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3D Printing Tips and Tricks - Essential Tools of the Trade for your hobby

By: Charles Gantt | 3D Printers in Maker & DIY | Posted: Feb 14, 2014 3:02 am

General Tools


There are several tools that I consider must-haves when it comes to 3D printing. These consist of my most used tools, and are mostly made up of items that I use either directly before or after the printing process. Many of you will already have these tools on your workbench, or in a drawer somewhere in your house, and if not, they can be obtained for next to nothing at hardware stores. Personally, I like buying the majority of my non heavy-duty tools from Harbor Freight or Amazon.


Needle Nose Pliers




Needle Nose Pliers are an absolute must-have when it comes to 3D printing, as they serve several useful purposes, one being the cutting of the filament when changing colors, clearing jams, or installing new filament. Needle nose pliers are also great for pulling jammed filament out of the heat barrel of the extruder when things are too hot for human hands to touch, but the one use I find the most convenient is to help release stuck ABS prints from the print surface.


When the print bed and the print are cooled to room temperature, a light but forceful tap from the needle plier's handle will shock the object enough to break the bond between the first layer and the print surface. Since the pliers feature padded handles, no damage is done to the print, and the risk of breaking the print bed glass is greatly reduced.


Single Edged Razor Blades




By far, the most used tool in my entire workshop is the single edge razor blade. I buy these in bulk packs of 500, and will burn through 30-50 per month. I always keep several fresh razor blades at my printing station because they make removing printed parts from the printing surface quite easy.


They especially come in handy when it comes to thin prints that might bend or break if you pry too hard with a fingernail. These are also very useful in removing single layer skirts from the printing surface that tend to stick quite well if a good ABS juice solution has been applied prior to printing.


Green Scotch Brite Sponge




Often during printing and testing, extrusions not made with the printer over an object will curl and wrap back onto the nozzle, and even back onto the heating block. If left to accumulate, this plastic will burn to the nozzle, and could even catch fire. I like to keep a Scotch Brite pad on hand to "scrub" this wayward plastic off of the nozzle when it's at temperature, using the green side of the sponge. The pad gently removes the excess plastic, and makes the nozzle shiny again.


The Scotch Brite melts at a much higher temperature than what ABS prints at, so a single pad will last for quite a long time. Additionally, the pad makes a very good nozzle wipe when priming the nozzle before a print. I have been using the same pad for well over a year now, and I suspect that it will last deep into 2015.


Angled Tweezers




While I don't use them on every print, I do like to keep a pair of angled tweezers on hand in the event I need to reach into the print area during a print to pull out a stray strand of extruded filament, or a blob that occurred on the skirt or first layer that is dragging along with the nozzle.


The tweezers can also be used to clear extruded plastic that hangs from the nozzle during priming, after adding new filament, or when testing and tweaking retraction settings. When selecting a pair, make sure they are at least 6-inches long, with longer options being optimal if available.


ABS Juice




While not technically a tool, I feel that ABS Juice is an absolute necessity for anyone who prints ABS often. Not only does it aid in adhesion to the print surface, but it helps prevent corner warping at a much higher degree than hairspray ever could.


Along with the ABS juice, a roll of high-quality paper-towels such as the Viva brand will aid in the cleaning of the printing surface, as well as in applying the ABS Juice before a print.

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