Posts Tagged ‘research and development’

12 Ways to Fight Warping and Curling



As printed plastic parts cool the different areas of the object can cool at different rates. 1  Depending upon the parts being printed, this effect can lead to warping and curling.  Although PLA has a much lower shrinkage factor than ABS, both can warp and curl, potentially ruining a print.  There are some very common ways to deal with this potential problem, the most notable being a heated build platform.  However, sometimes that might not be enough.

  1. Use a heated build platform.  A heated build platform helps keep the lowest levels of a print warm as the higher layers are printed.  This allows the overall print to cool more evenly.  A heated build platform, sometimes abbreviated as HBP, helps tremendously with just about any ABS print and large PLA prints.
  2. Print with a raft.  Rafts are a printing option in ReplicatorG and Skeinforge.  They’re basically a large flat lattice work of printed material underneath the lower-most layer of your printed object.  They’ll also help reduce warping and curling by allowing your printed object to adhere better to your flat build surface.  Other variations on this are to print with a larger raft and/or a thicker raft comprised of more layers.
  3. Calibrate your starting Z height.  A good first layer makes all the difference.  If your starting Z axis height is too high, the extruded filament won’t be able to make a good bond with the platform.  If you think your Z axis starting height is too high, try lowering it by 0.05mm increments until you find a good first layer.
  4. Get the right build surface.  Some people have experimented with different surfaces such as steel, titanium, glass, different kinds of plastic, different kinds of tape, and foam board.  However, I find both ABS and PLA seem to stick really well to hot or warm Kapton tape.
  5. Clean your build surface.  ABS and PLA stick better to a clean build surface.  Keep it clean of dust, pieces of old prints, and any other debris.
  6. Print slower.  Printing slower allows finer detail, better adhesion to the build surface and lower layers, and gives the printed part more time to cool evenly.
  7. Print cooler.  Printing at a lower temperature isn’t always an option.  Ideally, you should be printing at the lowest temperature required for extrusion and that allows good interlayer adhesion.  However, trying lower temperatures isn’t for the faint of heart.  Printing at a too low a temperature could cause harm to your extruder motor or extruder.
  8. Eliminate drafts or enclose your robot.  Forrest Higgs found that having his 3D printer too close to an open window caused very uneven heating across his build surface.  This in turn caused the side of his prints closest to the window to curl.  Since keeping the window closed wasn’t an option for him, he compensated for the window drafts by adding a heat lamp.  Cupcake and Thing-O-Matic owners might have an easier time of eliminating drafts by simply enclosing two or three of the sides of their robots.  It will also have a fortunate side effect of helping to control fumes.
  9. Design with mouse ears.  Zach Smith’s solution was to add little discs to corners of an object to help those corners stick to the platform.  These essentially serve as “mini-rafts” to give those corners more surface area and better adhesion without having to print an entire raft.
  10. Design with aprons to hold down corners.  Forrest Higgs suggested adding “aprons” around an object to be printed, while that object was being printed on a raft.  These low thick pieces of plastic help keep the raft flat and help prevent any curling or warping from affecting the desired printed object itself.
  11. Design with surrounding thermal walls.  While Forrest Higgs’ apron approach provides a mechanical advantage of essentially holding down corners with a chunk of plastic, Nophead has added thin surrounding walls to his designs to act as baffles to keep warm air around the printed object as it moves around.  He’s postulated that a very thin surrounding wall could have the same beneficial effect as printing inside an enclosed build chamber.  Interestingly, it seems that Nophead suggests that designing objects with more rounded corners might also help avoid curling and warping at those corners.
  12. Reduce infill.  When printing a model you can chose to print it hollow, completely solid, or some percentage between zero and 100.  However, as Nophead points out even the plastic inside a model exerts a force on the entire printed object as it cools.  It stands to reason that the more plastic you have, the more those pieces of plastic will pull against themselves and the build surface as they cool.  By reducing infill there will a reduced amount of internal tension as the object cools.  Reducing these internal forces by printing with a lower infill ratio can help reduce curling and warping as well.
  13. EDIT:  Sand the Kapton.  Charles Pax has suggested that sanding a Kapton tape build surface will increase the surface area, making it easier for the molten plastic to stick.
  14. EDIT:  ABS surface.  Some have suggested essentially painting the build surface with liquid ABS.2  This is has the same effect of laying down a big flat raft.

If you’ve got some suggestions, tips, or tricks that you use to fight warping and curling, please leave a comment below!

