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Noodle Printing

Posted by Alex R English on

My Wife received a soap holder (and a fancy bar of soap) for Christmas that looked like it was made by dribbling loops of plastic in a pattern to form a mat, then die-cut into the final shape. I saw this and thought it was interesting and wondered how well I could do something similar with a 3D Printer. While I hesitate to call it "3D Printing," it was done on a printer.

Here's the original - it felt like it was made from some sort of TPU (thermoplastic urethane) or something with similar properties.

Soap Holder

Here it is with a bar of soap on it for scale.

Soap Holder with Soap

Its purpose is to let the moisture drain away from the soap so it doesn't sit in the water and dissolve or stay mushy.

To try making my own version of this with a printer, I modeled up a rectangle of appropriate dimensions in OpenSCAD, exported my rectangle as an STL, pulled it into Slic3r and started tweaking. I'll jump straight to what (more or less) worked.

	LOW speed - 7mm/s but might be able to go faster with higher temps
	0 perimeters (or shells, depending on your software)
	0 top and bottom solid layers (I only wanted to print the infill)
	10% honeycomb infill (I'll come back to this)
	245C extruder temp (HOT to make sure it flows)
	Extrusion multiplier of 2.5
	
	Appended to the end of the start g-code:
		G1 Z12; raise the nozzle by 12mm
		G92 Z0; set this new position as the Z-home, or 0-refference for the z-axis

The idea with these settings was to print a ways above the print bed so the plastic would noodle down onto the bed to form the object. The low speed was needed to allow it to fall (not quite drip) rather than being pulled taught. The high extrusion temp made sure its viscosity would be as low as possible, also aiding in making sure it would lay down rather than trying to bridge. The extrusion multiplier here was critical, in that we really need more plastic coming out than would trace the path formed by the extruder - it had to noodle out down below and create little swirls to give the right texture.

The infill pattern mattered quite a bit. I experimented with a few options here and found honeycomb to be the best option. Octagram spiral and hilbert curve were not "connected" enough - each layer didn't interconnect enough with the others to give the part much structure. Rectilinear, linear, and concentric were just too regular to give the right kind of pattern.

In playing with the settings over a few different attempts, I had this result, which wasn't at all what I was going for, but was interesting - this was honeycomb, but with too little height on the nozzle with the infill too sparse.

Noodled Honeycomb Infill

Here's the final result with the settings from above.

3D Printed Noodle Printed Soap Holder

And for comparison, here it is with the same bar of soap on it.

3D Printed Noodle Printed Soap Holder with Soap

It's not a masterpiece, but it was an interesting experiment, and the result does serve the same purpose as the original just as well. I do think a patterning of the loops more similar to the original could be achieved with more careful settings. I also let this "print" longer than I had intended, which made it taller than the original.

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