After I setup the new Creality Ender-5, it was under extruding by a rather significant amount… 12% to be exact. This came as no surprise, my Ender-3 and CR-10 had both arrived with similar problems in the past, badly in need of a proper calibration to the Extruder Steps.
When our 3D prints are less than perfect, the Extruder Steps (or e-steps) are often checked as a last resort. There are plenty of other tweaks that can improve results, but e-steps should be the first suspect on every new 3D Printer. It’s responsible for how much plastic gets pushed in to the hotend, and the wrong setting can leave gaps, blobs and other surface defects.
On the upside, Creality does make it easy to check, change and fix the Extruder Steps. No need to connect the 3D Printer to your computer over USB, we can just dial in the correct settings right from the LCD control screen.
We just need a couple of tools, something to measure and something to mark. In my case, I am using Digital Calipers from Amazon and a sharpie.
Calipers / Ruler
Calculate Extruder Steps
To check if our current Extruder Steps are correct, we first need to tell the 3D Printer to extrude a specific amount of filament. We then measure how much was actually extruded, find the difference and calculate the correct e-steps based on that.
Using calipers or a ruler, measure out exactly 100mm in length from the extruder and mark it on the filament with a sharpie. It’s a good idea to make several additional marks at 110 and 120 too, just in case it extrudes more than we want and additional points of reference are needed.
Go ahead and preheat your hotend up to normal printing temperatures. From the LCD control screen, press the knob once to bring up the main menu and navigate to Prepare -> Preheat PLA or Configure -> Temperature -> Nozzle to set a specific value.
It’s a good idea to set the temperature +5° C hotter than you would normally print this filament. We don’t want any resistance at the nozzle to throw off our measurements, it should flow out nice and smooth.
Once the hotend is preheated, bring up the menu again and this time go to Prepare -> Move Axis -> Move 1mm -> Extruder. Turn the knob to the right until you reach our desired value of 100mm, then wait until it has finished extruding the filament.
If our 100mm mark on the filament is right at the extruder, the e-steps are perfectly calibrated and we’re finished.
Otherwise, if the mark shows that it extruded more or less filament than we wanted, we will need to check how much. To do this, measure the distance from the extruder to our mark once more and see how much filament was actually pushed through the hotend.
If the 100mm mark is still visible…
The 3D Printer is under extruding and not pushing out as much plastic as it should be.
Subtract the new_measurement from the original_measurement to find the difference. In my case, I still had 12mm of filament left before my 100mm mark, so my calculations are…
100 - 12 = 88
If the 100mm mark is no longer visible…
The 3D Printer is over extruding, feeding more plastic than we wanted.
Use one of the additional reference marks we made and measure to that instead. Subtract the new_measurement from the reference_point, then add that value to our original_measurement.
As an example, let’s say we measured from the extruder to our mark at 120mm, and there was a length of 16mm filament between them. In that case, we would do…
(120 - 16) + 100 = 104
Write down this value and save it for the next step.
Calibrate Extruder Steps
Before we can figure out the new correct value for our Extruder Steps, we need to first check and see what the current wrong value is.
From the LCD screen, push the knob and navigate to Control -> Motion -> ESteps/mm to view the original setting. Unless it was previously changed, the default e-step values from Creality are set as…
Creality CR-10: 93.0 steps/mm
Creality Ender-3: 95.0 steps/mm
Creality Ender-5: 92.6 steps/mm
Using the formula below, multiply the current E-Steps/mm for your machine by the desired amount of filament (100) we asked it to extrude. Divide that number by the filament it actually used (the value we wrote down in the previous step) and we find the correct Extruder Steps for our machine.
This is the math for my Creality Ender-5, which gave me a new E-Steps/mm value of roughly 105.2. That’s a significant difference from what was previously configured stock.
Now that we have found the correct Extruder Steps for our machine, we need to set and store this value in the EEPROM. This is the board’s read-only memory where firmware settings are saved.
From the LCD control screen, navigate to Control -> Motion -> Esteps/mm. Press the knob to select it, then turn it to adjust the number until it matches our new Extruder Steps value. Press the knob once more to back out and make sure that it’s correct.
Since this will revert back if we power off the 3D Printer, we need to store the changes as well. Go back to the LCD control screen, scroll down to the bottom and look for an option such as Store Memory (Ender-5), Store Settings (Ender-3) or Save to EEPROM (CR-10). The option name changes a bit between models, but does the exact same thing.
Select that and our new Extruder Steps are now saved.
Having now purchased several different Creality 3D Printers, I think it’s safe to assume they almost always need to be calibrated. Given the low budget price point, we can’t reasonably expect each machine to be tested and tuned before shipment, which means this work falls to us as the consumer.
The problem is this isn’t necessarily obvious, especially to new owners buying the Ender-3 as their first 3D Printer. The g-code examples on the SD card are just smoke and mirrors, where the Test Dog prints fantastic because it uses ultra quality settings that can hide issues.
In the long run, it’s a good idea to just upgrade the stock extruder with an all metal version. The plastic lever and brass gears will work for a while, but even a Stainless Steel 40T Gear will make a huge difference for a couple bucks.
