Whether you’re a 3D printing-enthusiast out of hobby or profession, the discipline and the technology have come a long way, in these very few years. We have had enough developments in the additive manufacturing realm for the commercial as well as the personal market to have multiple kinds of filaments, to state just a simple example.
But no matter what your job or task is, if you actually practice the art of 3D printing, the following accessories are going to come in handy at one point or another.
First Things First
Let’s take a look at the accessories one by one, keeping in mind, that the technology is advancing at a rapid rate so your printer’s model would be a huge factor when deciding what kind of accessories you really need and can use.
Adhesive tape or more specifically masking tape has a huge role to play in the sustainability of your design. If used right, it can be placed on the printing bed to make sure the model stays in place.
Removal of the model from the printer bed, the tape from the printer bed as well as the wasted molten material will be a hassle-free task if you use tape instead of an adhesive.
Without a doubt, your life will only get easier by investing in a 3D scanner. Not only does it take away the hassle of finding point cloud data for import and printing purposes but also allows you different levels of abstraction and detailing when scanning.
Since a personal 3D printer isn’t big enough to print anything larger than a can of coke, the scanner is going to come in handy when similar sized objects need reproduction.
How will you print without filament? Well, the answer is you won’t. So make sure you have extra filament in backup when starting projects because having to change cartridges or replacing filaments during the printing process will leave you with more hassles than successful prints. Also, make sure that you have an idea of which filament is suitable for your project.
Also, make sure that you have an idea of which filament is suitable for your project. The most popular options are ABS and PLA filaments with other (not so popular) companies such as PolyMaker, the industry leader for premium-grade filament, having produced extreme, high-end filaments for professional grade precision.
This section can be divided into two parts, since utility tools can be for the printing process or the printing object.
For the printing process
The nozzles and extruders that allow the filament to pass can get messy with the molten material. Chipped away in the edges, the material will solidify and definitely disturb your printing hence cleaning these parts out with a brush (use your old toothbrush if you want a DIY instead of paying $10) is a mandatory routine. These utilities are available as kits with different cleaning heads for different nozzle sizes.
For the object
When scanning, dust particles can actually make a difference. Brushes for cleaning and scrappers/scalpel for cleaning the final print of access material will definitely make your job easier and your result more coherent with the model. As with the previous, kits are available as well as individual tools for purchase.
The digital caliper is a great tool and comes in handy in more than one way. I choose to talk about it separately because its contribution will directly effect your process as well the resulting print. Make sure it’s a digital caliper when getting one, because with the advertised 3mm or 1.75mm filament thickness you’ll need a lot of precision when measuring.
Filaments have the bad habit of absorbing water over time and the humidity in the air can cause complications in printing if the filaments have not been placed in air tight spaces. Due to this, use desiccants or other absorbing agents to keep your filaments fresh and crisp.
Your printer will definitely have its own build plate. But it’s probably going to be made of some metal or alloy. Swapping your build plate with one made of glass has some promising improvements for the printing process hence having one somewhere stored for that one special job will save you from picking out your brains as with the use of the default plate.
Yes, you read it right. 3D printers nowadays are being developed with a modular approach towards the hardware. That means you can actually take out parts, clean them or swap them completely, just as easily as taking out a regular printer’s ink cartridge.
Adhesives and Glues
Adhesives are mostly used to make sure the model being printed is firmly stuck to the base plate so that it doesn’t move around and distort the printing process. Glues on the other hand are required to print two smaller parts and then bind them together for one bigger result. As said before, since you can’t print any more than the volume of a coke can, glue is the way to go on print jobs with multiple parts or assemblies.
From here on
So the list up above explains the most valid and needed accessories. But that doesn’t mean it ends there. The list of accessories is actually as endless as the technologies application scope. Not only are people using 3D printers to print spare parts for the same printer, 3D printing technology companies are investing more and more in specialized filaments, extensions as opposed to simple spare parts and much more. As far as the extensions are concerned, they are the different sizes of nozzles and extruders that you can put in place of the default part.
What else is new?
Dedicated power supplies for 3D printing are also another new treat. With the advent of printer and scanner technology built into the same housing, the machines demand a heavy duty source of fuel, which even though proprietary battery packs may be able to provide, they may not be able to sustain for long periods of continued usage.
Heater cartridges are the pipes that are designed to carry the heat to the filament for the printing to happen. With the default set giving way on higher levels of operation, a company called Q3D has developed its own cartridge on sale for just under $10.
Stepper motors, screw shafts, mechanical and electrical circuitry for enhancement of functionality are all other there and are accessories that will come in handy one way or the other. And in the case you didn’t know, Arduino based solutions for customizing (more like hacking) your 3D printer have also hit the market.
Moreover, something that most people will already know about is that filaments come in different colors. Most people will also know that a dual-nozzle printer will allow you to add two different filaments and allow you to print one object with a combination of those two textures, materials and/or colors.
Lastly, a word about the tools or the tool kits that, if you can afford to dish some cash out for, you should really consider getting your hands on.
First, get a flash light. Most devices have enclosed printing spaces and the flap that closes over is not completely transparent. Use a sharp light, preferably LED so you only have to squint just enough to look inside.
Second, get a laser-based thermometer so you can check your prints and the printing area for rising temperatures. Even though, the devices have temperature-regulation modules built-in, an extra source of information is always a good check and balance mechanism.
Third, get the Dremel. The Dremel is a rotary tool with the almost 50 different kinds of extensions that can be added and removed from the front of the Dremel in order to entertain a host of cleaning and maintenance tasks. Carving, grinding, sanding, polishing and everything else in between can be accomplished with the Dremel.
Here, you’ve got to read about the most technically advanced, high-tech gadgets and accessories that you can use with your printer. Still, there are hundreds and thousands more. One personal favorite, which out of its mundane nature, I choose to briefly mention here is the waste bin which you will learn to keep by your side after a few projects. It’s a must have and only experience can highlight it’s worth.
All in all, the accessories listed here are a few drops in the vast and budding ocean of additive manufacturing technologies. Leave a comment below and let us know what you think about our recommendations as well your own preferences.