A 3D printer diary – printing a box

3D printing takes AGES! Even something as simple as the small container shown below takes four hours!

The 3D-printed version is on the left.
The original (injection-moulded) is on the right.

A lot of lessons were learned from this print job. The short version is as follows:

  • Don’t start a print job at 8pm. You’ll get a late night.
  • Supports are a great idea.
  • The raft underneath was a waste of time on this model.
  • The box is flimsy. See below for why.
  • My Cura settings were wrong.
  • The nozzle was still slightly blocked (as I found out a few days later).

3D printing involves layering tiny amounts of hot plastic, in layers of 0.1mm (or more, or less, depending on the printer). The software takes a 3D file (like a .STL file or a .OBJ file) and “Slices” it into hundreds of layers. This takes time. The white box above took nearly four hours to print, and I got to bed at midnight.

The observant will notice that the top of the box is a different colour. With 12 minutes to go, the white filament ran out. I cheekily pushed the end of a yellow length of filament into the top of the filament feeder, whilst it was still running, guesstimating the correct time to do so. I’m sure one is supposed to pause the model whilst doing this, but it worked for me this time.

The resultant box has weak sides, and feels flimsy. It feels like it’s made of thin paper, and the quality of the sides is terrible. There are two possible issues: one is that my settings in the Cuda software are incorrect. I’m using Cuda to add supports and the raft – because the official Digilab software won’t export in the correct format. the other issue (as I found out) was that the nozzle was still blocked.

The underneath of the box is much better than last time. Apart from a few stringy bits, it’s relatively clean. The supports were very thin, as they are meant to be, and broke off easily.

I’m not convinced that a raft was really necessary. It took 31 minutes to print the raft, even before starting to print the supports and the model. I felt that the raft was a waste of time in this case. There are good examples where a raft is important, particularly for models which don’t have a flat base.

Next, we will try giving the nozzle a really good clean, and try again.

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