Ender 3

My Start in 3D Printing.

creator: x14km2d | build: 2021-10-11 | update: 2022-01-15

Intro

I’m currently printing out a seal of the Inquisition from the Warhammer 40K universe. Something I would have had to painstakingly rebuild from various materials a year ago. now I listen to the sounds of my 3d printer and check the process every half hour. all I had to do was download the model from the internet and copy it to an SD card. I inserted the card with the data into the 3d printer and started the production process.

There are a lot of technical developments that have surprised me in recent years: the Internet, the computer, the smartphone or virtual realities. Some developments are so fast that I can almost no longer follow. Nevertheless there are some things that are still a long way off. Temporary manipulations, people who can live forever, regrowing organs, finally intelligent artificial intelligences or people who have almost completely left behind the transition phase from cyborg to a new human being. Even the replicator mentioned in the science fiction series Star Trek still seems to be a long time coming. Nevertheless, a 3D printer is already quite a good approximation.

You can now print sand, food, sugar, cells and organs, homes or other things, but most of it is still >plastic, so it’s almost a real replicator. When something breaks in my apartment, I look to see if the file is available on the Internet. If not, I build the 3D model myself and can fix my problem within a day. I only need electricity, filament and time. the machine does the rest, just like on the Enterprise. the future is closer than we can imagine, because production processes are no longer limited to companies, factories or design studios.

I don’t like a component or the design is impractical. I change it, mix old with new design. A technical evolution within my small apartment. Rules can be new or rewritten. Modifications, models, components, prototypes are within my reach. My creativity turns into a constant flow of ideas and improvements. The 3D printer is a miniature factory for model makers, designers and inventors. Ring! Ring! Who’s there? Oh, China called. They want their factories back.

Of course, this is only worthwhile on a small scale, but if you look at the videos of industrial designers, makers and tabletop gamers, the technical revolution is in full swing. Even if you can’t produce everything yet, production processes can be optimized in terms of time if, for example, you can print out a prototype within an hour and send it to the customer. Something that took weeks in the 90’s has been reduced to a few days. The future is coming so fast and every day creative people are pushing new ideas into the digital ether. These will eventually lead to us getting replicators. We just have to see how we can recycle all the other garbage so it can be used to print new products.

And that is also one of the negative effects of this new technology. More plastic. More and more plastic is being printed out and thrown back in the trash. What works so easily can do so much harm to the environment, because when we design, we now don’t look at the durability of an object, but only how fast it can be printed. Fast. Faster. Fastest. Components that were previously milled in steel are being replaced with the cheap plastic, and unfortunately, with that, you also replace durability. Also, what can be printed is a problem because when people start printing out guns and components for guns, they are removing themselves from the visibility of a government and the security forces.

Where is the limit? Where is the bearable? It’s not all toys that come out of the printer. If 3D printers can start printing other materials like metal or wood. Who then decides if I print out an artificial heart and have it illegally implanted? What about a right to design when I can copy anything? Will there be then also sometime filament, which can be traced, just as now already paper from a simple printer. A copy protection that a printer can not print certain objects? There are still many points to be discussed in the future, but the baby has already been thrown out with the bathwater. The future will show how things will develop, but a big step towards home automation has already been taken. Now I have to stop, because the first print is done and I have to send the second model into the production process. The future. I’m printing it out right now with my 3D printer.

My First Empoloyee

Fig.:1

I hired my first employee on 10/25/2021. As always when you hire someone new, you have to find each other first. What can the new employee and what not. How do you set up his work environment so that he feels comfortable. How many materials does he need to do his job? These are all questions that become clear after the trial period and only then can you say whether you want to continue working with your employees. Ender is a good boy, works to his limits every day and doesn’t cause any problems. So far he has never called in sick (despite the Covid-19 pandemic or had to take a day off. The price of hiring and also converting the store was high, but in the end it paid off. My first employee is my best horse in the barn, highly professional and flexible. He is my employee of the month and I am very proud of him. I don’t think I will ever hire a real human in my company in the future2.

Ok, I have reached a little into the future here, because neither I have a company nor a startup. So far I’m working alone and as you can see I’m excited about my first 3D printer. It runs every day and I have 113 3D printing projects in my queue. From small repairs, upgrades, Christmas gifts for my roommates, product design prototypes and parts for my model making projects. I find so quickly that I can recreate in software to print out. There are so many reasons why the 3D printer has been a good investment. I save time. So much time that I can update my website almost every day, because I don’t need to control a 3D printer. Of course, it took me almost a month to understand all the tricks of the trade, but now I have a certain routine that I can work with.

