Adventures in 3D

I bought my first 3D printer in 2018, and began a hobby that has given me a great deal of joy. That first printer was janky and loud: it provided opportunities to learn everything about how 3D printers are built as I made it quiet and generally reliable through my replacing all of the essential components. It taught me about all of the ways printing can go wrong, and techniques to help insure success. It was like learning by repeatedly stepping on a rake. Then we had to move, so it went into a box and stayed there for two years.

Recently, I purchased a new, larger, more reliable printer and my hobby has been rekindled with a fury. The quality of prints I get with this new printer is beyond my expectations, and has encouraged me to try many things I never bothered with before. I can use stronger plastics now, and take advantage of some of the more unusual composite materials. The larger print base enables me to do more than ever before, and the thrill is intoxicating.

My current platform is the Creality Ender 5 S1, with the optional smoked acrylic sides and top. It has a top-down feed system that rarely clogs, and a removable bed that grips models when hot, but releases them when cool. I drive it with the open-source OctoPrint software on a Raspberry Pi with a wifi dongle, so I can control and monitor my prints from any computer, tablet, or phone in the house. I’m thinking about how to add cameras and LED lighting to this for active AI monitoring of prints. 

I use Cura to slice models into gcode for the printer. This software also handles the creation of support structures for overhangs and low-density in-fill for the most efficient use of material. Meshmixer is an app I use to manipulate models to prepare them for printing. I use it to break larger models into printable chunks, combine and separate models, and occasionally to build models.

To create models, I have used CAD programs like OpenCAD and Fusion360, and briefly fooled with Blender. My favorite method so far is OpenSCAD, which is a programmable tool that renders models based on code that describes the elements and how they are manipulated. Some of my favorite models to print have been based in OpenSCAD.

With my last printer, I created a number of my own design: different medallions, cookie cutters, and food portioners. With this printer, I have created some 8 and 20-sided dice with Egyptian hieroglyphs, but I haven’t tried to do anything really ambitious yet. Which brings me to the point that most of the really cool models I print still come from other people. I find them on hobbyist sites like Thingiverse.

The projects that I work on, and my general commentary about 3D printing, are presented here to document my progress in this hobby. 

  • The Second Hot End

    A continuation of my adventures with an Ender 5 S1 printer, and eight new projects.

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  • 3D Morality

    Filament has the potential for becoming extraordinarily useful, and 3D printing allows us to use filament in intricate ways we’ve never been able to build before. At the same time, it can be extraordinarily wasteful and can allow us to burn through resources faster than ever before.

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  • The First Hot End

    My 3D printer experiences, including my recently purchased Creality Ender 5 S1, and a catalog of what I’ve made with it so far.

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