First workshop on 3D printing

I had to check at the front desk for directions twice.   Down the hall, take a left, through the door, take a right after entering Artspace, and I found myself in the windowless room that is the ModLab in Ottawa, hosted by artengine.

Along with about a dozen other people, I was there for a workshop on 3D printing, a technology that I am keen to get to know as I discover my makerself.  I have done a fair amount of reading on the basics of 3D printing, and even looked at buying a printer to through myself in, but I was pretty sure that knowledge would be over-learnt in about 5 minutes.  Many of the others were clearly more prepared:  as they booted up computers and compared designs, I pulled out a paper and pen.

Turned out that the workshop was the second in the series, and the previous week the workshop was about designing a plastic ring.  Behind already.

But not totally lost.  I am still not sure the implications of “flipping the triangles, but for the most part I understood:  we covered some design challenges for ensuring that your object is printable, tools for design, and had the printer going to produce a few statues.

Key learnings


  • Always use stl files:  makes it much easier as they are read by all printers
  • Slicer software:  Use Cora (cross platform, open source)
  • Repair software:  Blender for soft surfaces (e.g. models) or scade for hard surfaces (e.g. parts).  Netfab  is online.

Tips to print better:

A challenge seems to be starting the model, in terms of getting the nozzle of the printer to start properly or having the plastic start to peel upwards.  Put a skirt (line around the object to get the nozzle going) or a brim (a skirt up the model to assist with sticking the model down).

Obviously, the print can’t go over empty space.  You can instead use supports of less dense material for angles over 45%, and then the supports can be snapped off.  The other solution is just to thing of the object differently, for example, a T-shape can be flipped over and then no longer needs supports.

The highest resolution print comes from the vertical z-direction, so when printing anything of high resolution (e.g. a face) you want that to be vertical. However, this may lead to long print times as a taller object is slower to print; if you want a fast print, minimize the z-distance.

In terms of speed, recommended setting for the printers in the ModLab is 50-100 mm/s.

In terms of types of materials, PLA is easiest but melts at 58 degrees, while ABS is heat resistant.  PLA/PHA is good and doesn’t bend at the base (thus not necessitating a brim).  PVA is water soluble and so in a dual extruder could be used for support structures.

Next steps for learning:

First step, I need to download a 3D design software package (e.g. Blender, or something else:  I need to do some reading) and design something in it.  A simple ring would be a good project.  Assigned timeframe:  within the next 10 days.

Second, I need to slice it using Cora.

Third, I need to print it.  Assigned target date: the ModLab third week of October.




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