Blog - The 3D Printer Guy
May 08, 2017

March 24, 2016

How to reinforce 3d printed parts with fiberglass

Though some 3D printing filaments are already made with durability in mind, here's a technique that can add some sturdiness and durability to our good-old ABS parts.

Strengthening parts with this post processing technique can be a good idea for parts that will be used outdoors and will be subject to weather elements. Also, it is recommended for parts that will be under physical strain. Some examples are: propeller blades, canoe paddles, cases, handles.

The idea is simple: print a part as you normally would, and then apply a fiberglass coating.

Here are the steps and some example photos of the technique I just described.

Materials:

  • Your 3d printer with ABS filament (other filaments may work as well)
  • Fiberglass kit, consisting on resin, hardener (catalyst) and fiberglass fabric. You can find these in ebay searching for the term "fiberglass repair kits"
  • Protective latex gloves (sometimes included in the fiberglass kit)
  • Paint brush  (sometimes included in the fiberglass kit)
  • Alcohol or acetone (usually not included in the kits, this is used to clean any unwanted or spilled resin)

Steps

 1. Print your part using ABS

Since we are aiming for robustness, try printing with a nice infill (50% to 70% sounds reasonable).

Layer height should not be a concern. The coating will cover any and all small details in the print, so no need to go HI-RES here, if you have a 0.4mm nozzle then go for a 0.25mm layer height.

For increased strength, try printing with thick shell (perimeter) and bottom/top. A thickness of 5 or 5 times the nozzle size should be fine.

Don't be shy to print support material as needed, just be sure to remove it after the print is done.

Part being printed (the square borders is only the support material)

 

2. Basic post-processing

Once the part is printed, let it cool and remove it from the build plate.

Remove all support material (if any).

Apply some light sandpaper just to get a more rough and non-slippery surface.

 Printed part with support material already removed and some light sandpaper already applied.​

 

 

3. Apply the fiberglass coating

Put on the gloves and prepare the fiberglass resin according to the kit's instructions. Usually this process consists of putting the required amount of resin in a container and then adding a little bit of hardener (catalyst) and stir everything with a disposable stick.

Use scissors to cut pieces of the fiberglass fabric (so it is easier to handle)

Use the paint brush to apply an initial coat of prepared resin over the piece of fabric.

Push the piece of fabric against the printed part so the fabric is "glued" to the part by the resin. Use your hands to mold the layer of fabric to the shape of the part.

Apply a 2nd layer of resin on top of the fabric.

Repeat the process until the part has 2 or 3 layers of fabric and the last layer is covered by resin.

Allow it to dry. Depending on the specific kit and amount of layers, the part can be dry and hard in just a few hours, however, read the instructions of the fiberglass manufacturer since some recommend to wait longer.

 

4. Additional processing

Optional: after the part hardens, you could use a power-tool to grind  any excess fiberglass or to smooth the surface of the part, of you decide to do this, be sure to wear breathing and eye protection when grinding fiberglass.

Recommended: apply paint!! fiberglass can be ugly, if you want your part to look good, it may be a good idea to apply some color. Traditionally, fiberglass parts are coated with "gel coat", a wax rich polyester resin, but many other common paints can also be used.

 

5. Use the reinforced part.

Go ahead and try the part. The reinforced fiberglass coating will let the part sustain heavy exposure to weather and physical stress

Part already covered with a few layers of fiberglass and mounted on a boat's motor. 

Notice that this part has not been grinned nor painted and looks fairly ugly.

 

3D printing is a fairly new technique and usually there are no "standard solutions" for industry-specific applications, so there is still a lot of trial and error experimentation among hobbyists and professionals. If you are the DIY kind of person, I encourage you to try this technique and even send us an email with pictures of your results so we can showcase them!

February 22, 2016

Troubleshooting delamination: Splitting layers and how to avoid them.

Z layer separation, also called delamination, is the phenomena of having one or more layers in the Z axis not sticking correctly to the layer beneath it. This is often more visible near the corners and edges of the printed piece.

Delaminated part delaminated octopus

 This issue is normally not related to the printer itself, but rather to the user-defined settings and elements.

While this problem can happen with any kind of filament, I have only experienced it with ABS. This is no coincidence, ABS is in fact the most prone to suffering delamination due to its tendency to warp.

Massive delamination
Like many of the setbacks in 3D Printing, this can be avoided by understanding the problem and taking action to prevent it. This is usually not a machine-related issue but rather a user-settings related issue, meaning that the user can make adjustments and avoid the problem.