Traditional LED strips have often been the go to method when it comes to lighting 3D Printers. They are cheap and efficient, but also require some minor electrical and soldering skills. Hobbyists and DIYers will have no trouble with it, but the average person may skip such a project given the work involved.
The LED Light Bar Kit is however made for this purpose, offering a drop in solution that is dead simple to use. It’s a quick, bolt-on installation, with a plug-n-play design that hooks up to the existing Ender-3 XT60 connector. From start to finish, it takes about 5 minutes to complete the setup.
My guides often cover existing products on the market, but in this case, this was my own concept that I pitched at Gulfcoast Robotics. Considering how useful a lighted 3D Printer can be, there were next to zero options that were easy to use.
Out of the box, it includes everything we need to install it on the Ender-3. The LED light comes pre-wired with an XT60 pass through connector, designed to plug right into the existing power on the machine. It also has an on/off dimmer switch to control the brightness, a milky diffuse cover that softens the glow and black anodized aluminum mounting brackets w/ hardware.
To get started, first insert the (2) M5x8 bolts in to the mounting brackets on each end. Loosely thread an M5 T-Nut on the back side, just enough so that it stays in place. Turn the nuts horizontal so that they will fit inside of the V-Slot channel on the top of the Ender-3 frame.
Line up the LED Light Bar with the top of the machine, making sure that it is perfectly centered. When satisfied with the position, use the XXX hex wrench (included with 3D Printer) and tighten down both sides.
Note: T-Nuts will rotate vertical when tightened, securing them inside of the V-Slot channel. In some cases they won’t turn 90° on the first try, where it’s a good idea to check that they are firmly locked in place.
This next step is optional and can be done at a later time, but for a professional looking installation, we want to conceal the wiring behind the frame and out of sight.
Loosen up the (2) bolts on the right vertical extrusion, these are what hold the Power Supply in place. Make sure to brace the unit before completely taking them out, then lay it down next to the machine.
While the Power Supply is separated from the machine, we’ll go ahead and get the LED Light Bar hooked up. It comes with a Pass Through Connector that sits between the existing power plug on the Ender-3.
Disconnect the two halves of the yellow XT60 connector and set them aside for a moment. We will run the LED Light Bar wiring over the top corner of the frame and down the back of the extrusion to the bottom. Plug each half in to the new Pass Through Connector (only fits one way) so that it looks like the picture below.
Once finished, all we have left to do is mount the Power Supply back on the frame. Seat the LED Light Bar cable inside of the V-Slot channel and bolt the Power Supply back in place, where this will keep the wiring concealed behind the 3D Printer.
The package also comes with a small sticky pad to hold the dimmer switch in place. Just peel off the protective sheet on both sides and firmly press it on the back side of the dial. Line it up with the extrusion where it won’t be seen from the front and stick it to the metal.
For those like myself, obsessive about wire management, you can even print one of the V-Slot Channel Covers too. It’s fits right over the cable and slides behind the Power Supply, keeping things nice and tidy, tucked in place behind the frame. I just happened to have some blue ones laying around from a different project and they worked great.
E3D has led the hotend market for years, and the latest E3D V6 has been the gold standard for nearly half a decade. As an open source hardware manufacturer, they release their engineering diagrams under a General Public License (GPL), providing the necessary schematics for others to view, replicate and further improve upon.
Patents are only in place to protect their trademarks, such as brand names and cosmetic appearance. The design and functionality are both fair use, on the condition that derivatives must release their source, modified or not.
Unfortunately the price of quality doesn’t come cheap. A genuine E3D V6 hotend starts around $60, cost prohibitive for those on a budget. As an alternative, replicas are manufactured overseas and sold at a fraction of the price, albeit with a lower grade of parts and minimal quality assurance.
For this reason, V6 clones will always be a gamble. From the factory, quality can range anywhere from exceptional to completely unusable, even when made on the same production line.
Much of it is easy to replicate, created with almost identical quality to that of an authentic E3D hotend. The heatsink, heater block and so on are all cloned to perfection. There are just a few essential pieces that can make or break performance, and this is where the knock-offs can fall flat. If we upgrade those, we can build a hotend that is comparable to or better than the real thing.
Over the course of this guide, our goal is to upgrade a V6 clone, using it as a low-cost starting point to build a much better hotend. Replacing several core parts with aftermarket solutions, we can drastically improve both the reliability and performance. For each section, I’ll look at two different approaches to upgrade that particular piece of the kit.
Budget suggestions will be lower cost upgrades with marginal gains. We can DIY repairs to fix manufacturing problems or bulk order cheap replacements, hand picking the best parts of the lot. This path is aimed at reaching comparable performance to an authentic E3D V6 hotend. (Estimated Cost: $30)
Premium suggestions on the other hand are top tier products, better than the genuine components. Despite E3D’s exceptional quality, even their hotends leave room for improvement. Parts from 3rd party vendors are often priced the same or less, while using higher performance materials.
1) V6 Heatbreak
The heatbreak (or throat) is the single most important upgrade we can do, a frequent problem area on V6 clones. This is a metal tube that sits between the heatsink and heater block, creating a channel for the filament to travel down in to the hotend. As it reaches the block, it gradually starts to melt before pushing out of the nozzle.
