This post brought to you by AquaNet.

One of the biggest issues I’ve had with 3D printing has been the simple fact that there are so many issues to deal with.

What I mean by this is that so much has to go right for something 3D to print. For something that is at heart very simple- squirt plastic to make things- becomes very difficult when chemistry and physics intervene.

The biggest problem I’ve had, for example, is the problem of sticking. As the model prints, the filament immediately starts cooling once it’s extruded.

A 3D model that didn't stick.

What happens when it doesn’t stick.

I’m using ABS, aka Lego plastic, and it has a melting temperature of somewhere above 210 degrees Celsius. (This lack of precision is because it’s a plastic, and melting point is not really applicable.) For our needs here, it’s the temperature at which it extrudes cleanly from the device, which is important.

My first attempts didn’t even make it past the lines that are designed to get a nice clean flow from the machine. They didn’t stick onto the bed at all. This means… well, this is where issues start. Is it not sticking because of the temperature of the bed – the bed has a heater – or is it because of the adjusted height above the bed? Is it not sticking because of some leftover plastic on the extruder? Is it not sticking because I didn’t clean the bed itself – with both alcohol and then clean water? Is the bed level enough? And the software which converts the model into slices – is it doing things the best way?

The answer is a bit of all of the above. Getting the extruder adjusted into the “Goldilocks” zone where it’s high enough above the bed so as not to bump the model and yet low enough so that it’s not slopping about is hard. (For anybody else with a Solidoodle 3, turning the adjustment screw clockwise increases the distance, and I wouldn’t adjust the screw until you’ve tried all else.)

Getting the bed temp correct is also important. Mine is set at 99- and the extruder does its work at 200. Immediately, the print is going to drop in temp dramatically. This means it’s at risk of pulling up. Keeping the cover on the printer and keeping the heat in helps, but only so much.

Being full of school spirit, my first model I downloaded was an Action G from Thingiverse. It’s thin. The first successful print was at risk of lifting completely loose for the last third of its print.

The Action G

Go Dawgs!

So I’ll end this post here- there’s lots more details to add!- by saying the one cool trick that made things stick better: AquaNet. Courtesy of an excellent article on some of the issues with 3D printing, I learned that putting some AquaNet on the bed first helps. The plastic bonds to the hairspray, and it’s less likely to peel up. It’s also harder to remove the print afterwards- wait until the bed is close to room temp before pulling it off. (I started it with a razor blade.) You don’t need much AquaNet. Also, warm up your bed and extruder, first, and apply the AquaNet just before starting to print.

When you go to the store to get it, by the way, you may be bewildered by the choices of hairspray. I do recommend name brand AquaNet, and I do recommend getting Extra Super Hold. It does hold!

David with Aquanet

It works!


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