3D printers present an engrossing hobby that can be quite addictive. Like all hobbies / obsessions, 3D printing is full of various types of upgrades and mods that you can buy for your 3D printer.
Printing in PLA is fairly gentle on the soft brass nozzles of all 3D printers. While it is fine to print in PLA, there comes a time when you want to print with more abrasive filaments. Metal and carbon fiber based composites like stainless steel and Carbon fiber are notorious for chewing up brass nozzles.
A hardened or plated nozzle should be the first upgrade to consider if you want to expand the portfolio of filaments you want to print with.
Every 3D printer company wants you to use their brand of filament. While it is standard practice to encourage the purchase of the companies filament, you’ll quickly find that there is a world of off brand filaments that can offer you the colors and properties you want in your prints. To hold these odd sized spools, you’ll need to expand your printer with a matching spool holder that you can download here. Thingiverse and other file sharing sites are full of user generated mods for your brand of 3D printer
Filament Filters / Oilers
A filament filter / oiler is a cheep hack for all 3D printers. If you print in a dusty garage or workspace, a filter can keep dust from fowling up your hot end. By adding a dab of vegetable oil, you can help it flow through the nozzle, and keep it from sticking and being pulled by the nozzle tip. For my filter I just took a sponge for a dish scrubber and cut it in half down the center.
Using a clothing pin to hold it in place, I can run multiple filaments through it. I found you must have an oiler when you print with flexible filaments like Ninjaflex and it helps with other composites that tend to be gloopy if they don’t flow freely through the nozzle.
When your spool of filament jams mid print, you do not want to be caught without a pair of wire cutters handy. Other tools like your calipers, hobby knife and Allen keys are best kept next to your 3D printer.
3D printers are unique in that they can be assembled with parts that they produce. From the first Rip Rap printers to modern Lulzbots , spare parts should be printed while your printer is new to have on hand. Look at the forums for your printer to see what parts tend to wear out, and have them ready to replace when they wear out.
Heated Build Plates
To save cost and drive business, many 3D printers start life with no heated build plates. Anyone who prints in ABS knows the folly in printing without a heated plate to slow the cooling of any plastic.
Many companies make silicone type heaters that can be adapted to different printers. Other companies offer a heated plate as a secondary purchase. Before you curse out your printer for another failed print that warped off the build plate, spend some cash on a decent plate heater.
It may be great to run your printer in the open in your office, but your printer is putting off extra energy as it heats your room.
An enclosure offers additional benefits. If you work in a dusty garage, the case can prevent dirt from fowling your hot end and prints. For parents, an enclosure can protect your children from touching moving parts and scalding hot ends. If your worried about fumes from printing with ABS, you can add a carbon or heap filter to the air output to trap plastic particles.
Getting a level build plate is a skill that test all 3D printers. Adding a bed leveling system to your printers is a great way to test your electronic skills.
Another cost cutting method for 3D printer companies is to put a single fan on a tool head. While this is file for cheap printers, it gets to be annoying when one side of your print warps and the other does not. Adding a second fan or a better fan shroud can improve your print quality and extend the life of your hot end.
Once you have mastered the single head printer and changing colors while printing, you find that dual extrusion printing is a new challenge.
For a CAD drafter modeling dual extrusion is a whole new level of insanity as you figure out how to keep your file from imploding on itself. Adding dual heads requires more patience and practice, but the rewards may be worth it in the end.