The perfect heatbreak should have smooth inner walls, allowing filament to glide seamlessly down the shaft until it reaches the nozzle. Any surface variations in the bore can create clogs, jams and other extrusion problems, especially during retraction movements when molten plastic is pulled back in to the throat.
A polished bore (shown in the photo above) is ideal for reliable performance, this process removes tooling marks and other surface defects. Unfortunately cheap V6 clones often come with a reamed heatbreak, and while normally good enough, small ridges in the wall can catch filament and create unexpected problems.
Budget: Polished Heatbreak
For DIYers looking to minimize cost, you can absolutely polish a heatbreak at home. Using a drill or dremel with fine grit steel wool, it’s easy to smooth out the inner bore. Some users even put green polishing compound on cotton string and use friction to smooth it out.
Polishing the inside of Chinese e3d V6 all metal heat brake / throat - YouTube
With that said, the heatbreak is the single most important part of any hotend. Polishing it yourself can achieve consistent performance, but likely won’t measure up to aftermarket products.
That brings us to Micro Swiss, a US based CNC business known for high quality 3D Printer products. They manufacture a wear resistant, polished heatbreak for the V6 hotend, plated with a non-stick TwinClad XT coating that offers low friction and high lubricity. This greatly reduces the chance of clogs, plus it holds up against abrasive filaments like Carbon Fiber and Metal Infused plastics.
Titanium is stronger than the traditional stainless steel used for heatbreaks, which is harder than most metals but can also be quite brittle. Titanium also has the distinct advantage of lower thermal conductivity, meaning there is less chance for heat creep and clogs. This helps create a more defined separation in the heatbreak, where the upper chamber stays cold when the lower half gets hot.
E3D has released their own Titanium V6 Heatbreak Upgrade, but it has a hefty price tag ($50) and abysmal reviews. I would love to give their product the nod here, but it simply comes up short considering the asking price.
Thankfully there are plenty of other vendors with Titanium heatbreaks available, sold at a fraction of the price and with much better feedback. A small scale, LA based company called 3D Passion have a perfect 5 star rating on Amazon, where I will be trying these out in the near future.
Despite popular belief, the heatbreak is not always the culprit on troublesome V6 clones. Insufficient cooling can be just as detrimental to reliable performance. A genuine E3D V6 hotend ships with a 3010 ball bearing fan that pushes out 4.6 CFM (cubic foot/minute) of air, compared to an average of just 2.0 CFM or less on most replica products.
Without proper cooling on the heatsink fins, heat can travel up the throat and prematurely start melting filament in the cold-end. This problem is commonly referred to as Heat Creep, where the plastic softens and sticks to the walls, eventually causing clogs to form.
Budget: 30mm Fan Upgrade
The easiest solution is to swap out the hotend fan with a high performance model. E3D sells a genuine replacement, offering the same quality found on their premium hotends, plus it helps to financially support their business. It has 7 fan blades for quieter operation, dual ball bearing for a longer lifespan and a 1 meter cable for convenient installation.
If you decide to go with a different brand, make sure to check the specs before placing an order. As an alternative, I’ve also used the GDSTime 3010 Dual Ball Bearing Fan on several V6 clones in the past, which have an advertised 13800 RPMs and 5.64 CFM.
The 30mm fan is only attached to the blue duct using (4) Phillips head screws. To replace the fan, carefully remove these (they do strip easily) and just swap out the fans.
Premium: 40mm Fan Upgrade
Larger 40mm fans are the most common size for PCs and other electronics, meaning there are a lot more options available on the market. While the V6 fan duct won’t fit these out of the box, there are plenty of 3D printed adapter designs that make it possible.
As for products, Noctua fans are an extremely popular choice for 3D printers. Considering it’s just a fan, it has an absurd amount of features, such as maximum airflow and silent operation modes, anti-vibration mounts and all sorts of adapters. It puts out 4.83 CFM, slightly more cooling than the E3D version and creates no ambient noise.
Have you ever touched that velvety lining inside of a jewelry box, or that fuzzy logo on a t-shirt? What about that fake white snow on Christmas trees? These are just a few examples of Flock fibers, which are almost always mistaken for other materials.
In fact, it seems most people have never even heard of Flocking before (myself included). Until I stumbled across the term a few weeks ago, I would have guessed it was some sort of fabric. Which is a shame, because this finishing technique is quite easy to do and creates stunning results with little effort. It’s nothing more than coating an adhesive base with thousands of tiny fibers to give it texture.
The problem? These products aren’t cheap. Buying the Flocking powder, adhesive and applicator tool will run you close to $50… for a single color. On the upside, we as Makers can 3D print the tool ourselves, and substitute more affordable products to achieve the same results!
The inhalation of Flocking particles can cause a respiratory condition known as Flock Worker’s Lung. Pick up a respirator mask from your local hardware store’s paint department. Otherwise, a quick sneeze can send a cloud of these flying up in to your face.
With so many gorgeous colors available, we could empty our wallet trying them all. Since the larger 1 pound bags are a much better value than the 3oz sample packs, it’s best to start with just one or two colors that will work best for your style of projects.