    Some of the many reasons why the issue can happen:

    • Type of filament being used: as mentioned before, ABS is the most troublesome material to work with when it comes to delamintation. An easy way to walk away from delamination consists on just using a different polymer. Delamination in PLA is way less frequent, in fact I have never seen delamination happening in PLA during the print (personal experience). We have a wide selection of filaments in our catalog, check it out.
    • Low temperature: it is possible that the temperature is high enough to be extruded out of the nozzle but not high enough for the extruded filament to correctly stick to the previous layer. Try increasing the temperature in 5 or 10 degree increments and see if this affects the results in a positive way.
    • High speed: printers are becoming increasingly fast and precise, but the mechanical and chemical properties of the polymers do have some limitations. Sometimes it is better to err on the side of caution and go for a slower printing speed to ensure that the extruded filament has enough time to properly connect with the previous layer. Try some slower speed like 30mm/s and watch for the results.
    • Room temperature: let's keep in mind that the thermoplastics used in 3D printing are very sensitive to temperature. A 5 or 10 degree C difference in your extruder temperature is usually the difference between a perfect print and a failed print. This is true for the extruder temperature, the heated bed temperature AND the environment's temperature. By "room temperature" I mean the immediate surroundings of your printer: Is there an open window nearby? an air conditioner? a blowing fan? Anything that could be moving the air "around" the printed part can be causing a temperature difference between the layers of the print. Many 3D printer models have their own enclosure, however, it is always a good idea to keep the machine away from air currents. Try turning off the AC and closing some windows and doors to diminish some of the room's air flow.
    • Flow: the amount of filament being extruded is an important variable when it comes to sticking the layer together. If the walls of the print look "thin" or if you see small gaps in the Z layer then it is probably a good idea to use a higher "flow" value in your slicer software.
    • Layer height: the maximum recommended Z layer height is 70% of the nozzle width. For example, of your nozzle has a 0.4mm width then you should keep the layer height at 0.3mm or less. Make sure you are printing within the recommended values.
     

     Be sure to check for all the possible causes I mentioned above. If you experience delamination it may be happening due to some of those reasons or a combination of many.

    The best complement for a good 3D Printer is a user that took the time to understand the underlying principles that will let the machine achieve its potential.

    3D Printing can be an exciting activity and there is a small learning curve, but whether if you are hobbyist or a professional, the rewards are well worth your while. 

    I hope you found this information useful and I invite you to take a look at our catalog. Have a great day. 

    February 10, 2016

    Filament options: What else is there?

    The most common thermoplastic used in personal 3D printing has always been the oil-based ABS though recently its popularity seems to have been matched by the bio-degradable PLA.

    Though ABS and PLA are widespread, easy to find, inexpensive and suitable for most projects, they are not the only options. Many other filaments are available for the 3d printing enthusiast and each one has unique mechanical properties worth knowing.

     

    Nylon

    • This filament has great inter-layer adhesion so layer separation (delamination) is usually not an issue.
    • It can resist greater forces than your regular ABS, making it a great choice for functional parts.
    • If your part will be subject to forces or friction (levers, gears, and alike), then probably Nylon is the way to go.

     

    Flex

    As you can imagine, "flex" is short for "flexible". We are basically talking about a material that can be easily bent and squeezed without breaking.

    • Flexible filaments come in a few different levels of "elasticity", some stretch more than others.
    • Special care: this material may require taking some precautions to avoid extruder clogging.
    • Wrist bands, transmission belts and phone cases are some common parts where flexible filament can come in handy.
     

    PET

    PET is strong and it is recommended whenever you need a strong and durable part.

    • Its inter-layer adhesion allows single-wall spiral vase prints with no problems.
    • Very flexible when printed in thin layers but also hard and almost "indestructible" when the printed part is thick.
    • Precautions to be taken: this filament is prone to absorbing lots of humidity from the environment and may require some drying before printing.

     

    Final thoughts

    I encourage you to try all available types of filament so you can fully experience the possibilities that the 3D printing technology currently offers. In all cases, keep in mind that each filament type (and even each brand) may have specific requirements in terms of printing temperature, printing speed and even spool storage.

     

    WWW.THE3DPRINTERGUY.COM carries many different varieties of filament from PLA and ABS to specialty filament.  Check out our selection of filament today!  Contact Us for special requests or bulk orders.

    August 28, 2015

    Should I Buy a 3D Printer Kit or an Assembled 3d Printer?