From the technical side I have learned a lot and learn something new every day. For example, that a mirror is straighter than the default bed and you can also use children’s glue if you want to hold objects to the bed. I also learned that you can optimize almost everything yourself. 3D printers remind me of the early desktop computer days, where every teenager came up with their own ideas, mods and improvements. The 3D printing scene is incredibly creative and every day you see new ideas on YouTube on how to make working with a 3D printer easier. This is incredibly exciting and I am also currently working on a larger project to optimize filament recycling. 3D printing is still underestimated by the industry, because when I look at the mini scene I see massive changes. With a Resign printer you can now print your own minis at home. Just sign up for a monthly subscription with one of the hundreds of suppliers and never again order anything from an online store. No planes loaded with packages destroying the environment, no packaging material. Many advantages. And even the argument that you produce more plastic waste because you can now print everything will not apply in the future, because the recycling scene is almost as big as the people who deal with 3D printers.

But especially the Ender 3 has its limits, because I can’t print minis for tabletop games. Also other small objects are difficult. The resolution is too small and I have to save up for a resign printer in the future. But this is feasible and the prices drop faster than my beard hairs grow back. 200$ for this model is ridiculously cheap and I am glad to have made such a good investment decision. I have a few tech devices here but none have excited me as much as the Ender 3 printer. The only problem I have to solve is the noise pollution. So far I have found a solution with soundproof headphones, but this does not work in the long run. But since I love problems, because my brain thinks it’s super exciting puzzles, at least I won’t get bored in the next few months.

First Learnings

The learning curve with a 3D printer is pretty high and you learn something new every day. From simple tricks, articles, friends or videos where people explain what you can optimize your 3d printer model. So there are certain 3d objects you should print first. Not all of them are needed, but I found the back cover for the LCD display to be quite good because I could always get my fingers to the circuit board behind it automatically, which is never so good with electronics. The filament guide is also great, looking at it in retrospect. I also printed out a cover for the left fan, but I couldn’t find it on Thingiverse3.

When you order a 3D printer online, you get a prefabricated bed delivered with it. Most of the time this is not of good quality and will break after a few days or give poor printing results. It is possible to buy a replacement bed, but they cost a lot. Some people use glass sheets. I chose a mirror because they are easy to cut with a glass cutter and have a physical advantage. Mirrors are produced so that they are completely flat. This is an incredible advantage, because with a 3D printer a dent of 0.1 mm can already make a massive difference and break a complex component. Also just because the 3D printer must be leveled again and again and with a crooked bed the extruder can take damage, but that is a topic to which we will come back later.

After you have decided on the bed that is best to work with, you have to work on it. With a surface as smooth as a mirror, the 3D printed objects won’t stick on their own. There are several techniques that may work for some, but didn’t produce the desired results for me. First, I used painters tape. In Germany this is yellow and in most other countries it is blue. You can stick this on the bed before a print and take it off later with the object after the printing process. This works quite well but leaves a pattern on the bottom of the 3D object. I don’t want something like that.

After searching for an alternative, I came across some videos of people using a glue stick. I bought a glue stick4 at the dollar store and used it. Since my printer has to support some modeling projects, it runs at full blast every day. Sometimes you have to smear the bed again with the glue stick, but over time this is not so good because each time a small new layer of the glue settles on the bed. Eventually this is too high and you have the result you can see in the photo before. If you do not intervene in time, this can destroy the entire 3D printer. Of course, you can also clean the bed more often, but that costs too much time.

I heard in one of Eric Strebel’s videos that he uses hairspray for his surface and I tried that5 This is super good because hairspray can be applied very subtly. This means that it doesn’t affect the surface too much and therefore the 3D printed object. Overall, even after a few prints, the surface still looks cleaner than with a glue stick. Still, I’m not completely satisfied because I still see a lot of room for improvement in my 3D printed objects. There are also a few other points that I will address here, but that will take a few days. This is one of the points that I find good about a 3D printer. It stimulates the tinkerer in me and since I love to work with machines, I can fully live out my talent for optimization.

