3D printers are amazing tool on their own, but like any piece of commercial hardware they scream out to be customized for a better user experience.
Lulzbot 3D printers are known for their ability to be customized. The printers themselves are made from many 3D printed parts which are available open source from the company website. Other users have contributed to the universe of files available to customize your printer.
For all 3D printers, here is a set of improvements that I recommend that you 3D print to improve your experience.
1. Tool Box
Every printer needs a set of dedicated tools close at hand while printing. This tool box should hold at least your putty knife, pliers, hobby knife, and picks. I recommend that you also have a flashlight, wire cutters, tape measure / calipers, and a set of metric Allan wrenches.
There are free files available on all file sharing sites as well as the manufactures site. For my Lulzbot Taz 5 I decided that a tool tray under the y-arm would be the easiest to get to. It slides under the y-arm, but keeps them all next to the build plate. My tool tray can be found here.
2. Spool Holder
The factory standard spool holder is designed to fit the factory filament spools. They tend to be bars or tubes that have a lot of friction and can cause filament feeding problems. While they are fine for getting started, you’ll soon find there is a whole universe of filaments. These new spools may not fit on the factory spool holder. Even worse, these off-brand filaments will not fit into the cartridge holders of exclusive 3D printers like Makerbot or Cube.
Having a flexible external spool holder will give you more options when you order filament. I found that Colorfabb has bulk deals on 2.2 kg spools. However, these behemoth (300 mm OD) spools take up a lot of space on the side of my Lulzbot. I also did not like having spools on the side of my printer, so I decided to make a top-feeding spool holder for my printer. This spool holder is beefy enough to handle the heaviest spools of filament, and also gives me the clearance I need to use the full build volume of the Taz 5. My Taz 5 spool holder can be found here.
3. Spare Parts
All 3D printers have parts that you can 3D print a replacement for. When you research your 3D printer, look around to see what parts wear out first on your printer. You can then print replacements while your printer is new. If you do not like the flat black coloring of your Lulzbot, this can be a great way to make the machine you will spend hours with more colorful.
The Wade extruder on Lulzbot has one part that wears through the most. The idler arm that holds the filament against the hobble bolt tends to get chewed through at the top. Over time this may wear through, or catch on smaller diameter filaments. The idler arm is easy to replace, and even easier to print. I printed the replacement in clear colorfabbXT to get more light inside the print head. The files for the Taz 5 idler arm can be found here.
Different printers will or will not have a light in them; even then it’s not enough light. While you can play around with desk lamps to start printing, having a dedicated light inside your printer will help greatly. If you plan to do time-laps videos, you will need a dedicated light source inside your printer. Look at a set of LED strips to illuminate your print at different angles. I found that it helps to also have a flashlight on hand. This way you can quickly check if layers are going down right on the print.
If there is one truth about 3D printing, it is this: You will spend a lot of time at your printer. So decorate it with pieces you can easily move around. While you can use stickers, I’d avoid them unless you want to deal with the gunk they leave behind.
Décor’ pieces are a great way to explore different techniques in 3D printing. For mine I changed the factory black corner plates with these steampunk themed corners. I practiced printing in two colors as well, which helps my printer look a bit less black. This will help you enjoy your printer; even after a print turns into a blob after 4 hrs.
You can practice using your 3D printer while making these parts. Even if they don’t turn out well, you’ll be the only one to see them.