Second week of 3D printing with the MakerBot Replicator – more complicated models, better handle on Skeinforge

Added on August 23, 2012

All last week I spent a great deal of time working with the UNK Art Department’s new MakerBot Replicator 3D printer and was able to churn out a good collection of new things to show. To top it off, I was able to spend two very intensive days slicing and printing over the weekend and

Insights, tips and tricks learned

By moving the Replicator to a different, more stable environment, I was able to solve two of the big issues found last week: inconsistent layer quality in the first 1-5 layers and layer separation with tall prints. Both of these issues are somewhat interconnected and stem from the fact that in order to produce quality prints consistently, the 3D printer must be in a very consistent environment. In other words, drafts, breezes or other passing air currents can play a very real role in the quality of the prints.

The solution is simple – either move the printer to an environment without people coming and going, creating air flow, or enclose the printer in a protective case of some kind the minimize the possibility of air flowing through the build surface. We may not be able to control air flow through the printer in most cases (we do want it to be at least visible to people), so an obvious next step would be to add some windows to the machine and/or build an enclosure around it.

Understanding the importance of air flow control is key to producing really good prints whenever you want, at any size that you want. As air flows through the build area, it can cause differential cooling throughout the layers of the print (different parts of the model cooling at different rates). If there is too much of a difference in temperature between layers (or even throughout individual layers), layers can separate as the warmer layer peels away from the cooler layer.

Pictures and videos of this week’s prints

This week’s work yielded a nice little pile of prints, so there are tons and tons of photos for you to check out (almost 100!). Be sure to check at the videos at the end to see a couple of the prints in action :)

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