Red and Champagne are great for lining boxes, Green works well for vegetation and terrains, while Black is perfect for just about any purpose. The more unique colors are absolutely stunning, but may have limited use case scenarios. If you can’t find one that you want and don’t mind forking out the cash, FlockIt will even create a custom shade for an additional $20 per pound.
Over the course of this article, we will look at the best options for an undercoat adhesive, different types of flocking fibers and the individual steps to flock your own 3D prints.
Photo Provided Courtesy of Darren Thorndick Photography
The adhesive base is the absolute most important part of the Flocking process. Use the wrong type and those beautiful fibers will just fall off, leaving bare spots on the surface. Only so many fibers will stick, so it’s important to use an adhesive that will give the best coverage possible.
Unfortunately the official Flocking Adhesive prices are absurd, around $18 for an 8 oz can. It wouldn’t be so bad if we just used a single color, but we always want the base coat to match the color of our Flock, and variety can drive up the total costs quick.
As a cost effective substitute, Rustoleum Enamels run about $4 bucks for an 8 oz can and work extremely well. Color match it as close as possible to the Flock, where it will mask any thin spots that the fibers didn’t cover completely.
With Enamel paints, we want the base to be thick and tacky, and it can help to leave the can open for a few hours before use. When ready to paint, lay it on thick, using multiple coats if needed for complete coverage.
Rayon vs. Nylon Flock
There are two primary types of Flocking material to choose from, Rayon and Nylon. For the purpose of finishing 3D prints, we will almost always use Rayon.
Made for interior use, Rayon fibers have a smaller diameter and are softer to the touch, making it the ideal choice for decorative projects such as box linings, screen printing and fuzzy animal furs. Known for a variety of bright, intense colors, there are quite a few more options available and it’s often cheaper than the alternative.
Nylon fibers on the other hand are a bit larger and more flexible in terms of application, but should always be used for outdoor projects. This material is water resistant, fade resistant and overall more durable to the environment than Rayon. They are frequently used for hunting decoys, automotive interiors and fishing rod grips.
Flocking 3D Prints
For Valentine’s Day this year, I decided to make a heart shaped box out of Hatchbox Wood and Silk Copper PLA. This particular design was the perfect chance to try Flocking a 3D printed object, where the removable bottom insert could be remade if I botched the first attempt.
Once you have collected the basic supplies, we can go ahead and get started. At the bare minimum, we need the Flock material, a matching colored adhesive and paint brush. Don’t repeat my mistakes though, make sure to grab a decent mask!
If there are any areas that aren’t going to be flocked, spend the extra few minutes and mask them off. Blue painter’s tape works great and doesn’t leave any residue on the part when removed afterwards. It’s also a good idea to cut off edges where the tape’s adhesive backing is exposed, otherwise the fibers will stick to it and waste flocking material.
At this point, we can go ahead and start painting our undercoat adhesive on to the printed part. For enamel paint, just grab a cheap paint brush and start coating it on thick. Two or three coats should provide more than enough coverage.
Inspect the surface afterwards and smooth out any areas where the paint has started to pool, especially around the edges. A nice even coat will give the best results.
Now, Flock is like Glitter 2.0 and can make a very colorful mess of the surrounding area. To keep it from getting everywhere, grab a storage container..
Printed circuit boards (PCB) have long since been the gold standard for heated beds. The main advantage of a PCB heating source is the thermal distribution, keeping the temperature spread evenly across the entire surface. While these work great for small volume 3D Printers, larger sizes can take an excessive amount of time to reach temperature. This is where a Silicone Heater will shine, offering a much better heat output/power ratio and usually capable of reaching 60 °C in less than a minute.
Should every 3D Printer be upgraded to Silicone Heater? Probably not. It is however a noticeable improvement, and capable of reaching higher temperatures than the alternative.
When writing a previous article on safety mods for the Anet A8, a defective heated bed connector was one of the most notable concerns. There were plenty of cheap workarounds available, but most were just band-aids for a larger problem. Disappointed with the results, I tossed it in the trash and decided to replace it instead. This was the perfect opportunity to try out a silicone heater, looking at both the steps for installation and differences in performance.
A silicone heater will often come with 3M adhesive backing in place, meaning we can just peel the protective sheet and stick it to the build plate. We don’t need to worry much about air bubbles, but it’s a good idea to press it out in segments and make sure it adheres with a solid bond.
To get started, line up the silicone heater with the build plate right between the screw holes, and peel back about 1/4th of the protective sheet. Turn it over and carefully start to press the exposed adhesive down, using your fingers to smooth it out. Once you are satisfied, repeat this a few more times until the silicone heater has completely stuck to the surface.
If you aren’t using the heated bed hardware kit, go ahead and put the original screws and springs back on, then install the bed on the 3D Printer. Otherwise, the hardware kit comes with new bolts, lock nuts, washers and high temperature silicone tubing to replace the springs. Alternatively, most of this can be purchased at the local hardware store, and the tubing is sold online at McMaster-Carr.
Now this bit is entirely personal preference, but I chose to put a washer at the base with a locking nut on top. On build plates with threaded holes this won’t matter as much, but it will secure the bolt in place and prevent movement that can otherwise affect the bed’s leveling.
As the included silicone tubing is a single 50mm piece, we will first need to cut it down to (4) individual segments before we can use it. As per the product page, it is recommended to give each piece a length of around 9mm or so.