    Printing at home is nothing new, but 3D printers drastically change the meaning of printing. Now we have the ability to upgrade our printing abilities into three dimensions. This opens up many possibilities for creation from say, a wine rack, to a combination safe.
    Once you decide you want a 3D printer for yourself, you get to decide whether you want a fully assembled kit, or one that you build yourself. Both options have pros and cons about them, so your choice is going to depend on your personal preferences. Here are some factors to weigh to help you in your decision:

    3D Printer Kits

    First up is the 3D printer kit, which comes in pieces and you assemble yourself. The pros of the kit include:

    • The kit is going to cost less than if you were to purchase the assembled 3D printer
    • You will be able to learn all that you can about the printer, and how it functions, as you put it together
    • If any problems arise, you will have background knowledge which can help you troubleshoot more effectively

    With this being said, there are several cons about a kit that you are going to have to consider as well. These include:

    • It is open source, so you may have to search for parts and the like in order to get this running for yourself, but it can be a rewarding experience once you are complete
    • Assembly is time consuming as you have to build the printer, there is nothing completed for you. So this is not an open up and start printing type of job

    Assembled 3D Printers

    The assembled printer comes fully assembled and ready for use. The pros of this option include:

    • The printer is already set up and ready to go, you simply have to plug it in, download software and get on your way printing
    • Many of the assembled 3D printers include an auto leveling bed, which can ensure you get a great print each time, something that kits often do not have
    • Assembled printer options are much more convenient for those who are on a strict time schedule
    • Being that these printers are fully enclosed, the temperature remains more stable which increases the odds for a better print

    Though many would assume an assembled 3D printer is the better option, there are some cons to this
    decision. These include:

    • Due to being enclosed, many people experience problems that require calling in a technician to fix
    • Since you are not involved in the building process, you are not learning much about how these work and how to fix problems on your own
    • These cost much more than kits since they are ready to be used

    So which option is the best for you? This really depends on what type of person you are. For those who are tech savvy, do-it-yourself types, have the time and the patience required to finish a project, and want to have a hands on look at the 3d printer, then the kit is going to be the best option. For those who simply want to start designing, you cannot go wrong with an assembled 3d printer. Either way, at the end of the day, you will be able to bring your ideas to life once you purchase your new 3D printer.

    Check out both types of 3D printers here today to find the right one for you!!   Assembled 3D Printers  DIY 3D Printer Kits  

     

    April 26, 2015

    PLA vs. ABS – Which is the better filament for 3D Printing?

    One of the most important parts of a 3D printer is the filament itself. Generally, this is a thermoplastic that is able to melt and solidify with the changing of temperatures to allow seamless layering of material. Two of the most common filaments on the market are Poly Lactic Acid (PLA) and Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS). Both of these filaments have their own benefits and shortcomings, which will be reviewed and analyzed to determine the overall best solution for current 3D printing.

    PLA is a natural, bio-degradable plastic due to it being formed from corn starch and sugar cane. Because of this, it is suitable for interaction with foods and consumables. This contrasts heavily with ABS as it is oil-based and much worse for the environment, also causing it to be unsafe for food handling. This causes a major limitation in the design possibilities for ABS printing that PLA can easily fill. However, this benefit raises a con for PLA; it has a much lower melting point. Although this can be a good thing, as it doesn’t require a hot surface to print on, PLA is much more susceptible to deformations caused by heat. For this reason ABS can be used in higher heat applications such as parts for automobiles. Not only is ABS more optimal for applications such as this because of the higher melting point, but it is also much more sturdy and solid. This increases the lifespan of ABS printed parts and makes it a better solution for scenarios where force will be constant and large. However, PLA is able to print at a much higher speed smoothly and consistently due to the flow of material and is able to support higher detail in the prints. Although the difference isn’t incredibly dramatic, it still provides a benefit, in this aspect, over ABS. Another benefit of PLA is the lack of dangerous fumes that is produced while printing. ABS should not be used in a poorly ventilated area, as the fumes could cause negative effects to the user’s health. PLA, on the other hand, has a sweet smell that reflects the natural ingredients used to make it.

    Overall, both materials have a set of benefits that make them application specific such as ABS being ideal for scenarios where large, consistent forces and high temperatures will be present and PLA being extremely useful for higher detailed prints and applications that involve consumables. The aspect of PLA that makes it the best solution for current 3D printing is the natural materials that it is constructed from. Due to the corn starch and sugar cane, it is bio-degradable, emits safe fumes when melted, and can be safe to use with food and beverages. For most scenarios, PLA will effectively get the job done resulting in quicker and more detailed prints. However, it is a good idea to keep ABS around for objects that will be affected by high forces and temperatures. Together, these materials will provide users with the ability to print an enormous multitude of objects that is sure to meet his or her needs.

    WWW.THE3DPRINTERGUY.COM carries many different varieties of filament from PLA and ABS to specialty filament.  Check out our selection of filament today!  Contact Us for special requests or bulk orders.

     

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