tl;dr: Auto-leveling is great, Silky PLA is great and PETG is annoying, vase mode and fat nozzles are great, and prints are mostly turning out right without pain and suffering.
So far, I got a printer, managed to actually print things other than calibration pieces and printer mods, and then the motherboard failed right after the return period and I installed a BLTouch and that made a huge difference in ergonomics.
Right now, I start a print, let it go, and generally I get what I thought I was printing at the end.
Auto-leveling / Auto-tramming is absolutely a handy thing but the probe is annoying
Before I got the BLTouch, there was an endless stream of failed first layers.
After I got the BLTouch, that went away. Sometimes the probe seems to get stuck-ish and will sit there blinking and require me to restart the print. And I set up a set of prints and accidentally broke the probe because the print pieces were too close and the probe snagged.
There are higher-end printers with three stepper motors on the Z-axis and they can auto-tram the bed before a print and I kinda think that both having a probe of some sort and having the ability to tram the bed like that ought to be part of people’s expectation for a non-toy printer.
Random blue tape is not 3M 2090
A 6 inch wide roll of 3M 2090 is expensive. I found a roll of random off-brand blue crepe tape on Amazon that was less expensive than 2090 but still 6 inches wide.
It’s nasty stuff, at least for printing PETG. Gets all gooey.
The best I can do, I guess, is 3 inch wide 2090 tape, which covers the bed with a reasonably small number of joints.
Elmers Glue makes a huge difference
I found that the bed that came with the printer is kinda-sorta good at adhering but not perfect. So I’d get kinda frustrating adhesion issues even once I started using the BLTouch to tram and level the prints.
The purple washable Elmer’s Glue stick makes things stick pretty nicely every time. I’ve been told that you really need to make sure it’s Elmer’s glue of a specific brand because there are glues that look exactly the same but aren’t the same sort of PVA glue.
I’d assumed that it was 2090 tape or glue but after some screwing around, I found that tape and glue makes a difference, especially if you are printing something that’s a grating on the bottom, which I discovered while printing the drybox
PETG is annoying.
PETG has a bunch of super-handy material properties. Like being flexible and a little bit less likely to snap.
I was first thinking that it was just really annoying but the initial problems seem to mostly be just the print settings, the bed leveling, and so on. I would print a print-in-place test piece and it wouldn’t work.
So I got some Matter Hackers BUILD clear PETG printing. And all was fine.
And I got some Atomic Filaments granite. And that was pretty fine as well.
But occasionally the clear PETG would get a little fragile. I figured it was just variance or design changes or whatnot.
Then I got Matter Hackers BUILD black PETG. And that’s when things got annoying. Because I could not print anything of substance with the black PETG that had any sort of strength.
So I got a dehydrator. Weighed the same before as after, didn’t improve the prints.
Then I did the last thing which was crank the temperature from 240 to 245 degrees, and suddenly it was all right again. Except that you really shouldn’t be printing above 240 on the standard Ender extruder.
So, yeah. There are a lot of really really good reasons to use PETG, but it’s annoying!
Silky PLA is great
Silky PLA was a happy discovery.
The primary appeal of silky PLA is that it makes your prints look good straight out of the printer. Less stringy, not so much layer lines, et al.
There are problems, of course. The main one is that it’s not as strong as PLA; it’s a looks-oriented product.
One of my successful designs was printing a set of mermaid-pirate coins to hand out at a mermaid-pirate shoot.
T-Glase PETT is interesting stuff. It’s not exactly like PETG nor is it entirely unlike PETG.
It’s more expensive, prints a little cooler, and seems to be more transparent. And it’s only available from Taulman.
It also doesn’t stick to the bed the way PETG does, so all you need is just some glue on a glass bed.
Vase-mode is amazing
Vase mode puts some requirements on the designer, but I really really really like vase mode. Basically, it’ll print the bottom layer, and then spiral around the outline of the object. This means that it needs to be roughly tube-ish in shape… although a bit of creativity can make a whole bunch of interesting shapes possible.
I feel like there’s a bunch of people who got all excited about that right away and made vases… but there’s actually a lot of other interesting projects to do with vase mode as well that aren’t fully explored.
The big appeal is that it’s really easy to print quickly. With a regular print, each wall is laid down as multiple passes, but with vase mode, each wall is a single pass. Plus, if you have a transparent filament, it’ll be much more transparent if you print it vase mode.
The first vase mode print was a AA battery sorter.
I also found a vase-mode OpenSCAD box generator that makes beautiful simple 2 part boxes given a size, so I’ve been printing a bunch of random handy boxes for storing things.
I also managed to find a non-parametric but well designed dovetail vase-mode drawer set.
There’s a bit of an impedance barrier going on. Vase-mode, while amazing, requires a bunch of design constraints. You can work around some of them with creativity, but there aren’t really any design tools that you can use.
Fat nozzles are amazing too!
In general, for printing storage modules, a fatter nozzle is great, although you will definitely have some issues with some prints.
Switching to a fatter nozzle has cut hours off of some of my prints. Most especially boxy organizers where there’s not a lot of fine details to wash out.
Vase mode also works well with fat nozzles. You can maybe squirt a 0.8mm line out of an 0.4mm nozzle but beyond that point, you really want a fatter nozzle.
Nozzles are kinda annoying tho
I have a standard nozzle that came with the printer, a TH3D no-name nozzle, and a Micro Swiss metal nozzle. Each of them has a different z-offset and requires a different wrench size to change.
Bowden tubes clog
I put maybe 4kg of filament of various sorts through the bowden tube and then it clogged, which I discovered kind of the hard way. Obviously, we are talking about whatever cheap questionable tube comes with the printer, but that clearly suggests that you should keep some better tubing around.
Some other really interesting prints
- I found a nice divider for my set of Akro-Mills plastic parts bins.
- I had some drill bits hanging around my toolbox loose but I found a nice parametric drill bit box generator.
- I had some saw blades hanging around my toolbox but I found a nice Saw blade box