  1. Photo courtesy of backpackphotography []
  2. ABS dissolved in acetone or ABS glue []
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3D Printer Key Duplication with nrp

Duplicating Disc Detainer Keys by nrp

Duplicating Disc Detainer Keys by nrp

Thingiverse user nrp has been working on using his 3D RepRap printer in some pretty amazing ways.  He’s already put his 3D printer to use along with a Kinect to print by use of hand gestures.  Since then he’s been working on duplicating house keys and the more secure disc detainer keys pictured above.  Nrp’s website, and the comments that go along with his detailed posts, provide a wealth of information about his project along with lots of interesting links about computer enhanced key generation.

This project and the way nrp uses his printer remind me of the very cool Nickel for Scale project by Amy Hurst and MakerBot’s own Marty McGuire.  How cool would it be to never have to go get keys made again?  I don’t think it’s too much to dream that one day you might be able to put a key down next to a nickel, take a picture or short video, and have your MakerBot crunch out a few duplicates.

Error - could not find Thing 8925.
Error - could not find Thing 9463.
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How to get better results from your 3D printer – Coating

Improving prints through coating

Improving prints through coating

This is the seventh in a series of posts about ways to get even better print results from your 3D printer.  The prior posts provided information on calibrating hardware, upgrading hardware, calibrating software, maintenance, finishing by abrasion, and finishing with heat.   Your hints, tips, hacks, and suggestions have been really great!  Please keep sending them in!  Today’s post is about a surprisingly little-used technique – coating:

  1. Coat.You could choose to coat your object in another material that would obscure any imperfections in the printed object.  These will inevitably lead to a loss of detail, but improve the look of the final object.
    1. Covering a printed object with successive coats of paint1
    2. Dipping your object in liquid plastic grip material.  This is typically used to put a very “grippy” layer on tool handles.
    3. I’ve heard of others who have used ABS glue or other material to essentially paint a coat of plastic onto the surface of a printed object.

Have you used some kind of coating to improve your 3D printed results?  Please share your ideas and tips in the comments section below!

  1. Unfortunately, it appears that the user or Flickr removed the pictures from that post.  :(  []
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Getting more out of Dave’s Profilinator

Profileinator - By David Durant

Profileinator - By David Durant

Recently I posted about the basic usage of Dave Durant’s Profilinator, a program that will calculate the best print settings for your 3D printer.   In order to get you started with how to use the program I left out two amazing features of this program.  Today I’d like to cover the first of these sweet features.

As some of you already know or might have guessed, his program can provide a range of reasonable print settings, not just a single recommended setting.  If you want to see a range of print settings all you need to do is specify different values for the minimum and maximum for Feed rate, Thread height, and Thread width.  Dave’s program will then solve for the appropriate flow rate given those settings.

How is this helpful to you?

Well, perhaps you may not yet know what settings you want – so one particular set of setting values isn’t that useful.  Perhaps you really like thin layers?1  Perhaps you’re not sure about how thin or thick you want each extruded thread to be?  By specifying a lower minimum and a higher maximum for the Feed rate, Thread height, and Thread width you’ll get a list of every permutation of these variables2 with the appropriate Flow Rate.  Now you can experiment freely printing using any of those settings and find out first hand which layer height and which thread width you really appreciate.

Based upon your particular hardware and configuration, you may discover your robot’s limitations. 3  After printing for a while, you’ll get a good feel for how fast you can run your robot’s XY platform. 4  Once you know an optimal feed rate for your robot5 then it’s a matter of picking other settings.

Rather than spending your time filling up your home with calibration cubes, trying to discover your optimal settings – using the ranges of settings from Dave’s program you can choose which of a range of good settings you most appreciate.

Bonus Info:

Dave mentioned during our conversation that he was able to reduce either the layer height or thread width without a big change to printing speed – but that reducing both at the same time would increase print time. 6

  1. Low layer heights. []
  2. At the specified increments []
  3. For instance, my Cupcake’s Unicorn drawings get a little shakey when I run the platform speed much above 2500. []
  4. This is the feed rate. []
  5. My Thing-O-Matic’s optimal feed rate is probably between 30 and 35. []
  6. I’m going to apologize to Dave, in this cowardly footnote, in case what I’m mis-describing his wisdom. []
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Lessons Learned from Resolution at 0.20mm

