So, I have entered the wild world of 3D printing...

I have various reasons for wanting to print my own parts. I am mainly interested in printing scale parts for my crawlers, light bars, roof racks, and supporting parts like ESC brackets and RX boxes. Right now I have two giant drawers in my shop with all kinds of random RC parts. If I need a bracket or want to make something I will go to this loosely organized pile of RC goodness and look for the parts that will work for what I am trying to do. If I can't find something adequate in the RC parts, then I will see if I can make it out of aluminum. In the end, I get something that is almost right for the job I am trying to make it do, but you can tell its not quite the right part to be there. I am hoping that between learning 3D software and sites like Thingiverse I will be able to print the exact part I want and get rid of those two parts drawers.

Getting into it I did a ton on research, figuring out what was the best printers, the best filament and all of the best practices. I have also done a ton of research on drawing programs, which are the most widely used and why.

Initially I was going to go with Solid Works for a drawing program... It is what the engineers use at work and it seemed pretty powerful (...and, knowing our engineers, has to be easy to use). I figured I would have built in tech support as well. But, the program is EXTREMELY expensive for the initial purchase, and ever expensive for their annual maintenance fee. I tried a couple more out, including Design Spark, which was not as easy to learn as I had hoped. A lot of the guys on the popular 3D printing channels use Fusion 360, and I have started learning that. I wish I could say that I am an expert on it now, but I have barely scratched the surface due to the insane amount of OT I am working now.

After doing a lot of research I discovered that many 3D printers needed an insane about of tinkering to get them to print both reliably and print with good quality. Not wanting to go down that road I searched out printers that were as close to turn-key as the industry provides. Basically, I wanted a printer that I take out of the box, feed it filament and it just does its job. Indeed, such an animal does exist. One company that is making outstanding printers with little muss of fuss needed by the user to get both reliable and good quality prints is Lulzbot. I found their Lulzbot Mini-2 to be more of less the perfect printer for me, except for one little thing, this printer costs $1500. With my finger hovering over the mouse button, getting ready to pull the trigger on this printer I had a "coming to God" moment. I want to get this toy so I can make toys for my toys, and I am ready to spend $1500 to do it. Closing Lulzbot's page without buying the printer was hard, but I decided to go back and look for other options. Again, going back to the really popular printing channels and seeing what they had highly reviewed led me to the Creality CR10. Its is not set up and ready to go when it arrives like the Mini-2, but from the reviews I saw, it takes a reasonable amount of tinkering to get it up and running, print reliable with great quality. At $400, basically the price of a new RC kit, I could rationalize this purchase better.

At the end of last week I received it and set it up and did my first test print with it, the classic "Benchie"...
Untitled by Scott O, on Flickr

Untitled by Scott O, on Flickr

Untitled by Scott O, on Flickr

After the successful Benchie, I printed a couple of things out for the printer itself to make adjustments and use easier. The tape works well for first-layer adheasion, but it works too well. The PLA actually bonds into the tape, requiring a good amount of work to get the tape off. I have experimented with a couple of other things for first lay adhesion, the best so far being a glue stick. The next thing I will likely try is Aquanet hair spray, a lot of people say this is the ticket. But, I am also thinking about getting a flexible print bed.

Printing only small stuff I have had no problems, but I ran into a common issue with this printer when I start my first large print, the glass bed the printer comes with is warped. No amount of bed leveling can remove it, but there are a couple of tricks to try to deal with it. In the end the real "fix" is to get another print bed, and the go-to fix is a 12x12 mirror. Going to get that today, so we'll see how it works.

Untitled by Scott O, on Flickr

Doing some of the tricks to deal with the warped bed, I have completed my first large print, all 10 hours worth, which is one half of an articulating arm.

Untitled by Scott O, on Flickr

Sadly, I don't think I have enough of the PLA that came with the printer for the second half, so I will have to wait for my Matter Hackers order to come in this week.

Do you 3D print?

What printer do you run?

What is your favorite filament and why?

What is your favorite CAD program?

What are your favorite 3D printing channels on YouTube?