Friday, July 31, 2020

3D Printer

I've finally done it. I've joined the world of home 3D printing. I had held off on purchasing a 3D printer for two reasons. 1, the cost, and 2, the resolution. Over time both of those factors have diminished and with the release of the Elegoo Mars, and Elegoo Mars Pro I could no longer help myself.

Prior to making my purchase I watched what seemed like and endless series of YouTube videos trying to learn about the technology and which printer would work best for my needs. Ultimately I wanted something easy to use, with high resolution, and a low price point to print model parts and miniatures with. With resolution as low as 1/100th of a millimetre and a sub $300 price tag I was sold on the Elegoo Mars. I went with the Pro versions. I can honestly say I'm not sure what I got for the extra money aside from having the USB port in the front (I just wish the power switch was as accessible).

When my printer arrived I was shocked at how small yet sturdy it was. This thing feels solid. It was packed extremely well and worked right out of the box. The directions guide you through a quick calibration followed by a print of the standard Rook model. The model was pre-sliced on a thumb drive which comes pre-loaded with several models. The first print was perfect and I was ready to start printing my own files.

.STL files must first be sliced into layers using a slicing software. The thumb drive packaged with the Elegoo Mars comes loaded with Chitubox. This is an easy to use piece of software. It has default setting you can use to support your model or you can design custom supports. It also allows you to hollow out the model and place drain holes to reduce the amount of resin used. My favorite feature is that, based upon the information you input, Chitubox will calculate the cost of the model (in resin). This would be very helpful in calculating materials cost if one were interested in selling 3D prints.

My first print of an original model was a total failure. Not because of the printer but because of my lack of understanding of my modeling software. I've been using Google Sketchup to design 3D models for sometime but I've only ever printed them with Shapeways. I was able to narrow my issue down to faces. In Google Sketchup a face has one side designated as interior and on side as exterior. I had multiple interior faces facing the exterior causing the model to fall apart when exported into the .stl format. So if you have issues with Sketchup models printing make sure to check your faces.

One of my first large and successful prints was a Robotech RDF ARMD Missile Destroyer from Thingiverse. I printed this for one of my local model club members. I wasn't entirely happy with the first print so I tried again. Ultimately I gave him both and he was very pleased. By the end of that same day he had them painted and sent me pictures of them incorporated into his project.

After all of his work I think it came out quite well. A bit of prep and paint made a world of difference.

For my next project I made some plaques for my display bases. I gave my Nordhoff Rangers a much needed upgrade! I love how the plaque came out although if I had to do it over again I would make the base thicker. Resin can be brittle and this snapped after I took it off the build plate. It cleaned up well though and I can't notice the crack now.

The cleaning process of rinsing the parts in isopropyl alcohol and then curing them under a UV lamp or outdoors was getting tedious and had mixed results. When I saw reviews for the Anycubic wash and cure station I decided to take the plunge. I've been using it with Simple Green to clean my prints. I follow that with a wash in warm soapy water and a cure in the Anycubic. I plan on trying it with denatured alcohol or iso in the future when those are more easily available.

Going forward I have several projects planed and will be posting them here in the near future. I'm really excited about what this new tool will bring to my modeling.