Archive for 3-D printer filament

The mystery of the 3D print fail

Overheat screen for 3D printer - Kevin CaronIt starts out so innocently …. Doesn’t it always, especially with 3D printing!

I wanted to print something using NGen_FLEX (usually called “Ninjaflex”) rubber filament on my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante printer when I got a “Runaway temperature warning” (right), and the printer shut down.

I checked the graph in Simplify 3D, the combination host and slicer program I was using, and saw the temperature spiking instead of its usual gradual climb.

I shut off the 3D printer, let it cool, and tried it again. Same problem.

I printed the same file with regular PLA and had no problem.

There was only one thing to do …

Read More →

An Embarrassment of Riches: 3D Printing Filament Options Multiply

One of the aspects of being on the leading edge – or as I like to refer to it, the bleeding edge – of a huge movement is watching what you did become history.

That is certainly true about 3D printing.

Liberator 3D printed gunAs important and world-changing as the Internet has been, 3D printing may exceed the Internet’s importance because of the number of industries it has infiltrated.

Part of that has been because the concept of 3D printing – building a three-dimensional object by simply “stacking” 2 dimensional layers on top of one another – has implications for medical, scientific, fashion and other fields as well as art.

We’ve all heard about the gun that was 3D printed, but most people didn’t get beyond the fact that a 3D-printed gun isn’t really practical. (Besides, I’m really tired of hearing about that damn gun!)

Yes, people are already 3D printing in metal, biomaterials and other specialty filaments – heck, even I have printed in bronze – but we seem to have moved into a new era ….

I realized this when I got an email from MakerShaper, a North Carolina based 3D-printer filament company, to let us know that they now have a 3D-printing Filament Comparison Guide.

MakerShaper Filament Comparison GuideWe’re not talking about bronze, copper, steel or wood (well, sorta wood), as I’ve written about before. This guide tells you more about different “non-exotic” types of filament like PLA and ABS, which most of us print in. (I’d love to print in 100% bronze, for instance, but the 80%  bronze / 20% PLA works for me now.)

Yes, now that 3D printing is become more and more mainstream, people need filaments that are flexible, drop resistant, food safe, heat resistant and that have other special qualities. And now they can have them.

Considering the speed with which this industry is developing, this is surely only the beginning. I can’t wait to see what else is over the horizon.

Maybe I will be able to 3D print that key lime pie with chocolate graham cracker crust sooner than I’d hoped ….


Using a 3D printer to refine a design

Creating isn’t always a one-shot process.

When I first conceived my 3D filament sizing set up, the bent piece of metal through which the filament ran to ensure there were no lumps that could jam the 3D printer seemed a simple yet elegant solution.

After using it for a while – and catching my coat on it, as you’ll hear about in the video – I realized there was a better way ….

This video explains what I came up with and how I used my 3D printer to create, then refine the design:

What do you do with a failed 3D print?

endtable-croppedAnyone who works with 3D printing – other than on the very high end – has likely pondered what to do with prints that don’t make it.

Early on, I asked it a lot. Between hardware, software and filament problems, I had a lot of fails.

Often a fail is unsalvageable. I mean, really, what can anyone do with a rat’s nest of filament?! (Maybe find a homeless rat?)

My hope is that the Protocycler will finally be completed. I invested in this Indiegogo-fueled project that grinds up old filament so it can be reconstituted to fresh filament, but at this point it seems like it’s still a pipe dream. (And I’m now really reluctant to invest in any crowdsourced project without a lot of scrutiny!)

But some failed projects got far enough that a little imagination might lead to something worthwhile. Take for instance, the print that failed after more than two days of printing (right) because of a power outage ….

Read More →

String theory: removing strings from a 3D printed sculpture

Close up of 3D printed sculpture Love and Marriage - Kevin CaronPrinting big sculptures on my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante printer is a balance of heat and cool.

As discussed in a previous post, I installed a heated bed on the printer, which helps keep the base of my large format 3D-printed sculptures adhered to the bed during the multiple days of many prints. (Some prints have taken four days. Keeping an eye on a print that long 24 hours a day, switching out spools of filament, adjusting speeds, etc., is definitely not for the faint of heart!)

As the sculptures print, though, I cool them down with fans. My fan of choice right now is a 4-foot-tall oscillating tower fan.

The cooling is especially important when the upper sections of a sculpture narrow, as many of mine do. When they narrow like that, I also turn down print speed to avoid burning on any edges.

The result is spiderweb like strings, or threads, that cool as the hotend moves. They sometimes run between sections almost like the warp, or horizontal threads, in a weaving ….

Read More →

3D Printing Filament Comes Out of the Closet

The Point, a 3D-printed bronze sculpture - Kevin CaronI’ve written about applying finishes to the surface of a 3D-printed resin sculpture, but today there are a lot more options for types of the resin filament itself.

Nearly everyone has heard about exotic 3D printing that use biomaterials, titanium, etc. but I’m talking here about filament that mere mortals like me can use in their own 3D printers.

