This week, we have compiled a list of tools that we recommend to anyone operating a 3D printer. These tools will make your life easier when it comes to 3D printing, whether you are trying to remove support structure or improve bed adhesion. These are some of the tools that we use most frequently in our office.
1. Blue Painter's Tape/Masking Tape
Adding masking tape to your print bed is the easiest way to ensure bed adhesion for your prints while also making print-removal easy. This can be used in place of the traditional glue stick method, but may require additional glue if the print you are trying to create has a very small surface contact area with the plate. Blue tape is recommended for most print-outs and reduces the need for a scraper or blade to remove a printout - this is especially popular in a school or public library setting.
2. USB Stick
This one is a no-brainer and although you can use your browser to transfer files directly to and from our ZEUS, sometimes you will need to store your files on a handy USB stick to transfer them manually in the absence of an internet connection.
Needle-nose pliers and wire cutting pliers are an absolute must in any 3D printing work space. You will certainly find a need for them at some point in your 3D printing experience. They are great for removing stubborn prints as well as cutting filament. You can also use them to cut away at support material if necessary.
4. Palette Knives
In our ZEUS All-In-One 3D Printer & Scanner's box, a scraper is included, however, sometimes your print can get really stuck to the bed and the scraper will not work as well. We keep a number of different palette knives around as they are more rigid than the scraper included with the printer and many feature a tapered tip that really helps you get under those stubborn prints that don't want to come off.
5. Small Knife & Mat
An X-acto knife and cutting mat will be extremely useful for post-processing. There are bound to be imperfections in your 3D prints - this is simply the nature of the technology. Whether you are removing imperfections or trying to cut out some support structure, an X-acto knife will prove to be extremely useful. A knife can also help with the removal of a print that is stuck to the print bed just as a palette knife would.
6. Digital Caliper
Having a digital caliper handy will help in a number of ways. You can use it to check the precision of your printouts or to properly measure objects so that you may use the measurements in your CAD design software. Digital Calipers are more expensive than their analog counterparts, but the extra precision and ease of use is worth it. Want to learn basic CAD design, but don't know where to start? Check out our instructional blog post here on how to get started.
Basic household tweezers can really come in handy when you are 3D printing. You can use them to help remove little bits of support structure that are hard to get to and you can use them to clean around your extruder's nozzle if it is oozing filament without burning yourself. We recommend keeping a couple different tweezers so that you can have a size and shape perfect for each job.
Sandpaper is a great tool for post-processing but can take some patience and time to get the desired effect. With sandpaper you can achieve a smoother finish on your prints. It is especially recommended for exotic filaments such as copper or bronze composite filaments and can result in really nice finishes as in the photos above.
9. Glue Stick
Extra glue should always be kept around in case you run out (each ZEUS comes with a single stick). We prefer using blue tape on the build plate to bind the filament, but sometimes printouts will not have a large enough surface contact area that will adhere well to blue tape. In these cases, we will use the traditional method of applying a thin layer of glue on the plate instead. We prefer the UHU brand of glue as we have tested multiple popular brands and some are just not sticky enough.
10. Extra Extruder
We highly recommend keeping an extra extruder on hand at all times. Some 3D printers do not support an easy-swap extruder, like the ZEUS', so for those printers troubleshooting can be much more difficult and time consuming. If you own a ZEUS, please make a point to purchase an extra extruder (or if you have purchased one of the ZEUS packages, it will already be included). Most problems occur with 3D printers in the extruder so it is important to be able to remove and fix it in a timely manner (or swap with a new one) so you can get back to work with minimal downtime. If you don't have one, you can purchase one here.