To keep things simple, I grabbed a piece of cardboard and measure out the desired length with digital calipers. I then marked the two endpoints as a guide, and the silicone tubing was placed in between them to make the cuts. They don’t have to be perfect, but get them as close as possible and clean up the ends with a straight edge razor before installation (box cutter works great).
Once the silicone tubing is cut down to size, we can go ahead and install it in place of the bed springs. Slide (1) piece of silicone tube on each screw and place a second washer on top of it. It will just sit on the nut for now, but as we tighten the corners down, the silicone will expand and cover it.
With the hardware installed, we can put the heated bed back on the 3D Printer and then start wiring it up. If you have spare M3 nuts on hand, you can thread one on the end of each screw to temporarily keep things in place, but otherwise just turn it over slowly and slide the screws in to the Y-carriage one at a time.
Silicone Heater Wiring
The Silicone Heater will consume 17 amps of electricity, compared to an average of 12 amps on a PCB board. The manufacturer recommends (A) power supply with at least 360 watts and (B) fan cooled MOSFET board to handle the heated bed output. This will prevent too much current passing through the connector and causing a meltdown.
This particular product comes with 3 feet of power and thermistor wiring integrated in to the heater, but it’s also a universal design and the ends are left exposed. Since we are using a MOSFET board, we can just crimp spade terminals on the white power cables for easy installation.
Move your heated bed to the furthest point away from the electronics and cut the wiring to length, leaving a bit of excess just in case. Now use a stripper/crimper multi-tool and remove about a 1/2″ of insulation from the end of each cable. Slide a 14 gauge spade terminal over the bare wires and crimp it down, then give a light tug to make sure they are secure.
Now we also need to crimp a connector on to the thermistor wires, but the type we use will vary depending on the electronics board. My Anet A8 has a RAMPS board that takes a 3-pin JST-XH connector for the thermistor, with an empty middle pin between the positive and negative wires. Most 3D printers will use some form of JST, but check the machine just to make sure.
For those that do frequent upgrades, a JST Connector Kit and JST Ratchet Crimping tool can be an absolute live saver on such occasions. If those aren’t part of your toolbox though, we can still make do with the original bed wiring as well. Just cut the original heated bed connector off with about 8 to 12 inches of spare wire, and crimp, splice or solder these to the silicone heater mat’s thermistor. In such cases, it’s a good idea to put some heat shrink tubing over the connection to protect it.
Tip: The individual thermistor wires are too small (28 gauge) for most stripping tools. Strip the black insulation, then use flush cutters to carefully expose the thermistor wire ends.
Once the Silicone Heater wiring is prepped and ready for the 3D printer, all we have left to do is install it. Run the white power cables to your MOSFET board, where they will lock in to the screw terminals labeled “HOT BED”. These wires are non-polarized, so it doesn’t matter which order they are installed. Plug the thermistor connector in to the electronics board to wrap things up, and double check the connections are secure.
Maybe you have been inspired by some awesome fabric prints you’ve seen online. Maybe you have a particular fabric printed project in mind. Or maybe (like me) you’re a serial skill-collector and you’re just looking for the next fun tool to add to your arsenal. Whatever the reason, this fun 3D printing technique will open up a lot of possibilities.
So why print onto fabric? Because it’s cool! You can make something interesting and wearable to show off, or give it to a loved one. Here are some example ideas:
The basic process for printing onto fabric is to print 3 layers, pause the print, insert some fabric, and continue the print to completion.
The basic process of 3D printing onto fabric.
In essence, that’s all there is to it, however, creating any product we make design choices to suit the purpose of the final piece. Even if our goal is aesthetics, these choices are relevant and important.
There are 4 main areas for consideration in a fabric printing project: the model design, the fabric choice, the slicer settings, and the printing itself.
When looking for, or designing a model that’s suitable for fabric printing, it’s important to remember the movement of the fabric. Pick a model that is made of many smaller parts, rather than one big block, and ensure there is adequate space between the parts to enable the fabric to move.
Here I have split a necklace design into many small parts,
and left 3mm between each piece.
Fabric has two distinguishing traits that govern its performance: construction, and fibre content.
The fibre content is quite a simple one; if you’re using FDM, you want the fiber of the fabric to be a synthetic fiber so fabric can semi-melt in between the layers: polyester, nylon, acrylic are all likely good choices. Cotton, wool, rayon, linen, silk are not so, though they may work on resin printers (I’ve yet to try) .
The other trait of any fabric is its construction, which describes the way he fabric was made: usually woven, knitted or felted, and the menagerie of subsets beneath those categories. The best fabrics for printing are lightweight, open (and thus semi transparent) knits and weaves. These enable layers of printed plastic to sandwich the fabric and bond to each other through the holes in the fabric. Suitable types include:
Tulle, which is a very lightweight, delicate, fine fabric mostly used in wedding veils. When viewed closely, the yarns are knitted together in a diamond pattern which won’t fray when cut. Due to its delicacy, it is not suited to applications that require a lot of strength (such as clothing) but it’s great for appliques and items that won’t see too much wear. The right colour in this fabric can appear nearly invisible (like my necklace).
