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3D printing

Following an enjoyable club evening where members shared their 3D printing experiences we thought it was worth sharing some of the information here on the website. We've listed below the printers, software and websites mentioned at the meeting plus another few more that are worth a look.

3D printers

There are lots of 3D printers around, including kits from as little as £99. The reliability and build quality of these low-end printers can be suspect but it is definitely the cheapest way to find out about 3D printing!

The printer Jeremy, G8MLK, demonstrated was his Cetus3D Mk2 (see https://www.cetus3d.com/ ). It cost about £329. The newer Mk3 is now listed at £299 via Ebay / Tiertime. It comes with “Up Studio” software which controls the printer and does slicing, supports, rafts etc.

Mike, G4RAA's printer, as shown in a video on the club evening, is an Anycubic i3 Mega (see https://www.anycubic.com/collections/anycubic-mega-3d-printers/products/anycubic-i3-mega), which is mildly modified with a frame-top spool holder and a pulley wheel to guide the filament in the right direction. Current pricing is under £200 but the improved Mega S is also available at £220. The Mega has a heated 'Ultrabase' non-lift print bed. Having a heated bed means ABS can be printed as well as PLA (and HIPS and wood-filled PLA). The bed has a special finish that holds prints firm until the bed cools down.

Andy's 3D printer is the original 3D Flashforge Creator with dual extruders and heated bed. An updated version is now available (on eBay and elsewhere). It has been improved to include a door and roof to keep the draft out (pretty essential for printing ABS). Currently street price around £499.

Filament

PLA is a great plastic for printing but tends to distort at high temperatures (eg if left in the sun in a conservatory) and isn't UV stabilised, so not ideal for antenna parts if they're to be permanently installed.

ABS is tough and doesn't distort as readily as PLA but it smells and is difficult to print, so needs an enclosed printer.

ASA is like ABS but is UV-stable. It is more expensive and as yet we have no experience printing with it.

Jeremy uses Tiertime or Eryone PLA (from Amazon).

Mike has mostly used Anycubic PLA. The wood-filled PLA he used for the printed handle was from Geeetech and he has also used BQ filament. The latter printed ok but was a little too stiff for his liking. He bought a couple of really cheap rolls of white and 'golden' PLA online The white is spooled badly, which can apparently result in the filament jamming but he hasn't yet had a problem. He hasn't used the 'golden' filament yet but he's pretty certain it won't be conductive!

Andy has been printing much longer so has used a wider range of filaments. He prints ABS mostly.

CAD Software

If you want to design prints yourself you'll need CAD software capable of outputting .stl files.

Jeremy demonstrated OpenSCAD, which is free from http://www.openscad.org/. Both Jeremy and Andy, M0YGB, use this.

Mike uses DesignSpark Mechanical, which is free CAD software from RS Components. See https://www.rs-online.com/designspark/mechanical-software

Trevor uses SketchUp, which he is very familiar with. Despite warnings online that it isn't suitable for 3D printing, Trevor seems to have great success with it. You can get a free personal version here https://www.sketchup.com/plans-and-pricing#for-personal

Sometimes you get a problem with a file, often because the 3D surface has a hole in it (a missing section of the code for the surface). You can fix files like this using Autodesk's free-to-use NetFabb online https://service.netfabb.com/login.php, although slicer software (see next section) has got better at fixing iffy files.

Printer control & 'slicer' software

Jeremy's printer came with "Up Studio" software which is dedicated to his printer. It allows you to select from a few fill options and whether to print with a raft or support for overhangs. The software slices the stl file and uploads the printer control file to the printer via USB.

Mike uses Cura to slice stl files and produce .gcode files which go on an SD card to put in his printer. Cura is free software from Ultimakes, a big printer manufacturer, https://ultimaker.com/en/products/ultimaker-cura-software. It has presets for many brands of printer, including open-source designs, and different types and brands of filament. It allows the user control over a wide range of adjustments if they wish.

Sources of printable designs

Thingiverse http://www.thingiverse.com - probably the biggest repository of designs. Quality can be an issue as files can occasionally turn out to be unprintable.

My Mini Factory http://www.myminifactory.com - a UK-based website with a mix of free and paid-for designs. The designs on this site are guaranteed printable.

STLfinder http://www.stlfinder.com is a search engine that finds downloadable designs from a variety of sites including Thingiverse.

There are a number of other sites, including 3DWarehouse for SketchUp models https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/?hl=en, Pinshape https://pinshape.com and SketchFab https://sketchfab.com/3d-models.



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