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How to Make a New Tool Work Well for You Using a Filament Welder



Kevin is in his home garage, playing with his new tool, a filament welder. It has a couple of grooves for 1.75 or 3 millimeter filament, but it didn't come with directions. Caron found a how-to video on the company's page, but it had no sound.

So learning how to use the tool has been trial and error. He looks at the YouTube video, plays with the machine, goes back and looks at the how-to video, and continues back and forth to figure out how to best use this tool.

This is true of a lot of tools Kevin ends up using to create his art. He has to play with them to figure out how to get them to work, and how to get them to work the best way for his needs.

One thing he didn't understand about this particular tool was a knob above the on / off switch that goes from 100 to 220. At first he thought it controlled volts, but then he figured out it controls temperature.

When he got the welder out of the package, the adjustment knob was maxed out past 220. The first time he tried the welder, he left it at that temperature and welded the filament for 30 seconds. It melted together fine but was brittle. When he tried to roll the filament onto the spool, it just snapped. That suggests it was a little too warm.

The next time, Kevin adjusted the temperature about halfway and tried it for 30 seconds. That didn't fuse the filament at all. Then he started playing with it, increasing the temperature first, staying at 30 seconds duration. He finally found that having the temperature just under 220 welded the filament without making it brittle. Then he began adusting the time period, finally discovering that 1 minute duration at about 200 seemed to work best.

Kevin shows a small hank of paper that came with the welder. Somewhat like onion skin or waxed paper, it's used to keep the filament from sticking inside the welder as it heats up.

He puts the two sections of filament he wants to fuse into the holder from each side, then uses a flush cutter to cut each piece of filament as straight as possible so he can butt them together. Then he wraps the paper around the joint and clamps the welder over the paper, hits the timer, and holds as still as possible while the filament heats up.

He lets it heat up for 1 minute, then lets it cool to the touch so the filament isn't sticky like chewing gum. Then he removes the paper to reveal the welded section. Success!

Next Kevin lifts the holder's spring steel sections that keep the filament in place from each side and slips out the joined filament. The joint, however, is oversized with a noticeable bulge. He takes some sandpaper and trues it up. In the manufacturer's video, they used an Exacto knife to clean the joint, but Caron has found it easier just to sand the filament to size.

If you're wondering why Kevin is working in his garage on this project, that's because he's using an FCD ("Fiendishly Clever Device"), or sizer, he built to make sure that his 3D printing filament doesn't have any bulges, a problem he had with some filament he bought a while back.

This sizer has spool spindles on each end with a bent piece of metal between them. The piece of metal has a 3 millimeter diameter hole in it that catches any filament bulges so they can be trimmed down. Otherwise, those bulges can (and have) make a 3D print fail. He runs the filament from a coil or spool on one spindle, through the 3 millimeter hole to the spool on the other side.

Now with the filament welder, he can combine partial spools of filament. The section of joined filament spools up just fine.

Before he does an actual 3D print, however, Kevin wants to take some welded pieces of filament and run them through the printer to make sure it feeds properly.

So that's how Kevin figures out how to use any tool, especially if it doesn't have directions or, in this case, they might be in another language (this tool came from France).

Caron is going to back to work, so you have a moment to hear the Voice date herself ....


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