3D printing has a lot of moving parts, and you’re going to encounter some inconveniences.
The good news is there are tons of products to help you during every step of the 3D printing process.
If you have a problem during the 3D printing process, there’s probably already a solution!
Let’s take a look at some of the best products that will help us before, during, after, and between printing.
Products to Use Before Printing
While you’re in the design phase, before you ever hit “go” on your printer, there are some fresh products that can help.
Here are the best products you can take a look at for use before printing.
Printer Nozzles for Faster or More Detailed Prints
You might find yourself in a position where you need to print a highly detailed part.
Equally, you might have a project with low detail that you want to print quickly.
This is where different sized printer nozzles come in.
Ranging in size from 0.15mm to 2.00mm, there is a wide range of printer nozzles.
Before you start printing, pick up a couple of different sizes so you’ll be ready for any project that might come up.
Tips: Get a variety of nozzle sizes, I’d recommend having 0.25, 0.40, and 0.60mm nozzles at a minimum. Mind the nozzles’ brand and material; it’s worth it to spend extra money on high-quality nozzles.
Hex Wrenches to Install Printer Nozzle
If you’re in a situation where you need to change the nozzle before a print, you’ll need a hex wrench set.
Make sure you know what size your nozzle is. You’ll be turning the nozzle directly with this wrench.
They sell mini spanner wrenches that are perfect for squeezing into those tight spots inside your 3D printer.
Tips: You want to make sure the wrench is small, inexpensive, and the correct size for the nozzle you’re using.
SD Cards and Thumb Drives to Print Parts
If your 3D printer is not WiFi-enabled, then you’ll need a physical memory card.
These cards will be used to transfer files from your laptop or computer to your 3D printer so you can print.
Nowadays, SD cards and flash drives are so cheap that it won’t hurt to have a couple of backups. I always have a handful near my computer in case I misplace my primary card.
The gcode won’t take up a lot of space so you can opt for smaller sizes. You can easily find a bulk lot of 4GB thumb drives or SD cards for less than $5 each.
Tips: Find out if your 3D printer uses an SD card, a flash drive, or both. Buy plenty of backups and go for the smaller memory sizes. Brand-name doesn’t matter when it comes to memory cards.
3D Scanner for Fast Design
Imagine this, you broke something in your house, and you want to 3D print a replacement: A doorstop, handle, hinge, bracket, whatever!
Well, there’s a simple solution, a 3D scanner.
You put your object in front of the scanner, scan around the object, and automatically generate a 3D file.
From there, you can take it right to your 3D printer and make a new version.
Tips: Mind your budget when you pick out a scanner, some sell for tens of thousands of dollars. If you choose a scanner with a turntable, make sure the table is big enough for your object.
Bed Adhesion Hacks to Save Money and Time
Before you start printing, you need to make sure the print is going to stick to the bed.
If this isn’t your first time printing, you’ve probably already ripped out chunks of your hair over poorly adhered parts.
If you didn’t know, there are a ton of different solutions to help with bed adhesion.
My advice is to do a lot of trial and error. Individual print beds react differently to different solutions.
Some products I’ve used in the past are masking tape, painter’s tape, PVA glue stick, hair spray, and a bed sticker.
Whichever option works best for you and your printer, use it.
Tips: Experiment with bed adhesion, be patient, try a lot of different options, use PVA-type glue sticks.
Backup Print Beds for Different Projects
Bed adhesion is the biggest headache when it comes to 3D printing.
You are going to be in a situation where a print refuses to stick.
Or you might find yourself with a dirty print bed and no time to clean it.
If you want to avoid the troubleshooting steps to improve bed adhesion, you might opt just to replace the print bed.
You can buy nice borosilicate glass or engineered plastic print beds that will instantly boost your print adhesion.
Even better, it takes very little time to install the plate and will often be quicker than cleaning the dirty or under-performing bed.
Tips: Read the product reviews and do some research before buying a print bed, a lot of companies offer cheap print beds that simply don’t work. Have at least one backup print bed at any given time.
Quickly Clean Your Print Bed with Simple Green and a Razor
Your print bed might still be messy from your last print. This will lead to inferior print quality.
The quickest way to clean your print bed is with a safe chemical cleaner. My go-to is the original Simple Green.
Spray it on the print bed until it’s coated and let it sit for a few minutes.
Now take a razor blade and carefully slide the blade lengthwise along the bed.
The blade will remove all leftover adhesive on the bed and result in a perfectly smooth print bed. Dry the bed if needed.