Net is courser and a bit stronger than tulle, while still remaining relatively invisible in the right circumstances. You can get away with it as a construction fabric in clothing. It has a hexagon pattern, won’t fray, usually comes quite stiff and can be washed to soften (like this piece has been).
Organza which is plain-woven fabric that’s papery and stiff. It’s a lot stronger than tulle or net, and will stand up to wear as clothing, but will fray, so any edges will need seam allowances.
Setting your model to slice is very much like most normal prints, only you’ll print with no bed heat, add at least 5 bottom layers, and add the pause (used to insert the fabric), to the G-Code if you so desire.
The reason we print with no bed heat is that the fine fabrics seem to melt too much when they come into contact with the nozzle after having already been warmed by the bed, resulting in breaks and tears in the fabric. I’ve had a lot of fun using exotic PLA filaments such as silk, so feel free to experiment within the PLA range.
Because we are sandwiching the fabric between layers of filament we need to make sure there is enough adhesion to hold the layers together. I recommend pausing at layer 3, and leaving at least 5 bottom layers (layers that are filled in entirely), so that there are 3 layers below the fabric and at least 2 above to hold it tight (feel free to add more).
One thing to note is that on small parts like these, concentric pattern on top layers can mar the surface, particularly when using ironing. This is because the filament stays warm in the centre (due to the proximity to the nozzle) and the nozzle smooshes the filament around as it tries to finish the rest. You can see this in my necklace, below. To negate this ensure your top pattern is set to lines or zig zag.
Here you can see how a concentric fill pattern on the top layer has marred these surfaces.
Potentially the trickiest part of this project is pausing your prints at layer 3 so you can insert some fabric. I must admit, the first few times I tried this technique I just sat by the printer and manually hit pause as that layer started. But you can set it up so the printer automatically pauses and waits for you to hit resume.
I did this in Cura, using a post processing technique, which modifies the G-Code just after it’s been sliced (automatically):
After setting up my model to print, I added the pause by going to;
Extensions > Post Processing > Modify G-Code
Then Add a Script > Pause at height
Change Pause at to Layer No. and set Pause Layer to 3 then hit Close
That’s it! Slice and send it to your printer however you normally would.
You’ll notice when adding the script, there are a few different options. These are for different flavours of G-Code, my printer is running marlin for firmware, so
I used Pause at Height. If you find your printer is behaving erratically after the pause, then try one of the other options (my extruder motor ran backward when I had it wrong).
How to set up the pause function in Cura for machines running marlin.
Now the fun part! Printing!
Before starting print I recommend covering your bed in blue painters’ tape, so you can print atop that. Not only will this help with adhesion on a non-heated bed, but it will also assist you when it comes to remove the print, by enabling you to peel up the tape with print attached, then peel the tape off the print. After applying the tape, re-level and print your first three layers.
The first three layers have been printed and the print paused.
Then lay your fabric down atop your print and secure it with masking (paper/painters’) tape. Ensure it’s very flat, and that your tape doesn’t overlap any parts of the print (you’ll notice that I’ve gone over the skirt here, that’s fine). Remember if you’re using organza or plan to sew it onto something, leave a decent seam allowance of fabric around the print (at least a centimetre or so).
Tulle has been lain atop the first 3 layers, and then secured with tape
If you bump bed during this process you can usually have the printer re-center itself after applying the fabric and tape by resuming the print, then as soon as it starts to move to continue the print, pausing it again (which will make it home), then resuming it again to finish the print.
The print has been resumed after fabric has been inserted.
Once the print has been completed, be sure to remove it carefully, especially if you’re using tulle. This is where the blue tape really shines, as there’s no need to try and remove the print with a paint scraper and risk tearing the fabric. Be sure when lifting the blue tape to pull each strip of it evenly at the same time as those next to it, so as not to tare any fabric that may lie on the edges of the tape.
Black Friday is right around the corner and everything from 3D printers to filament will be going on sale. Some retailers already have promotions active, while others are waiting for this weekend before the discounts go live. Last year we saw great black friday deals from Creality, Lulzbot, Monoprice and more, where we can expect the same for 2018.
Not every Black Friday deal is advertised in advance however, where the larger retail giants like Amazon and Ebay will likely be launched the day of. I will continue to update this list as new sales are announced to keep it as comprehensive as possible.
Before making a purchase, please do your due diligence and research the business or product. This is a great time to grab a 3D Printer or accessories at a huge savings, but take a few minutes and do some Google research to keep informed. Websites will sometimes raise prices in advance, making deals appear better than they are. If you have any questions, Reddit’s 3D Printing Purchase Advice Megathread is an excellent resource to consult for help.
Know of a sale that isn’t included? Leave a comment below and it will be added to the list.
Black Friday Deals
3DJake – Up to 30% OFF on Filaments and Selected Items
XYZPrinting filament locks some 3D Printer models, meaning they are only compatible with XYZ filaments. As this limitation will impact the user experience, these models have been denoted with a (*) symbol.
While the Ender-3 is easily one of the best 3D printers in the budget market, they have cut a few corners to reduce the manufacturing costs. The extruder is one glaring example, made from cheap plastic and an inferior brass drive gear. Having already purchased it’s big brother (the CR-10) a year prior, I was all too familiar with this particular problem on Creality machines.
