Experimenting with 3D Printing

With the case for 3D Printing becoming more and more convincing, we at CodeSource decided to jump onto the bandwagon and get into printing with an Me3D Me2 printer (pictured above) and MatterControl software to help build our IoT prototypes.

In particular, we focused on printing mounts for the Arduino Uno, a microcontroller board commonly used with IoT projects, experimenting with closed cases, and opened up mounts. We opted for the design below, from Thingiverse

Arduino Uno Mount

The biggest challenge was determining the Z-Offset (the distance on the Z-axis from where the printed filament extrudes to the printing surface), as the printer attempts to verify settings input in MatterControl and our printing surface was misaligned, resulting in the printer attempting to print too close to the surface. 

Another challenge was figuring out which was the best surface to print on. This decision is key, as a good printing surface will often be  the factor determining the quality of your prints. The printing surface should be just adhesive enough to remove your printed objects, but not slip while printing. With so many choices, from blue or green painter's tape, to various manufactured printing sheets, it can be quite challenging to choose.  

We opted to try printing directly onto the perspex plate, covered in green painter's tape with mixed results. In future we will be moving to printing onto a BuildTak sheet covered in blue painter's tape, due to the tape's reputation as being more adhesive than green painter's tape.

 

Results:

It was several hours of trial-and-error with the printer settings in order to determine the Z-offset, and printing scaled down versions of the final product before we were ready to draft print a full sized Arduino mount. The final print (shown above), took 53 minutes and fits the Arduino perfectly.

So the key takeaways from our experiments with 3D printing were:

- Ensure your printing surface is properly aligned, otherwise the built-in calibration will fail, potentially damaging your printer

- Buy several printing surfaces, such as BuildTak sheets, as it is quite possible that you'll damage them in the calibration process

- When experimenting with 3D printer settings, scale down the size of your prints by half to speed up the prints

- As powerful as the software is, there is much trial and error in getting the settings just right for each print you do, so factor that into your timing estimates

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