Tips: Buy Simple Green in a spray bottle if possible, and the razorblades can be bought in bulk. The blades can be reused until they’re too dull to operate.
Products to Use During Printing
Once you hit “go” on your printer, there are some products that will lead to a better experience.
Let’s take a look at some of the most helpful products.
Keeping the Print Precise with Calipers
Depending on your printing application, you might need precise prints.
If you’re in a situation where you need to check the dimensions of your print, you need something better than a ruler or tape measure.
Calipers are a great option. Either digital or dial calipers will give you exceptional accuracy with your measurements.
They’re also super easy to use and maintain, and they’re a must-have for everyone with a 3D printer.
Tips: It’s worth spending extra money on calipers for a higher-quality product since they are a lifelong tool.
Hack Your Printer with Raspberry Pi for Better Results
A great option is a Raspberry Pi if you need better flexibility and functionality with your 3D printer.
I used a RasPi on my printer so I could control it remotely using WiFi.
I also added an aftermarket camera to create a live feed of my print’s progress. I used my RasPi to run the operation.
There are older generation Raspberry Pi’s with less memory and processing power that will work just fine depending on your needs.
Tips: Make sure your Raspberry Pi has a WiFi chip or install one yourself, also make sure you buy the RasPi from a reputable source.
Keep Yourself Safe with Gloves and a Thermometer
If you’re going to be working around the printer while it’s running, it’s crucial to keep yourself safe.
Your printer’s hot end might get hot enough to burn your skin if you touch it while it’s printing.
Household printers’ hot ends can get up to 290 degrees C, and they often don’t have a heat shield to protect the user.
It’s up to you to make sure you are safe from these burns. You can achieve this by wearing gloves whenever you’re working around the printer and using a laser thermometer to check the temperature.
Tips: Gloves are a cheap and easy option; the best option is to avoid working on the printer when it’s hot. If it’s unavoidable, use a laser thermometer and be very cautious and always have your heat-resistant gloves on.
Products to Use After Printing
After your print is done and it’s sitting on the build plate, there are a couple of different tools you’ll need to finish the process. First is removing your print from the plate.
Bed adhesion is a double-bladed sword.
You want the prints to stick so the print turns out good, but then it becomes so hard to take the print off the bed.
Afterward, some products will help the overall look of your print.
Let’s learn how we can remove our prints and what to do after the prints are removed.
Removing Your Print with a Scraper
Your print is stuck to your build plate. There aren’t a ton of options for you if you don’t have any tools.
This is where a paint scraper comes in.
These are typically used to scrape thin layers of paint from walls, and they’ll do the same thing for your print.
The scraper acts as a thin wedge that breaks the adhesion between your finished print and the plate. This lets you take the print off easily.
Tips: Go for a metal scraper, the wider, the better. You also want the scraper to be really thin at the tip and pointy at the corners. I’d suggest shopping in person to feel the scrapers, and pick up a couple of different versions to test.
Removing Your Print with Pliers
If your print is stuck and you need to remove it, you can use a tool in your toolbox to remove it!
A pair of pliers will work wonders for you.
Since 3D prints aren’t as strong as metal, you must use equally delicate pliers.
I always use thin needlenose pliers. Grab your print with the pliers and hold the build plate firmly with the other hand.
You can opt for thicker pliers if you’re in a rush and it’s all you have, but you will have a much higher failure rate with bigger pliers.
Keep in mind where you’re grabbing the print. You want to make sure you pick a strong place; otherwise, your piece will crimp or snap at the hold point.
Tips: Brand and price range don’t matter for these pliers; cheap pliers are perfectly fine. Thin needlenose pliers tend to work better than thicker ones.
Cleaning Your Print with Sandpaper or a File
When your print is finished, you might notice some surface imperfections. Either the printer messed up a little, the temperature wasn’t perfect, or the filament was low quality.
Whatever the reason, you now have a problem you need to fix. You have a range of options but the simplest are using sandpaper or a file.
Either tool will buff the outer layer of filament and smooth out the piece.
Since this is a plastic piece you’re working with, it takes very little effort and time to get a perfectly smooth part.
In tight spots where sandpaper is too bulky, opt for a small, thin file.
Tips: Buy fine sandpaper in different grits to see which works best for you. Go for the smallest files possible, preferably in a set with a round and flat option.
Cleaning Your Print with Acetone or Smoothing Pen
If you have a print that didn’t turn out perfect, it’s pretty frustrating.
One option is to re-print and hope for better luck, but that’s a real roll of the dice and waste of time.
Another option is to break out the acetone.
Acetone is a chemical that dissolves and breaks down PLA filament really well. It will also break down most filaments used on your printer.