I also learned something new. Actually, I was of the opinion that PLA is printed without a heated bed. I had always done that with the glue stick and that also worked well. With the hairspray it didn’t work anymore. So I heated the bed to 60° and saw what happened. The printed object sticks perfectly to the surface of the mirror which is probably due to the heated hairspray. Maybe the consistency of the hairspray is then in such an almost liquid state instead of when it has become cold. That would mean that the stickiness of the hairspray is proportional to the temperature of the bed. I find this extremely exciting, because it is exactly the opposite of what I had previously learned.

A 3D Printer Stand

I don’t know about other makers, but when I assign my tools or devices their own place or stand, they have really arrived at my home. Before I still leave the option open, in which I assign the devices only to a temporary place in my room.If I don’t like the device after a month or two, I can always sell it and order a new 3D printer. I’m out of the age where I have to implement everything immediately and rush from one adventure to the next without having a real plan.

Anyway, I decided that the Ender 3 3D printer is so good that it needs a new place and stand. This 3D printer stand was built from old wood, which I got as a gift from my neighbor. It only took one day and it looked quite okeyish in the end. I still have to change a few small details, but the rough construction is ready. Also, I finally gave my 3D printer its own name. Printi. So Printi finally has its own new home and has become a part of my Maker family. Welcome and I hope you will quickly become a part of my team.

Limitations

Let’s move on to the limitations of the Ender 3 that I have noticed in the last few weeks. Of these, there are two very big points. One is the volume of the device and then the resolution. Both are tied to these printer models. There are two different types of 3D printers. The filament printers and the resign printers. Both have their strengths and weaknesses and so far I have only been able to try the filament printer.

Even if you can set the resolution of the printer to 0.1 millimeter, you will still be able to see the grooves of the individual layers. This is like the difference between a dot matrix printer and a laser printer. Thus, a filament is very well suited for printing components for repairs, prototypes and individual parts for models. If these parts can be reworked, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between a professionally produced part. This is enough for larger parts. Unfortunately, the post-processing is quite exhausting and I usually do without it for my prototypes. Except for my models. Anyway, you can’t print6 miniatures. I tried it, but the quality is then too bad and you can see that at first sight. Also it is not possible to paint miniatures that come from a filament printer, because the grooves of the individual layers then but too much hinder the work. In the future, I will also try a Resign printer, which will have its strengths and weaknesses just like a filament printer.

A second important point is the volume of a filament printer. Since I don’t have a real workshop and do everything in my room, I have to put up with the volume every time I print. I have already bought soundproof headphones7, which also protect against my even louder neighbors8. All in all, the Ender 3 printer is very loud when you print almost every day. I also already have strong signs of wear, which actually come only after a few months. But that is quite normal and also another topic. I have already considered whether I do not build a soundproof box for the 3D printer, so that it is a bit quieter. Actually, that shouldn’t be so difficult if I rework the design of my Rolley a bit. Then I could also print at night and be able to sleep while doing it and save more time by not having interruptions. As I said, noise is the second main problem with a filament printer.

I ask you not to misunderstand. this is not a real review for the Ender 3 3D printer, but I write here only the points that interest me as a technician model builder. Since I do not have any comparative data here, I can not yet make more accurate statements. What I can say is that the Ender 3 is well suited for beginners. I can only collect real data when I have bought a Resign printer, for example, or have been provided with one by a company.

To Brim or not to Brim, That is the Question.

There are things that you only learn over a few months. After a while, you become more familiar with the machine and know how to fine-tune the settings. You also get to know the software better and better and can coordinate it with the hardware, i.e. the 3D printer. One thing that I couldn’t put my finger on for a long time is how to use Brim properly.

The brim is a small auxiliary surface that is printed around the actual 3D object. This then looks like a small border. This brim has several functions. I have already mentioned warping several times. Warping can be prevented by printing e.g. 2mm brim. The brim can be set in the software and then the 3D printer does it all by itself. Overall, brim is super handy when you have, for example, very small objects or models that have a lot of corners and edges. Brim can help you to print your 3D model even more neatly.

