Late last year (2016) I dove into the world of 3D printing. It turned out to be a very hands on and technical job but super fun and addictive.
The fact that you can print out anything you want opens up a lot of doors and really gets your mind thinking.
I started off with a second hand M3D Micro which cost me around $350 (AUD).
This printer was great to start with. It is simple and can print as soon as you plug it in.
The only few downfalls of this printer are: The build area is small, it can’t print in all the materials I want it to and it’s a bit slow.
Later after being exposed to 3D printing and all the bits and bobs you can make, I was no longer satisfied with having one of the smallest printers.
I started by doing some research, and stumbled across the Anet range on sale.
Anet is a cheap DIY brand that you have to build and get working by yourself, however they have a large community behind that’s always willing to help.
The Anet A8 was a great choice and what I ended up going with ($230 AUD not including shipping). Although with these printers you do have to make sure everything is safe or it could cause a fire when printing unattended.
The Facebook group is an amazing place for anything and everything you need to know about the A8. If you have an issue, someone will help you!
These are the two printers that I currently have.
Now I’ll share my experiences working with 3D printers and what I have achieved so far.
I’ll start from the beginning, as the journey hasn’t been overly long but a lot has been learnt.
I had been wanting a 3D printer for the last few years and didn’t have the money for anything decent.
One day I randomly checked and saw that there was an M3D Micro up for sale on gumtree.
I contacted the guy and the next day drove up to Melbourne to pick it up (November 23rd 2016).
I was super excited to have it in my hands! and it even came with two spools of PLA Filament (white and red).
Not knowing anything I dove straight into it, downloading the software to start printing!
I had no clue it needed to be calibrated but I just went for it and learnt from trial and error.
Previous to even looking at this printer I ordered some models to be printed on 3DHubs.com which were printed in ABS plastic. I picked these up from Clifton Springs and was super happy with how they turned out. It motivated me to reach the same quality with my small printer.
The prints weren’t coming out properly because they were lifting from the bed. Many people recommended blue painters tape, this helped a lot and an additional layer of PVA assisted adhesion further.
It was now close to December and I was on a mission to print something for MrBenBrown when he came to Australia with Jeremy Loops on tour.
So I jumped straight into ZBrush to sculpt something for him. He often uses the Swallow bird, having it as a tattoo, merch and in his videos.
I went with that and made something for him quickly. It was a very rushed project and my first with multiple parts but I was still happy with how it turned out.
Ben did receive the gift I made for him, taking the effort to walk around and shake my hand, thanking me personally. He also replied to my tweet thanking me there also!
This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to most, but Ben is a very inspiring person and a role model to me; so it meant a lot.
@jbartyyy thanks for the awesome gift dude, really appreciate it 🙏🏼
— Ben Brown (@MrBenBrown) November 27, 2016
Being motivated more than ever, I attempted to make another sculpt with multiple parts. This time only one part came out exactly how I wanted it to, the others should have been broken up further.
Although the outcome doesn’t look too bad painted, I wasn’t satisfied with the outcome for the amount of time it took.
Two versions were printed: 200 Micron (0.2 mm layer height) and 50 Micron (0.05 mm layer height). The 200 Micron body printed better than the 50 micron, however the 50 micron head printed better than the 200 micron.
It also took hours and hours to print and the options that the M3D Software gives you for changing settings is horrible. I set out to find a solution for this.
I ended up finding iMe a different firmware that the printer could run, at this stage I also found documentation on how to properly level the bed (calibrate) for the printer.
This lead to me having to use a different “slicing” program to prepare the 3D model for printing.
After some research, I found Simplify3D was the most recommended, as well as Cura.
After hours and hours of setting up new firmware, re-calibrations and software settings it was finally ready to print.
Not only was the printer perfectly calibrated and printing in much nicer quality, it also cut print time down by a lot!
Now at this point, when I was almost getting perfect prints I really noticed how small the build space was.
I started having a look around for a larger printer and noticed 90% of printers were overly expensive for what I wanted.
