I’ve been 3D printing for three years now and in that time I have had my share of failed prints as well as wins. With each failure I learn something new that in the end allows me to prosper in this unique and challenging hobby. In this article I will share five tips that I have learned make the process of 3D printing a little less challenging and enhances the fun factor. The feeling of completeness that you get when a print exceeds your expectations or when you go to remove the supports and they simply fall away from the print without marking it in the least. So, what are these tips?
Tip #1: Level your bed
Yes, I know there is a trend towards auto leveling and that most new printers require no manual leveling. There are still many quality printers that do require leveling. Leveling is not a onetime thing to do. You should always recheck your bed before every print. If the printer has moved or the room temperature has changed, so will your bed leveling. If you had to pry the last print from the bed you may have changed the level of the bed.
One more thing, most instructions say to use a single sheet of paper between the nozzle and the bed. That is good, but I’d like to see you fold that same paper in half and use it that way instead. Why you ask, because I have found that the filament tends to be more squished with a single sheet, which might cause elephant footing on your prints.
Tip#2: Clean You’re Nozzle
I keep a wire brush handy at all times. Before each print brush any debris off of the nozzle before starting the print but after it is preheated. I also use the panel to extrude at least two inches of filament from the nozzle. Which ensures the nozzle is not clogged and is free of the last color printed. I have found that my first layer tends to adhere better to the surface giving me a smooth and shiny layer.
Tip#3: Clean your Bed
So now I sound like my mom, no not that bed. Clean the debris from the build plate surface. If you don’t do this, you risk your prints not sticking or your first layer being ruined by debris from previous prints. I have destroyed many first layers by not cleaning up the glue stick residue left from my last print. You will also need to wipe the bed (while cold) with a paper towel moistened with rubbing alcohol in order to remove any grease left by your fingers.
Tip#4: Don’t Walk Away
Don’t just start your printer printing and walk away. If you do, you will likely come back to a failed print. I always take the time to watch and ensure the first layer has printed correctly before leaving the room. Usually if the first layer has printed correctly, then the rest of the print will follow.
Tip#5: Double Check all Your Slicer Settings
Remember all filaments have different temperatures and speed settings. You cannot use the same profile for all of your prints. Different filaments have different manufactures. Not all PLAs will react the same when heated. Some may actually require a heated bed while others do not.
These tips were all hard learned and I not paying heed to them has cost me many millimeters of filament. But I think if I have learned nothing else it is have fun, enjoy the journey and most of all be safe. Keep in mind that these nozzles reach temperatures of 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping that in mind, don’t leave your printer turned on if you’re not printing. 3D printers in many cases are not very well built at the circuit level and may fail with time or even become unsafe to use.