Brim can also be quite cumbersome. The brim remains attached to the object after the finished 3D print and must be removed by hand. In the process, residues can stick to the 3D object. This is usually not a problem, because with a modeling knife, these remnants can be easily removed from the object. However, if you print very long and straight objects for an architectural model, this can take a lot of time. What you should not underestimate is how much material is wasted. I collect the Brim so far in an old tin, because I can use that maybe somehow in another Prtojekt, but so far that lies only around. Still, I had to pay money for it when I bought the filament. And it’s not so good for the environment if you waste so much material.

So it always depends on when you should apply Brim as a setting in your software. With long and very straight objects, it can quickly become awkward to cut everything straight with a modeling knife. For smaller objects that you hide behind other objects, you don’t need brim at all. What you don’t see later doesn’t have to be printed 100% perfect. For eye catcher details that catch the viewer’s eye, use brim if the parts warp quickly or don’t use brim if you are not good with a modeling knife. Brim is quite good when printing columns or objects that need to stand tall on the 3D printer.

The decision has to be reconsidered every time you print. This is something that makes printing so stressful for most people, because you have to think hard about your model beforehand. With any model, you can expect at least three test prints until the software and hardware are properly adjusted. When everything is finally well adjusted, you don’t have to do anything except check every few hours to make sure the 3D printer isn’t producing spaghetti. In my personal opinion it doesn’t help much to watch tutorial videos about brim, because you learn best by your own mistakes and a lot of testing. Every machine is different, every software can produce completely different printing results. You have to consider all this beforehand and can only learn over a longer period of time.

Footnotes


  1. There are tricks that I have developed over the years in which I work on projects and can also transfer to other machines. The yellow line on the PLA roll shows me that this roll also rotates and the feeder (which lies in the dead angle to my desk) is functional. In the beginning, I had the problem of not having the feeder set correctly and then always had to get up when it wasn’t feeding the filament into the 3D printer. The date signals me when I have inserted the roll. On average, my printer prints every day. When a roll is empty, I can estimate how long a roll will last and then buy a year’s supply of PLA rolls. This saves me from having to keep ordering from online stores. These are just two little tricks that can make your workday a lot easier.↩︎

  2. Seriously, I can’t understand why the richest persons on earth could become so rich with all the people they employ. I think you should put the cart before the horse and develop production processes without humans. I am for a full automation of the complete working world, so that people have more free time to work on creative projects. I am also for a citizen’s income, so that people no longer have to work but that’s a whole other topic on which I will go into more detail in the future. Robots, software and machines do repetitive work better than a human ever could. As an Asperger’s autistic, computer scientist and inventor, I can’t understand how people can work just to earn money. This is grotesque. Every superfluous component must be taken out of a work process, even if it is people. But since people cannot live without money, alternatives must be created at the same time.↩︎

  3. Thingiverse has the worst search function I have ever used. I don’t even begin to understand how these results come up and I am a computer scientist. I searched for almost ten minutes for the cover for the left fan but found nothing and then just gave up. I am super impatient with poorly developed software. That’s also one of the reasons why I upload my 3D objects to the archive and didn’t create an account on Thingiverse.↩︎

  4. Herma Glue Stick.↩︎

  5. Kür Styling Hairspray Volumen 4. Here is a note about the hairspray. When you spray your bed with the hairspray, you should take the bed off the 3D printer and do it in another part of the room. Your room should also be well ventilated. As a precaution, the 3D printer should not be turned on because hairspray is highly flammable and should be kept away from electrical or other sources of ignition. I worked in a chemistry park during my studies and you wouldn’t believe how quickly machines can ignite gases. So you better be a little more careful so that you don’t break your 3D printer too quickly.↩︎

  6. A quick comment on a change at Thingiverse that I noticed in the last few days. Instead of downloading a .zip file you can now download models only as single .stl files. This is good if you want to have only one single figure for a miniature set, for example. But it is very bad for big projects, if they have a lot of single parts. If I first have to download e.g.  9 individual files, it is quite exhausting and costs an incredible amount of time.↩︎

  7. 3M PELTOR OPTIME III.↩︎

  8. Yes, my neighbors and their children are louder than my 3D printer and in the pandemic this has become even worse. Especially because of their social status and lack of education, it is also incredibly difficult to talk to these people. At the moment, my roommates and I are considering moving to our own house in the country, because I can work from anywhere and my roommates are not tied to an office either. Another reason is that we don’t like cities anymore. I personally noticed that very strongly in Lockdown. But this is a completely separate topic and I will write something about it on a more suitable occasion.↩︎


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