We Are Learning 3D Printing Through Our Personal Experience…
One of the most annoying things with 3D printers that extrude thermoplastic material to build up a 3D model layer by layer is the fact that you need to have a built plate that will provide enough adhesion and easy removal of the printed parts. This has proven to be hard to achieve with various tapes being the most commonly used solution such as Kapton tape for ABS and 3M Blue Scotch tape for PLA. The problem with the tapes is that they wear off and tear over time and prints, especially when you try to remove a 3D printed object from the tape. This means you need to replace the tape with a new one pretty often and that can be costly as both Kapton tape and 3D Blue Scotch tape is actually not very cheap at the sizes needed to cover the build plate of a 3D printer. That is why other more durable solutions are being worked on and people are experimenting with various other options for 3D printing that would provide better durability and lower cost. One such very promising solution is the GeckoTek 3D printer build plate that we have mentioned already and have pre-ordered, but the creators of the product have been experiencing some delays in finishing the product and they still have not started shipping it. So we are always on the lookout for other alternative options and one that we have just found out is the BuildTak 3D printing surface that we have ordered and plan to test after the holidays when it arrives.
The BuildTak 3D printing surface is a thin plastic sheet of special surface that sticks on top of your standard build plate providing an easy to install and durable alternative to various tapes such as the ones already mentioned. It is supposed to provide an optimal printing surface for 3D objects to adhere to for the duration of a print, while allowing for a clean, easy removal of completed builds. It is heat-resistant, so that you should be able to use it for ABS printing as well if you have a 3D printer with a heated build platform and not only PLA. The best of all is that a single sheet of BuildTak should be significantly more durable than any kind of tape and the price should not be much higher than a roll of Kapton tape or 3M Blue Scotch painters tape and hopefully the BuildTak should outlast it. The surface is available in multiple pre-cut sizes including rectangle, square and circle shapes that should fit on most FFF/FDM 3D printers available and if the size you need is not available you can go for a larger one and then cut the extra. We are hopefully going to be able to confirm if all of these good sounding claims by the manufacturer will prove to be true when we get our order of BuildTak surface and try it out on out MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer.
When you already own a 3D printer you can start buying products that come in two halves – one that is 3D printable and you need to make the parts yourself and another one that is with components that you cannot print. We have purchased the RoboSavvy Universal Spool Holder kit that essentially comes just like we described above as we wanted to have a separate filament spool support that is not directly attached to the 3D printer. The kit itself comes with all the metal parts that you need in the form of rods, nuts and bearings and the other plastic parts you need to print yourself – the STL files are provided (the parts in black on the photo above we have printed ourselves). The parts you cannot print are actually common items that you might be able to easily find in a hardware store near you, but you need to buy them separately and they are sold as a complete kit, so it is easier to acquire all that you need.
The Universal Spool Holder is designed to support two medium sized spools of varying lengths at once, and can be adjusted to support spools up to 21 cm wide, so pretty large ones. On the photo above you can see our fully assembled spool holder with a single MakerBot large 0.9 kg (2lb) spool of PLA material mounted on top of it, this leaves quite a lot of space for more than one more spool even if larger, and even though the spool is small in one end the holder remains stable and works well. It would’ve been nicer if we’ve had another 4 bearings and wing nuts in the kit, so that we could add the option for a third spool, but we can get them additionally anyway, so not much of a problem. The idea is that the spool holder is designed for medium and large size spools and you are most likely going to be using a lot of smaller size ones as well, so you are most likely going to need to add the option for a third spool to make it more useful anyway.
The RoboSavvy Universal Spool Holder is a nice and useful product that we liked very much and the fact that we needed to print some parts and assemble the unit ourselves is a nice addition for people who like us like this kind of stuff. While assembling the spool holder we have found out that there was a pair of hex nuts missing from the package, but we had some spare M4 nuts lying around, so we have quickly fixed that. Now what we only need to do is find some more 20x27x4mm bearings and print two more plastic middle parts on the 3D printer and we’ll have the option to extend the holder to three spools.
One of the most troublesome thing with most 3D printers, or at least the ones using FDM/FFF technology or essentially extruding various kinds of thermoplastic to build the desired 3D print is the fact that you need to have the filament stick to something. In order for the first layer to stick to the build plate, so that the model will not warp during printing, we employ various tricks such as putting different tapes on the build platform. But we have to replace the painters tape, or the Kapton tape or reapply whatever else we might be using from time to time as these materials wear off and with that also comes the need to level the build plate again and again. GeckoTek might have the solution for this – an alternative build plate that has a permanent coating that provides enough adhesion for the materials to stick well and then be easily removable. Without the need to reapply something on the build plate and go through the process of leveling the build plate again and again, you would still have to, but probably less often. The only thing that the GeckoTek build plate apparently does not solve is the need to still have a heated build platform for printing ABS materials or when using other 3D printer filaments that need to have a hot bed in order to stick on.
The GeckoTek 3D printer build plate started as a Kickstarter project earlier this year and it has been successfully funded. The company has stated November shipping for the project backers and they are apparently already taking pre-orders from users that did not take part in the crowdfunding effort on Kickstarter for early 2015 delivery. You have the option to pre-order a GeckoTek build plate only or the plate along with a custom magnetic base for easier removal of the build plate from your 3D printer and there are models available for a variety of popular 3D printers. Kits are available for 3D printers by Makerbot, Ultimaker, RepRap, Printbot, Solidoodle, Blue Eagle Labs, Wanhao, Flash Forge, SeeMeCNC and Robo 3D. Depending on the size of the build plate it costs around $40 USD and if yuo get the GeckoTek 3D printer combo that includes a magnetic base and build plate you would need to pay about $85 USD for it, thought hat can vary based on the specific printer model. We have pre-ordered a combo kit for our MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printer and that one was $85 USD, though you would also need to include shipping cost that can vary depending on your location. Payments for the pre-order are done now via PayPal, so you are charged immediately and not when your order is ready to ship or is shipped.