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Printer Theory

  • Accuracy vs Precision and Threaded Rod vs Leadscrews in 3D Printers

    Many Personal 3D Printers use threaded rod as a drive mechanism, usually just for the Z-axis, most of the rest use precision leadscrews.  We've seen debate in multiple forums about which is better, and about how much of a difference it actually makes.  We've even heard the argument that leadscrews are a waste of money, or that people using them in printer kits are just trying to extort more money from you.  We'd like to contribute to this discussion and mention some of the reasons we feel leadscrews are a better choice (and worth the cost) for this application.

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  • 3-Screw Bed Leveling and the Importance of a Level Print Bed on a 3D Printer

    Achieving and maintaining a level print bed on your 3D Printer is of paramount importance.  High quality prints and reliable printing depend on a level bed, particularly at high resolutions.  In this post we'll explain why it's so important, how to achieve it, and what you can do if you just can't get there with your printer.

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  • Vapor Smoothing and Polishing PLA with Tetrahydrofuran (THF)

    Acetone has been used for some time to treat ABS parts, either by polishing, vapor smoothing, or even using it to stick parts together.  Likewise Methyl ethyl ketone (MEK) has been used to the same effect with ABS.  We found Tetrahydrofuran (THF) to be the best option in our assessment, but be warned that there are serious safety concerns to working with THF.

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  • 3D Printer Filament Buyer's Guide

    This is intended to be a very basic Personal 3D Printer filament buyer’s guide for new 3D Printer users.  Every single point presented here is worth a lengthy post, but this should serve as a top-level summary that might help you determine what plastic filaments will best suit your needs.

    Additionally, see What Plastic Filament does my 3D Printer Use.

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  • Investigating Flash Breaker Tape

    We're always working to find better ways to do things.  We feel it's important to report on the things that don't work out as well as on the successes.

    A while back we decided to try using Flash Breaker Tape as a print surface material, seeing if it had any advantages over Polyimide Tape (also known by the trademarked name Kapton).  Flash Breaker Tape is used in the composite manufacturing and repair industry, particularly in aerospace applications.  Ours came from Atacs Products. It is a thin-film polyester tape that uses a silicone adhesive just as Polyimide Tape does.  In short, we found that it does not perform as well as Polyimide Tape for print-bed surfacing, though it did work in one application.

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  • Printing with Support - Extreme Overhangs

    Printing with support is required when plastic must be deposited on a layer where there is no or insufficient plastic on the previous layer. This includes steep overhanging surfaces, straight overhangs, and fully suspended islands. Learning to print objects on a 3D Printer that require support structures will dramatically expand the potential of your printer and give you the confidence to undertake printing tasks that perhaps you had previously avoided. It would seem though that nature doesn't like to follow design guidelines like the "45 Rule," the idea that overhanging surfaces should not exceed 45 degrees thus avoiding the need to use support (a guideline Makerbot seems to live by); and many of the most compelling objects to print require the use of support.

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  • Filament Tolerances and Print Quality

    Filament Tolerances is a subject that doesn't get much discussion, yet is arguably the most important quality to look for when choosing a plastic supplier.

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