I have 3D-printed in bronze, as you can see at right in my 26″ tall sculpture The Point. That filament is 80% bronze and 20% resin. I’ve printed both a small version of this form on my Cerberus 3D 250 and the larger version on my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer.

I don’t have as many choices for my Gigante, though, which requires 5-pound spools of filament for my large prints – unless I want to “weld” together filament from 1-pound spools – providing I can get 3 millimeter filament in that type – and rewind it , which isn’t an entirely crazy idea.

Yet the new materials you can actually print in are staggering. And they aren’t just facsimiles, either. The filaments are actually a mixture of the material and resin, so you are literally printing in these amazing materials ….
Read More →

The Strange Case of the 3D printed Geared Ball

Geared sphere - 3D printed by Kevin CaronIf you read my last blog post, you know I’ve been playing around with some cool designs from Thingiverse.

Both are geared – one is a cube, the other a ball. You can see me playing with them in that last blog post – several people have remarked they are like a modern Rubik’s Cube. I’ve taken a geared cube to events and people just can’t stop handling it.

Lately, I’ve been having fun enlarging the designs to print on my 8-foot-tall Cerberus 3D Gigante 3D printer, something that was a whole lot harder than I thought it would be – it isn’t just a matter of scaling up mathematically.

I’ve also been adding stripes to cubes while printing (another good reason to check out last week’s post to see me manipulate one).

But the point of this post is the strange thing I discovered after I printed the large black geared ball (right) ….

When you 3D print a geared cube, you print all the pieces at the same time. With the geared balls, you print all nine pieces – four large ones, four small ones and a middle – separately.

Difference between PLA and ABS 3D printed filament - Kevin CaronUsing my 3D Systems CubeX 3D printer, I had printed six of the pieces in black ABS filament for this 5″ geared ball when I realized I wasn’t going to have enough to print the last three pieces.

So I found some black 1.71 mm PLA filament, which is what the CubeX runs, and figured, “What the hell – filament is filament.”

After the last three pieces printed, I bought some 1/4 x 20 Allen bolts to assemble it, just as I’d done with a 2-1/2″ gray version I’d printed earlier.

But the black geared ball just wouldn’t go together. It probably took me two hours to assemble the gray one, but the black one probably took me three.

Finally, I realized that the three pieces I printed in PLA resin were slightly larger – the photo at right shows one of the smaller pieces protruding slightly.

I’d heard that PLA resin shrinks less, and this seems to prove it.

I want to try playing with this some more, comparing PLA to ABS, but since I finally got the black geared ball together, I’m happy for now.

Getting to Solid

Opioid, a 3D printed fine art sculpture - Kevin CaronLike most things, when you start looking below the surface, you find all sorts of nuances that make you realize that there is more than you realized to whatever you are doing. Well, at least to do it right!

For instance, I’d never thought about how to make a flat surface using 3D printing. After all, I do it all the time with metal – I make a very similar form to what you’ll see below to use as the strikers in most of my sound sculptures.

Besides, when I 3D print sculptures (or anything else), I have large expanses of filament. As you can see at right in my latest 3D print, Opioid, I have large expanses of solid filament “fabric,” but they aren’t horizontal. The printer does a fine job of creating these 3D printed “skins,” even in large sections.

But what if you want to create a flat surface? How does the 3D printer go from, say, printing the edges of something to filling in the area between the edges, especially if it is a pretty large expanse?

Well, that is a different story altogether …. Read More →

Coats of many colors: using finishes on 3D-printed resin

Epic Swoon, a 3D printed fine art sculpture by Kevin CaronWhen I first started 3D printing with my 3D Systems CubeX it was such a struggle to get the form completed the way I wanted it I never thought about finishes.

I was purely focused on the form.

Besides, 3D printing delivers the strong, saturated color of an opaque filament, such as in sculptures like my 5-1/2 foot-tall commissioned piece Epic Swoon, which has a red upper and a black pedestal, or the often glowing quality of translucents, like my sculpture Easy In.

I love how those translucent filaments embrace the light – one of my favorites is my sculpture Sunscraper, which practically bursts into flame it’s so luminous.

The first time I used a finish on a piece was with my sculpture Oculum, and it was out of necessity ….

Read More →

Taking a tumble: burnishing 3D-printed bronze

The Point, a 3D printed bronze sculpture - Kevin CaronMany sculptors work in bronze, but in my more than 10 years as a professional artist, I have worked in everything but. I have mostly fabricated in mild steel, but have also worked with stainless steel, Cor-ten (weathering) steel, aluminum, brass and copper.

Finally, with 3D printing, I have my first bronze! Well, it’s 80% bronze and 20% PLA resin, but the resulting print is clearly a different breed than the ABS and PLA resins I usually print in.

For one thing, it’s noticeably heavier. Seeing as I’m printed just two or three layers thick, it’s amazing how much heavier these bronzes are than if they’d been printed in the resin I usually use.

(Of course, that gets my mind going … if I could print a solid bronze, how much would it weigh? How would it compare to the weight of a traditional poured bronze? And we’re off and running through the grassy fields of my mind ….)

One of the big differences is that the sculpture isn’t done once the printhead rises ….

Read More →