Monday, July 2, 2018

3D Printing

3D printing, or more specifically, additive manufacturing, is a manufacturing process the involves building 3D objects by adding layer upon layer of material to create the final product. Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) is the most common type of additive manufacturing, especially among household printing technologies.

In this blog, we are going to teach you the basics of how to prepare a file for 3D printing using FlashPrint software, which is free. Do not fiddle with the specifics of the settings until you have become more familiar with using the printer.

Extrude: The process of forcing out a thin layer of plastic.
Infill/Fill Density: The percentage of material that is printed inside of the outer shell of an object. There are different shapes that can be used to create the infill pattern inside of solid object.

Filament: The material that is fed out of the printer.
Print bed: The surface that the object is printed onto.
Raft: Layer, or layers, of extruded thermoplastic that is used to stabilise a printed object. A raft helps an object to adhere to the print bed.

File preparation
First you need to create a universal 3D file that the 3D printing software can open. STL is usually the easiest to use but fpp, x3g and obj files are also compatible. Open the 3D file that you have and it will appear in your window. You can pan and rotate around by holding the left or right mouse buttons and scroll to zoom in or out. Make sure that under ‘Print’, the machine type is set as ‘FlashForge Creator Pro’.

Use ‘Move’ to move the object around the bounds of the print area. In this submenu, use ‘On Platform’ to choose a face and select it as the face that is in contact with the platform.

Use ‘Rotation’ to rotate the object in any axis, as well as choose a surface to rotate to the platform.

Use ‘Scale’ to change the scaling of the object.

Use ‘Cut’ to slice the object.

Use ‘Extruder’ to choose to print the object using the left or right extruder.

Supports Options

We recommend using the ‘Linear’ support type, and sticking to the default settings. This will be required if your part has overhang. Click on the ‘Auto Supports’ button and the program will automatically create the required supports for your object. Then click 'Back', click ‘No’, and if you are ready, we can move onto the Print settings.

Print settings

First, make sure the 'Material Left' and 'Material Right' (extruders) are the same as the ones installed onto the printer. At the time of writing, both extruders have ABS filament installed (black and white). 'Supports' can be left on 'Automatch', but it refers to whether supports are printed by the left or right extruder. The 'Raft' setting will enable or disable the raft. If you disable the raft then it is important to monitor the printer during the start of its printing process to ensure that the extrusion is sticking to the bed during the first layer. The 'Resolution' setting tells you how thick each layer will be, and therefore how fine the detail of the print will be.

In the ‘Infill’ tab, you can set the percentage and fill pattern used in the infill. For objects where the internal solid structural strength is important, the higher the infill should be used, up to 100%. We recommend that the minimum infill percentage should be 30%.

Recommended temperatures
Extruder Temperature: ABS: 230C PLA: 200C
Platform Temperature: ABS: 100C PLA: 50C

Once you have chosen your Print settings, click 'OK' to save the file onto an SD card and then you can move onto the Printer setup.

Printer setup
Plug in the SD card and turn on the printer using the switch found at the rear left of the printer. Select ‘Print from SD’ and find the path to the file that you have saved.

Here we have clicked on the file ‘dual test.x3g’. The printer will take some time to begin heating, and will commence printing once the heating process has finished.

It is a good idea to monitor the first layer to verify that it adheres well to the build surface, and then also periodically each hour after that.

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