Unfortunately the stock extruder offers little more than the bare minimum. It can be hard to insert filament, the fragile lever is prone to breaking and worst of all, the cheap brass gear can quickly degrade and start missing steps, resulting in poor print quality.
On the bright side, there are plenty of options to upgrade and many are available for less than $20 bucks. Often made from solid aluminum and packaged with stainless steel drive gears, these are vastly better alternatives to the atrocious parts installed at the factory. Unless you opt for a genuine E3D Titan or Bondtech extruder, these steps will be universal for installing most kits on the market.
Before we get started, it is a good idea to disconnect the extruder stepper motor and bowden tube. Once these are unplugged, the extruder will be a breeze to disassemble moving forward.
The stepper motor connector just pulls out as shown below, but the bowden tube is clamped in place by the the coupler. To release it, press down on the white lip of the coupler to compress it, and simultaneously pull the bowden tube until it comes loose. If it’s stuck, use an adjustable wrench or pliers to push on the coupler and twist the tube until it breaks free.
Now there are (4) M3 screws in the extruder plate we must remove, one per corner that passes through the metal bracket and secures the stepper motor in place. Three of these screws are visible and the fourth is located underneath the filament feed lever.
Once the stepper motor has been separated from the machine, we can go ahead and replace the original 26T brass extruder gear with our upgraded 40T steel feed gear. There are (2) small grub screws that clamp this to the motor shaft, which we must loosen in order to remove it.
Go ahead and slide the new steel gear in to its place, but keep in mind that one side of the shaft will be flat, where this provides a surface for the grub screw to lock. Align the grub screw with the flat side and tighten it down, ensuring that it is held firmly in place and there is absolutely no play in the gear.
The extruder gear’s (T) value represents the number of teeth. A higher tooth count increases filament precision and is preferred for 3D Printers.
To reassemble the extruder using our new kit, start by placing the extruder base plate (black) on the metal mounting bracket. Thread (2) of the longer screws in to the raised side and (1) short screw in to the corner as shown below.
Turn the stepper motor so that the connector faces to the rear of the machine, then align it with the screws above. Holding it in place, tighten these (3) screws down until the motor is securely fastened.
Before we can install the extruder lever, we need to first add the idle bearing to it. Using the short silver M3 screw, position the bearing as shown and insert the screw through the center, which will thread in to the back side of the lever and tighten down.
The black screw will be used to mount the lever on the base extruder plate, in the back right corner nearest the lead screw. Go ahead and install the lever as shown, but leave it somewhat loose for the time being, where we still need to insert the compression spring to make it work.
While this is one of my favorite extruder kits to use, the spring system leaves a lot to be desired. It does in fact work quite well, but uses a total of 3 bolts that stick out and look ridiculous, reducing the visual aesthetic quite a bit. We will first look at how to assemble it with the included parts, and follow-up with an improved setup that looks more pleasing.
Take the (2) M5 cap head screws and thread one in from either side until the end is flush with the inner wall. The screw on the black side will fit inside of the spring and hold it in place, while the lever screw will be responsible for compressing the spring when it’s pressed.
Now use the shorter M5 cap head screw and insert this in to the spring. This will give the outer spring something to press against.
This article is a Work in Progress. It has been published early upon request, but will be updated with more comprehensive coverage and images in the near future.
Several months ago I wrote an in-depth article on How to Setup Auto Bed Leveling which covered the entire process from start to finish… at least almost. As this was my first time using auto bed leveling on my 3D printers, I was still testing out various methods to properly calibrate the sensor and opted to exclude this part from the guide. Nothing I had tested up to that point worked as expected and every print job embedded plastic in to the build surface, to the point I ended up having to replace it several times.
After I grew tired of using a wrench to knock prints off the bed, I found a video from 3D Maker Noob that looked promising. Rather than try to adjust the sensor’s position by hand, we could use g-code commands to calibrate it with ease. Go figure, it took all of 5 minutes and my auto bed leveling sensor was near perfect.
Calibrating Z-Offset With An Auto Bed Levelling Probe - YouTube
Most of this guide will just reiterate the information he provides in the video, but several personal observations have been added as well. Once you understand it, auto bed leveling makes perfect sense, but most of the resources found online are either needlessly complicated or just plain wrong.
Before we can get started, we first need to grab some software that can communicate with the 3D Printer over USB. While most slicers have this feature built-in, Cura seems to be the rare exception that lacks direct machine commands (despite otherwise being complete printing solution). There are however several other tools I have linked below that will work just fine for our needs, where I would suggest Pronterface based on the simple, easy to use interface.
As a third option, Simplify3D ($149) is exceptional software and my preferred slicer software of choice. It is however quite expensive and not worth the price tag for the average person, so unless you already own it, one of the free solutions above will be more than capable of getting the job done.
If you haven’t done so already, go ahead and connect the 3D Printer to your computer using a USB cable and power it on. Start up Pronterface (or whatever software you decide to use) and connect it to the machine. The Baud Rate will likely be set to the default of 115200 and the COM port will appear when the 3D Printer is connected, such as COM3.
Step 1: Clear Out Z-Offset
Since there might already be a z-offset configured in the firmware or EEPROM, we will start by clearing out any existing values and reset the offset to 0.00.
