After getting the printer up and running, I started looking at ways to improve the quality of the prints. It was time for some upgrades.
After printing a few knick knacks it came time to print something useful, and what’s more useful than printing parts for the printer itself? The first part I printed for this printer was out of necessity due to the damage done to my build platform while working out the proper starting and ending G-Codes. The build platform is a heated aluminum plate covered in a round of Build Tak, a non-stick like surface for 3D printing. I found the Build Tac had print adhesion issues… it would either stick like eggs on a hot stainless steel pan, or would slip off mid-print and destroy the build. It’s also soft and now had a gash in it that wasn’t conducive to attractive prints.
After a little googling, I found a 120mm Borosilicate glass plate that fits right on top of the build plate and could be held in place with some small binder clips and these printed spacers, found on Thingiverse. They snapped in place and worked like a charm. The glass takes a little longer to heat up but once it does, it provides a much smoother surface on which to print. One other downside is you’re sacrificing 3mm of vertical build space with this part, but I thought it was a fair trade.
The glass isn’t perfect though, I was still having occasional issues with prints slipping off the glass; really frustrating when a 12 hour print slips 9 hours in. One option that worked well for me were some strips of Scotch Blue Painters tape. It’s cheap, thin, easy to apply and works great. The only downside is the gaps between the strips can leave lines on the bottom of your prints. Not a deal breaker but not perfect either.
My latest experiment in build surfaces is a single wide strip of Kapton tape over the glass plate. Kapton tape is a high temperature polyimide film tape that is stable at a wide range of extreme temperatures. It’s used frequently in electronics as a thermal insulating electrical tape, but you might recognize it as the foil like film wrapping spacecraft like the Lunar Lander. It’s a super thin, very sticky tape that can be tricky to apply, but it seems to have all the best qualities of a 3D printed surface. Prints stick but not too well, and the surface is as smooth as the bare glass. I picked up a 5″ wide roll of Kapton Tape on Amazon which will far outlast this printer.
With the added thickness and insulating qualities of glass and Kapton, it can take longer for the platform to get to temperature. I noticed it takes about 5 minutes for it to rise to 60˚C from room temperature. A little longer for the glass to heat through. There are a couple of things working against the build platform’s heating abilities. One is that the main cooling fan is located directly below it, and there is a big hole between the plate and that fan, to allow the heater’s wiring through. This leads to it getting cooled inadvertently, luckily whiteglint143 over at Thingiverse designed and published a Bed Hole Plug that seals it right up.
While I was plugging the printer’s gaps I also printed three of these Leg Shields designed by Thingiverse user “thetrebor” to prevent air blowing up from the fan as well as prevent filament bits, dust, dirt and whatever else from falling down into the fan assembly.
In the next post I’m going to go into a 3D printer accessory that changes how you execute, monitor, and share your printing adventures with the world…