Complex Objects and Time
Printing complex objects on a larger scale is an area where 3D printers really shine, and those that have been designed well can pull away from the pack here. This is where I really like to take into account surface finish, printing time, and point out any flaws that I see. To test these parameters, I have selected the following:
A GoPro camera mount that I have used quite a bit over the last year. Its design allows for attachment to objects using nothing but zip ties. This model will test the printer's ability to print both large surfaces as well as small complex details. I print this model at 100-percent infill, which makes it stronger but causes the model to retain excessive heat during the printing process. This means that the plastic could bulge out at the sides or drupe in the middle. When the print is finished, I test to see if a GoPro case will fit onto the mount.
Up next is a single wall vase that is based on a fractal design. This tests the printer's ability to handle very fast paced direction changes as the model features many sharp angles. Additionally, the printer's ability to maintain a single wall thickness while twisting is tested. If no gaps can be seen, then I call this print a success.
The final object in this test section is the Julia Vase #004 AKA "Bloom." This is also a single-walled vase, but it features not only sharp angle changes, but complex curves as well. As far as aesthetics go, this is one of the most beautiful vases on Thingiverse, and really stresses not just a printer's ability to remain consistent, but the filament quality as well.
We begin with the GoPro Ziptie Mount 2; here you can see that the PLA did get a little stringy in areas, causing gaps in the layers. Overall, this is a good print for PLA in my opinion. The three "fingers" that grip the GoPro camera's mounting bracket printed well, and even the space for the captive nut turned out well despite a bridge.
Here is a look from the other side, and you can see that the cable tie slots are nice and uniform and at perfect angles to each other. Overall, this mount was very solid, and I would not hesitate hanging a $400 GoPro camera off of it.
The final fit test turned out well, and the GoPro easily attached to the mount with just the right amount of friction to keep things steady without stressing the fingers. I have printed dozens of these little mounts in ABS over the last year, and this is the first PLA model I have attempted. I am happy to say that it not only surprised me, but did a lot to change my mind on PLA. Overall, this print took 38 minutes at 70mm/sec.
Now we get into the first single walled vase. This is the Koch Snowflake Vase #3, a single-walled vase that showed how well the Ord Bot Hadron really prints. This vase stressed the printer to its limits and took only 1 hour and 8 minutes to print at 40mm/sec. Here you can see the layers neatly stacked on top of each other with a slight offset of each new layer. The walls of this vase are very nicely printed and appear to be watertight.
Unfortunately, that water-tight praise can only be applied to the walls as the base has several gaps that can be seen. This can be attributed to the way PLA pulls thin at random points in the print and the single layer that was utilized for the base. I always like to have 3-4 layers for the base, but that is not ideal for testing.
Looking inside the vase, we can see that the walls remain nice and smooth, and that the base is filled with more pinholes that were originally shown in the previous image. Here you can really get a sense of the sharp angle changes the printer had to make, and how well it executed those changes.
Finally, we arrive at the Julia Vase. This vase reminds me of a painting by Katsushika Hokusai, called The Great Wave of Kanagawa. Its flowing lines and sharp curves make it the most challenging print I have in my test suite. Most of the objects I utilize feature a repeating pattern, but this Julia Vase is ever-changing, layer by layer, with no two the same.
Here you can see that there are some minor flaws in a few layers, but nothing that even remotely affects the overall quality of the print. The single wall print turned out outstanding, and it really surprised me that the PLA was able to print this well. Normally, this is the quality I expect from ABS.
Looking at the bottom, we can see similar pinholes to those we saw in the previous vase's base. Again, I feel that this is indicative to the base being a single layer of PLA. Another layer or two would have surely sealed it up.
Looking inside, we can see that the walls are once again as smooth as the exterior, and no blobbing or stringing is present. The pinholes in the base are better seen here as well.