G28 Home the nozzle
M851 Z0 Set the z-offset to zero
M500 Store the settings to EEPROM
M501 Load the settings from EEPROM
M851 Echo the current z-offset value, make sure this reports Z0
Step 2: Move to Actual Z-Offset
When the Auto Bed Leveling (ABL) sensor is triggered, the firmware will raise the nozzle up by several millimeters. Since we want to work from the actual 0 z-offset, we need to reposition it at the point the sensor was triggered. To do this, we will use G1 F60 Z0, where G1 is the move command, F60 is the travel speed, and Z0 is where we are moving to.
G28 Z Home the nozzle on the Z axis
G1 F60 Z0 Move the nozzle down to the actual 0 offset
Step 3: Calibrate Z-Offset
Just like we are used to with manual bed leveling, go ahead and insert a piece of paper under the nozzle to test the distance. Using the movement controls in the software, start lowering the nozzle towards the build plate in increments of -0.1mm, until there is a slight drag on the paper when sliding it underneath. We will temporarily disable the software endstops, where that will allow us to go in to negative values on the Z axis while we calibrate the proper offset.
Once you are satisfied with the distance between the nozzle and the bed, make a note of the z-offset on the 3D Printer’s LCD screen, which should look something like “Z-0.5”. Now add the thickness of the paper you used to this value and that is your actual z-offset.
Note: A normal sheet of paper has an average thickness of 0.08mm. If your LCD screen reads Z-0.5, we would configure this as Z-0.58.
M211 S0 Turn OFF the Software Endstops
M851 Z-0.58 Set the z-offset value
M211 S1 Turn ON the Software Endstops
M500 Store the settings to EEPROM
M501 Load the settings from EEPROM
An all metal hotend is one of the absolute best upgrades you can make to any 3D Printer, it opens up a world of possibilities when it comes to exotic filaments. While the stock PTFE lined hotends on most machines are great for new users, they are limited to just the basic materials like PLA and ABS. The higher temperatures required to print other plastics will melt that tubing, which emits toxic fumes in excess of about 245° Celsius.
Unfortunately there just aren’t many options available in the all metal hotend market, meaning that owners have to choose between the two big names, E3D and Micro Swiss. The good news is that both companies offer exceptional products and specialize in hotend design as their core focus. However, when it comes to Creality machines like the CR-10 and Ender-3, the Micro Swiss has the distinct advantage of being a drop-in replacement that takes a matter of minutes to install.
After using their all metal hotend on other 3D printers in the past, I reached out to Micro Swiss last week about this particular product. While it’s advertised as being for the CR-10, Creality3D uses the same hotend design across most of their machines, meaning it is compatible with the Ender-3 as well. They agreed to send me a unit to check out and do an installation guide, so we will look at the steps needed for assembly and how to get the most out of this particular hotend.
To access the hotend, we first need to remove the cover from the carriage. It’s held in place by (2) bolts that are located above and to the left. As the fan wires are still attached to this piece, unscrew the bolts and swing the cover to the side, giving us the necessary space to work.
Since the Micro Swiss All Metal Hotend is a complete kit, we don’t need to fuss with breaking down the original assembly. Just remove the (2) bolts from the top of the magenta cooling block, then unplug the white bowden tube by pressing down on the lip of the coupler and pulling up on the tube to release it.
Since we will reuse the heater cartridge and thermistor, we need to take these out as well. Insert the smallest hex wrench (included with the Ender-3) in to the little hole next to the nozzle, loosening this grub screw until the heater cartridge can slide free. Before pulling it out, we need to also loosen the the Phillips head screw next to the cartridge that holds the thermistor in place. Once finished, gently remove these from the heater block while making sure not to stress the wires.
That’s it, we are finished disassembling the stock hotend and can move on to the all metal hotend installation. Hold on to that stock hotend though and toss it in storage, mechanical parts can fail and it’s always nice to have a backup on hand for when that happens!
Hotend Assembly Steps
As the Micro Swiss is a drop-in solution, the parts themselves are almost identical to the original components. To get started, screw the new aluminum cooling block in to the carriage plate using the same (2) bolts we previously removed.
Now thread the titanium heatbreak in to the top of the aluminum heater block as shown in the photo below. Finger tighten this down and then use the included spanner wrench to make sure it is firmly in place.
Insert the heatbreak in to the bottom of the cooling block, then use (1) grub screw from the package to clamp it in position. Press upwards on the heater block during this step to make sure it is properly seated. Any gaps left on the inside can cause the filament to leak and clog the hotend.
The kit includes a nice brass plated nozzle that is wear resistant, meaning it can handle abrasive filaments better than the traditional options. Thread this in to the bottom of the heater block and finger tighten it down. We will tighten it again later so just make sure it’s in place for the time being.
With the hotend now assembled, we can go ahead and reinstall the heater cartridge and thermistor. Insert these just as they were before, making sure the thermistor’s glass bead is inside of the small hole on the side. The screw that holds it in place will go between the two white wires, but only tighten this down enough to keep the bead from coming out while in use.
Tighten the (2) set screws on the bottom of the heater block as well, where these will clamp the heater cartridge in place.