Expert Advice: 3-D Printing

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3-D printing continues to grow in popularity and accessibility. Students now have access to two 3-D printing laboratories on campus to support creative development and student design. Martin Gallagher, Digital Scholarship Lab support manager, offers the following tips on getting the best 3-D printing results:

All Filament Is Not The Same.

3-D filament is mixed by many providers and the consistency and quality is not always the same. You should always do a couple of test prints when you use a new roll to make sure the print settings work with that roll (temperature, speed, layer height, etc.).

Great Prints Start At Layer 1.

Getting a level print bed and contact surface is key to getting the best print. Make sure you level the print bed correctly, use the correct print bed temperature and surface for holding the print to the bed when printing (blue painters tape, Ultem bed cover, hairspray, Elmer’s glue, etc.).

Design For 3-D Printing.

When modeling a part for 3-D printing, remember to think about support material and how it will print, you may need to break this away post-printing, the less support the cleaner the print. Also, remember the strength of the print is the direction it is printed in, the layers and where they bind is the weak part of the print, more surface area creates a stronger layer binding.

Think About Sustainability.

Most 3-D printed parts on campus are made from ABS filament, which is not biodegradable. (We have done a full testing for 3-D Printlife filament, which is biodegradable). PLA filament is easier to print with and is fully biodegradable. If you understand the use for your part, you can choose better filament. There are many different types available and many more in development.

Combining Hardware And Electronics.

Some 3-D printers allow for the print to be paused, giving the ability to insert metal parts (nuts, bars, hinges) and electronic components. The print then continues, enclosing the parts within the print. With this ability, you can create multimaterial parts and sealed electronics.

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Christena Callahan is editor of Florida Tech Today magazine.

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