The good news is the chemical process is really slow, so you can use it to smooth out your part.
The best results I achieved were from using a rag and applying a thin layer at a time until I liked how the print turned out.
Be mindful that this is a dangerous chemical, so always wear gloves and don’t touch your face until you’ve taken off the gloves and washed your hands.
A safer option is to use a Smoothing Pen, which is a tool specific in the 3D printing world.
It’s a way to apply the acetone more safely to avoid injury.
Tips: Nail polish remover is made of acetone and some other chemicals, pick up a bottle that says “pure acetone” on it.
Smoothing Your Print with a Dremel
If your print doesn’t look quite right, you might be tempted to scrap it.
If your print turned out bumpy, stringy, or there are blobs, there’s a quick solution.
Use a Dremel and make quick adjustments to your print to make it perfect.
Since your print is plastic, it’s really easy to work out the imperfections.
Dremels have a bunch of great attachments to the rotary head that will help you in different applications when it comes to cleaning your 3D print.
Smooth out bumps, melt off stringers, and remove filament deposits altogether.
Make sure you’re focused and patient when working with the tool, so you don’t overheat the plastic and make it worse.
Tips: Go for the Dremel pack that has a lot of different attachments, you’ll never know when it’ll come in handy!
Products to Keep Your Filament Healthy
If you didn’t know, unhealthy filament is one of the leading causes of poor prints. Your filament is a trap for moisture and dust, two things that will ruin your final prints.
A big step to take to keep your printing process running smoothly is to keep your filament healthy.
Dry Your Filament with Desiccant Pouches or a Drier
Your prints aren’t turning out good, and you don’t know why. Your printer settings are perfect, and your build plate is adhering well.
It’s most likely your filament.
Filament loves to absorb moisture in the air, and 3D printers hate wet filament.
There are two solutions to keep your filament dry.
First, if you’re storing your filament in a container or bag, you can throw in some desiccant pouches.
These are those little pouches you see in beef jerky or new shoes.
They will absorb the moisture and keep your filament perfectly dry.
On the other hand, if you store your filament in the open, you might consider getting a filament drier.
This is a little container you throw your filament in, and it completely dried the filament so it’s ready for printing.
Tips: Buy the desiccant pouches in bulk and use them as needed, and make sure the drier is big enough for the size filament you’re using.
Storing Your Filament in a Closed Container
If you want to avoid moisture getting into your filament altogether, you should consider upgrading storage options.
The easiest way to keep your filament healthy is to store it properly.
Using a sealed container is probably the quickest and most effective way to keep your filament dry. You might opt to put desiccant pouches in the bin just for added protection.
Tips: Make sure the container seals appropriately, and it’s big enough to hold your filament. Go with larger containers that can fit multiple filament spools.
Keeping Dust Off Your Filament with a Cleaning Clip
Even with good storage and maintenance, your dry filament will still have dust on it.
Dusty filament is just as harmful to your final 3D prints as wet filament.
The quick solution is a cleaning clip!
These clips are really cheap little guys that have foam inside or a small brush.
By running your filament through the clip, it removes the dust from the filament before it goes into your 3D printer.
Tips: Buy them in bulk for cheap, or even 3D print your own clip and fill it with a brush or foam.
Product to Clean and Maintain Your 3D Printer
After everything is said and done, you’re going to have a messy printer. You need to make sure you have the right tools to clean and maintain it so it keeps cranking out perfect prints every time!
Clean and Maintain Your Nozzles with a Nozzle Cleaning Kit
Your nozzle is a mess after your print, and it’s jammed.
You won’t be able to print again until you unjam it, and it might seem like the end of the world.
This is one of the most common problems with 3D printing, and you aren’t the first to have this problem.
Some smart people came out with a whole kit to clean your nozzle, and it works great.
It includes stainless steel needles to help clear the path of your nozzle.
It also comes with sharp tweezers that will easily clean and maintain your printer’s nozzle.
Best of all, the kit comes in a carrying case, so you won’t misplace tools.
Tips: Make sure the kit has tweezers and multiple different needles or wires to clean the nozzle. Be mindful of the diameter of the needles or wires to make sure it will fit in your nozzle’s tip.
3D Printing is a very communal hobby. People who love 3D printing love to help other 3D printers.
For this reason, any problem you might encounter has probably been encountered and solved by another 3D printing hobbyist.
Before your print starts, during your print, after your print, and between prints, there are plenty of tools to help optimize the whole process.
If you have a problem in one of these areas, try the suggested products above. Pass the word on to your friends if it helps!