I stumbled across the Gearbest Christmas Sales and saw the Anet range. It was a price tag I could afford so I looked into it further.
Feeling pressured from the sale countdown I quickly did some research and found a supportive community behind it. A large group of experienced people that all helped each-other and shared there experiences with one-another. With the shear amount of people that had bought this printer, after seeing the quality people could achieve I jumped on-board and ordered mine ASAP.
When the printer finally came, after what felt like weeks but was only one; I opened it up and was overwhelmed!
I asked for help from the Facebook group and got a lot of support and tips from them, as well as help from my friend Adin.
The build wasn’t without problems though, I first checked all the electronics as suggested and the small 40mm fan didn’t work.
It was an easy fix, we headed down to Jaycar where it was overly expensive ($20) but the printer could now function!
In addition to the fan, I also gathered some electronics gear to assist in wiring the printer safely.
After it was complete, and the bed was leveled it was time to print!
This time starting with a calibration cube and a benchy, then moving to the alien bust I sculpted the result was much nicer.
I visited Aurarum in Melbourne to get some more supplies. I ended up getting: 1kg spool of PLA, 1kg spool of PETG, SSR (Solid State Relay), 2x BuildTak and an Aluminium Plate.
PLA and PETG are quite similar but I got one of each to try. PETG apparently is stronger and better for prototyping objects. I got an SSR to relay the power away from the board and through the SSR instead. Other people have used MOSFET’s but both are recommended to highly reduce the chances of overheating the board. The aluminium plate was used to put the BuildTak keeps the plastic adhesed very nicely. The plate also allows you to remove it once a print is complete.
I still need to install the SSR, however I have not used the heatbed for a long period of time so it’s currently not a safety issue.
So after all of these upgrades, it’s now mainly down to me getting the right settings. The printer is working amazingly for something so cheap.
I have also recently bought a cheap airbrush kit and with my experience so far, it will be very useful in the future after I get some more paints.
After the airbrush kit, there were a few things that I felt would assist further. So we went and got some more additional tools.
Future Plans and Goals
I believe this is only the start of 3D printing for me, or at least I hope it is. The potential this growing industry has is mindblowing… From printing small figurines with intricate details to printing houses in concrete. It can only get better from here!
My personal plans and goals for the future are:
- Upgrading the Anet A8
Some of the results you can achieve with this stock printer is unbelievable for the price. Adding upgrades to this not only makes the printer safer but can also increase the print quality.
I plan to continue upgrading this printer to make it better. A few current ideas are: Creating an enclosure to assist when printing in ABS, installing SSR, printing additional parts to make frame more sturdy and square and of course even more things.
Printing in ABS plastic opens up the door to Vapor Smoothing. This allows you to give the model a nice finish much faster and easier most other smoothing methods.
It isn’t the safest smoothing method but it is highly effective and can have great results.
- 10 Micron (0.01 mm layer height)
I have different nozzle sizes (Current being 0.4mm but going down to 0.2mm) which I plan to test and see what detail can be achieved. If all goes to plan I would like to attempt printing at 10 micron and getting a really nice finish on the print, even if it takes quite some time.
- Resin printer
Eventually I would like to look into printing with or buying a SLA Resin printer. These are expensive and the material to print in is also expensive. However the amount of detail you can get without any layer lines makes the print look really nice. You can then cast and create a mold.
- Mold creation
I would like to try and make a mold for a nice model that I create in the future. This could open up into selling multiple versions of the same print at a lower price, or having a nicer finish with the mold being filled with resin.
- Model kit
I would love to sculpt and print a model kit sometime in the near future, or at least attempt. Assembling and painting these are very fun on its own but I would like to learn how to properly make a kit. It’s something I’ll definitely be looking into soon.
If you got this far…. Thank you for taking the time to read it all!
I plan to post more often from now on, instead of having catch-ups where I bunch everything I’ve done together.
This blog has almost everything I have worked on and I like the fact I can see my progress as an artist.