Dave Durant - DIY 3D Printer Vertical Resolution World Record Holder

Dave Durant - DIY 3D Printer Vertical Resolution World Record Holder

With Dave Durant’s magic printer calibration program I was able to just specify what layer height (vertical resolution) I wanted – and it just worked.  This is a totally new experience for me.  Before playing with this program I spent time dialing in each version of ReplicatorG to my specific 3D printer’s settings – with different settings for my Cupcake than for my Thing-O-Matic.  Now I can just choose my desired vertical resolution and FIRE THE MAKERBOT!  If you’re planning on playing limbo with your computer too, there are a few practical concerns:1

  1. Careful measurement of the filament is important. Printing by laying down 0.2mm thick layers of plastic means your printer has to have a very good idea of how much plastic is coming in and going out.  Dave’s magic program will figure how much is going out, so all you have to do is carefully measure your filament.  I suggested my method the other day.  You don’t have to use my method, but I would suggest that you can’t take too many samples in getting this right.  Printing at 0.2mm layers means that over or under measuring will have a pretty big impact on the amount of plastic deposited at each layer.
  2. Attention to the build height is important. Printing at 0.2mm thick layers of plastic means that if your starting build height is off by as much as 0.1mm, you’re basically compromising half a layer of plastic.  Being off by 0.1mm in starting build height just isn’t that much of a problem when you are printing at 0.4mm per layer – there’s plenty of room for the plastic to squish around and find a place to go.  Make sure your Z maximum endstop doesn’t have a lot of wiggle, your platform is hitting the Z maximum endstop in the same area reliably, and that there’s not much wobble or wiggle2 in your Z stage that could cause a big variance in your starting build height.  Also, be sure to check your printer’s auto-homing features several times before printing at this level. 3  If you’re not sure about how to calibrate the proper print height, follow these calibration directions.
  3. Having a perfectly flat build surface is important. Since you’re printing at such thin layers, inconsistencies in your build surface will be magnified through the layers as you print.  You’ll want to make sure your build surface is totally flat – or flat to within about 0.1mm.  If you’re very close to having a level surface a good way to test it is to print a large flat object.  When that first layer goes down you’ll see the filament fuse together where the platform is at the proper height and either become individual strands where the platform is too low or it will start pushing plastic around where the build platform is too high.  I would suggest calibrating your starting build height for the highest point on your build surface and, if you’re using an automated build platform, you can just slightly adjust the lower points by adding a piece of Kapton tape.  Putting it under the belt in the lowest spots will raise your build surface very very slightly.

Next time – more about Dave Durant’s magic printer calibration program!

  1. How low can YOU go!?! []
  2. Or wibbly wobbly []
  3. A printer head crash isn’t catastrophic, but it is a pain. []
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ScribbleJ’s Dual Extruder!

Dual Extruder / Dual Material Makerbot by ScribbleJ

Dual Extruder / Dual Material Makerbot by ScribbleJ

ScribbleJ has done it again!  Not wanting to waste his MK5 extruder he built a mount for it to sit next to his MK6 and wrote some custom code and put together another mind-bending Thingiverse entry. While he says it’s not ready for prime time yet, it’s a huge step forward to printing with dissolvable support material. Don’t forget to check out the video of the dual extruder in action:

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12 months special financing on new
MakerBot 3D printer hardware purchases
with Dell Preferred Account on

Limited-time offer for qualified customers.
Offer Details

12 months special financing on new MakerBot 3D printer hardware purchases is a no interest if paid in full by November, 2015 financing promotion. Interest will be charged to your account from the purchase date if the purchase balance is not paid in full by your payment due date in November, 2015 or if you make a late payment. Minimum monthly payments are required during the promotional period. If not paid by end of promotional period, account balance and new purchases will be subject to the Standard APR rates, which range from 19.99% - 29.99% variable APR, as of 8/30/2014, depending on creditworthiness. Offers subject to credit approval and may be changed without notice.

Dell Preferred Account offered to U.S. residents by WebBank, who determines qualifications for and terms of credit. Promotion eligibility varies and is determined by WebBank. Taxes, shipping, and other charges are extra and vary. Payments equal 3% of your balance or $20, whichever is greater. Minimum Interest Charge is $2.00.

All products in your cart at the time of purchase will qualify for the special financing promotion if purchased with Dell Preferred Account between 10-30-2014 through 11/25/2014.

New MakerBot 3D printer hardware purchases are eligible! Refurbished and/or used purchases do not qualify for promotions. Eligible e-value/order codes: A7516721, A7629818, A7598495, A7617635.

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