The most common question I get when I talk about the 3D printer project I am wrapping up on and just the hobby in general is “So what do you 3D print anyway?” or “What are you actually printing with this rig?” My answer is almost always “Anything I want or need.”
I don’t print widgets for no purpose, I dont print things for the helluvit (most of the time), I normally print things based on need. The filaments I print with tend to be pretty expensive so I dont go out of my way to print random stuff.
When looking for examples, I mention A clamp to anchor a Natural Gas line for our grill under some decking and support the NG pipe to the floor joices in a stable manner in the space limits I had. I also print things for backpacking (I made some feet for backpacking ultra light chairs to make the feet bigger so they don’t sink into mud, I made a tripod adapter for my cameras, etc…) This summer I am going to be doing a lot of small things with my new favorite material – carbon fiber nylon. Like a new ultralight protective case for my kindle for backpacking, an ultra light glasses case for backpacking, etc…
Printing what I need, when I need it.
But today I had a specific need that came up: our rooftop garden irrigation setup needed some fine tuning. Some sprinkler heads we have spray water all over (meant for inground gardens and I am using them for big pots).
Since the sprayer was meant to loft water, it naturally throws water up and over the sides of the pot. Also the spinning nature means that if plants grow into its space it will be blocked. So… I figured I could design a cage that will not only keep the water low and in the pot, but also give some protection from plants interfering with it.
I did a few prints in PLA to test, but at this point I have better prints with high end filament than I do with cheap PLA. I am just about done doing anything with PLA because of this.
In the end I printed it with NylonX (carbon fiber) not because it needs strength, but it needs heat and element resistance and this filament is outstanding for both. It also prints very good, I printed this part at 125mm/sec and it looks awesome. I am doing my next one (I need to print 4) at 175mm/sec to test.
So those who were asking “what do you actually do with that printer?”, here is your answer. When I need something, I design the part, and then print it. Many times this is under a 1 hour turn around from defining the need to printing the part. IMO this is a very liberating experience to be able to just make something in a few minutes and have the physical item in hand and in use that fast.
Overall status of the printer:
I still need to refine the multi material printing calibrations, but it is going well. I need to get testing with soluble supports and breakaway supports. The printer is almost entirely done at this point with the electronics now covered (I am printing some brackets to close in the gaps you can see in the picture below). I just need to get a hinge for the door and a mount printed for the 7″ inch LCD Touchscreen for the printer and its 100% for now.
The polycarbonate on the electronics is mounted in an novel way to make it easy to remove it just by removing 2 screws at the front but still making it well supported and stable in the back.
The next step for the printer will be building the top enclosure that will seal in the printer entirely so I can print filaments with noxious fumes and that require heated chambers.