.

These images show a visual representation of what the types of support look like. 

Types of bed adhesion: Raft vs Brim

Brim: This lays down additional width around the perimeter of the print, this occurs only on the first layer. This is easily removed by hand and increases surface area. This helps to counteract warping as the brim can easily be glued down with ABS juice or glue. A brim has no negative effect on the bottom surface of a print.

Raft: This lays down a few layers that form a separate platform that can be removed by hand. This is entirely separate from the model. The raft takes up an area slightly larger than biggest x-y plane cross section. This is best used when printing a model with a small surface at the base. Rafts are best used when printing with a small base will prevent the use of supports. As a rule of thumb use a brim where possible, only using a raft when required.

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