I recently came across a supply of low cost Worktop Savers. These are 200mm x 200mm x 4mm sheets of glass, with rounded edges. They are for putting hot pans / dishes on, to protect the surface beneath them. This means that the glass is tempered (rated for temperatures up to 240 degC) so is ideal for use on a heated print bed. They do have rubber feet, but these come off easily without leaving any residue.

The glass is pressed against the heated print bed with large binder clips, as seems to be the norm for these machines.

The size of the glass slightly reduces the print area of the printer, but this has not been an issue so far. Its size is actually proving an advantage as I can home the printer just off the side of the glass sheet. Then when the print starts, any oozing plastic tends to get "knocked off" as the extruder passes over the edge of the glass. If I did need to make use of the full print area it would take no time at all to remove the glass and then add a 4mm offset (the glass thickness !) into my… Continue reading

My 3D printer has recently proven very useful in fixing a couple of favourite Christmas gifts, that were clearly not designed for the rough attention of my young son.

The first fix was to make a new hook for a Postman Pat helicopter. The original winch hook was not able to cope with the heavy duty lifting jobs that were expected of it ! I made sure that the replacement part was designed with strength in mind. I designed it as a ‘chunky’ part and printed with a high fill ratio. It has survived for several weeks of frequent use and I suspect that the string will break before this new hook.

The second replacement part was a stopper for a money box. This was my sons first money box and was being opened and closed all the time. The thin plastic lugs of the original part did not last very long. The replacement part has already lasted twice as long as the original and shows no signs of wear.

Over the last week I have used my 3D printer for a couple of household fixes. These were quick and easy to implement and provided permanent fixes (that didn’t look out of place) and a good sense of satisfaction.

The first fix was to repair a loose bar on a hamster cage door. The frequent flexing of the bars, as the door was opened and closed, had caused a weld on one of the bars to fail. This was spotted as our Houdini hamster tried to squeeze through the gap. Last time it escaped it found time to chew several holes in the carpet so a quick solution was needed. The fix involved creating a part in Sketchup, which clipped over the loose bar and over the good bars either side of it. Three of these clips, with a few drops of superglue on each, securely held the loose bar in place.


The second fix was to an IKEA cupboard which we had accidentally bought the wrong shelves for. They were the correct width but did not quite line up with the front of the frame. This meant that the middle doors had nothing to rest against when closed,… Continue reading

All of the PLA filament I have had to date has been supplied loose, in coils. Despite my best efforts this occasionally get tangled during prints, resulting in snapped filament and print failures. To solve this issue I recently started winding the loose filament onto spools and built a very simple spool holder.

For the filament spools I used large electronic component spools (the sort used to hold connectors in a pick-and-place machine) as I have easy access to lots of these (there are also printable versions on Thingiverse). For the spool holder I used a block of wood, some spare shelf brackets and an M8 nut and bolt. It only took a couple of minutes to build and works brilliantly.

I also printed a Prusa filament guide (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:11222) which is bolted to the frame and
helps the filament comes off the spindle cleanly. It has a diagonal slot which makes it very quick to thread the filament through, but still holds it securely.

Since using the spool holder and guide I have not had any problems with filament tangling or snagging on the frame.

After several weeks of distraction, due to other commitments, I finally got round to using my Longboat Prusa 3d Printer. Before its first print I updated the Sanguinololu control card firmware from Sprinter to Marlin, as it seemed to be generally accepted that it gave much better print results. I also installed the very popular slicing software, Slic3r for converting the 3d stl files into the gcode instructions that the printer could understand. RichRap’s blog has an excellent 3 part introduction to slic3r and its various options. Part 1 is here.

The first object I printed was a simple gear (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:8264). It was printed with clear PLA supplied with my printer kit. It was was by no means a perfect print, but I was very happy with it as a first effort.

With a successful print under my belt I started printing various calibration objects to help fine tune the machine. After calibrating the extruder and the X, y, z axes, tightening the belts, optimising my slic3r settings, etc. the prints improved significantly.

I also printed out a set of Prusa Z-Axis rod constraints (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:9864), to reduce flexing of the frame and further improve… Continue reading