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Tools you need to make 3D printing less stressful.

In this post, I will share with you what you need to be able to print without a care in the world. There are certain things that you will need. These things will not only help you to obtain better printed objects, but also make your life a little easier too.

Tools of the trade

Here are what I class as the tools that you should always keep close to you, when 3D printing.

  1. Digital Vernia

  2. Alan keys

  3. 150mm metal ruler

  4. Retractable tape measure

  5. Wire cutters

  6. Small adjustable wrench

  7. Long nose pliers

  8. Small files (flat, round, half moon, triangle)

  9. Sanding block

  10. Few assorted screwdrivers

  11. A hammer

Out of all these things, the digital Vernia is the most important one. You can get these for a few of your local currency, from Amazon, so go get some if you don’t already have some. You are in the big league now, everything must be measured as you go. Being precise is not an option. You will soon be making parts that fit together so make sure you get them right on the first go.

Alan keys, your printer is built and held together using this type of fastener. They will come loose so you will need to sort that pretty quick. No better way to fix that, than to have some of these at hand.

Small metal ruler, so you are making something and you pop into the kitchen to make a coffee, and you see a bottle top that looks something like the size you were trying to visualise. Out comes your ruler, a quick measure, and BANG, you’ve sorted that issue, back to the CAD package to implement your findings!

Retractable tape measure, Imagine the scene, you’ve dropped a small nut on the floor and its rolled under the table! Get some blue tac and you don’t even have to bend over!! Or you can use it to measure your printer when you are calibrating it for the hundredth time.

Side cutters, wonderful for cutting filament at an angel. So, the end your trying to get into a tiny hole, you can even see is accomplished quicker. Also, good for cutting support material away from your finished prints.

Adjustable wrench, good for spinning off the nozzle on a blocked hot end.

Long nose pliers, great for holding the hot heater block when you undo the blocked nozzle.

Small files, when your masterpiece is complete, you may need to tidy up edges and file out tiny bits of left over support from your newly created waste of plastic.

Like the files, but with a sanding block you can cover more area. Handy if you want to put some fine sandpaper to get a large area of plastic looking it’s best.

Screwdrivers? What more can I say, we all love a fine-looking screw driver.

Hammer?? If you need of these, you need to take more time measuring stuff before you print.

Spool of cheap filament

What’s the point of this? I hear you say. Well imagine that you are designing something complex or something large. Maybe you are designing something where one-part fits into another part. It’s good to test your designs as you go. So, in the case of a complex piece, you can print out say a corner, or a middle section of something, just to see what it looks like. Are the measurements as you thought? Does it look like what you were imagining? Instead of having to print out the whole design you can print out parts, just to make sure it looks right, butts up against other parts and so on. You wouldn’t want to do this with you Sunday best, Rigid Ink filament. A roll or two of cheap filament is great fodder for “mock ups” and testing your CAD design abilities.

A range of spare parts

You will need a few spares. Things like nozzles, stepper motor belts, 30mm fans, thirmisters. Teflon tubing for a Bowden extruder, also think about some Teflon tubing for the heat break, going in to the hot end. Not having spares such as these can stop you printing for a few days while you order and wait for delivery. Save yourself down time, by getting a few spares now and again. Most of these parts are cheap enough, but brought each week, or over a few months, will have you covered for any eventuality. You don’t need many, just five of each.

Masking tape and glue

If you have a heated bed, this opens the possibility of printing a larger variety of filament. But with more choice, comes problems with adhesion to the build surface. This is where masking tape comes in handy. You will possibly have an aluminium heated build plate, and you’ll possibly not want to print directly to it, because it will damage the plate surface. So, a covering of masking tape will help by, not only providing a protective layer for the build plate itself, but also allowing you to add an extra layer of helpful adhesion. This will be in the form of a “Pritt glue stick” This is a non-toxic child’s glue, usually used for sticking paper together. But we use it to make the first layer of printed plastic stick firmly to the bed. Be careful that you don’t lay down too much tape so the hot end digs in while it’s trying to lay down the first layer!

Hair spray

Ellnett Satin Supreme Hold Hairspray, same as the Pritt glue but much firmer hold, this will stick an Elephant to an ice cube. A word of caution, it really sticks and in some printing procedures can be difficult to pry off the build plate when it’s finished.

Paint scraper

Another great tool for prising finished objects off the build bed. After the printing process, especially if it’s a long one, of hours. You will find that the bond between plastic and paper will be a difficult one to break. A simple paint scraper will do a great job of gently lifting it off enough so that the whole thing pops off without a problem.

Slicer Software

There are a lot of applications out there when it comes to using a slicer. Slicers, are the applications that turn the model you see on the screen, to the G-code you send to your 3D printer. Day to day, I tend to use Cura, but there are others. Cura now has a newer version ( with some nice additions. Look out for this as I will do a review soon, once I have finished testing it. Matter Control, is very interesting. I sometimes use this. It can be a bit daunting for a first timer. Once you get used to it it’s a nice application and it will do you a good turn. If you want to go “paid” then Simplify 3D is possibly the best bet. It has all the same features as the other, plus some. Perhaps the best by far is the ability to place your own supports anywhere you see fit. This can be very useful. Often slicer software applications don’t always catch overhangs. But it comes at a premium, because its price is £115 or $149US.

One I haven’t mentioned yet, is called “Craftware” I only found this a week or two ago, but I am very impressed by its friendly interface. It has the one killer feature that none of the other free slicers have. Craftware allows you to place supports where you decide you want them. Oh, did I tell you Craftware is free? Yes, completely free!!?? This is a steel, because you can position your own supports. I will do a review of Craftware real soon, as soon as I have had a chance to get upo to speed with it.

Nuts and bolts

One of the great things about 3D printers, is the fact that a lot of objects can be printed with movable joints. This can be, joints, gears, pivots and hinges. This is because every object is built layer upon layer. This allows the joints and pivots to be built in, so no post fixing necessary. Notice I said, “A lot” obviously, that doesn’t include everything.

Some of the creations that you find on the sites like Thingiverse. Or design yourself, will need a nut and bolt, during your post build re-work. One of the best ways to do this is to have a varied selection of small nuts and bolts handy. These can be brought from Amazon I can’t tell you how many times this box of bolts has saved a freshly made print from having to be left alone until I get my arse down to a hardware store.

Good Filament

Finally, the main requirement of a great print, good, dependable, gorgeous looking, colourful, filament. You need to find a good filament. The difference between an alright print, and a beautiful looking print. Filament is the be all, and end all. Of whether you can hand over a new finished project to your husband/wife, friend, or customer. Without them looking at it, like it’s something you found in an old box, the garage. I personally, use Rigid Ink as my best filament. If I want to print something for myself that I know will be on show, it’s Rigid Ink. If I am doing anything for someone else and I want to show off what my printer can do, it’s Rigid Ink. Their customer service is the best, their filament is buttery smooth. I know that should I have any issues I can call them up, and they will do their very best to help me out, and straighten things out.

This is the list I usually go by. It covers just about every eventuality you might come up against. If you think I have forgotten anything, feel free to leave a comment and I will add it to the list.

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