Monday, July 4, 2016

M3D Micro: Testing Antique Gold & Bed Height Offset Effects

As I begin this post, I have to make sure that everyone understands that the object I used for this test was never intended to be printed with an FDM (filament) printer.  It was designed to be printed on a $5,000 micro-SLA (liquid resin) printer designed for dentistry and jewelry applications.

The micro-SLA uses a laser to create layers on the surface of the liquid.  While capable of producing very fine features, the part hangs upside down on the print table and supports, which must be cut away, are an absolute requirement. So, in the end, the surface will have blemishes that must be removed either on the printed piece or the lost-wax casting that is made from it.

As you can see, in the image below, the diameter of the object is about the size of a quarter and the features are very, very fine.

41mm x 29mm Object in Gold

The M3D Micro did an admirable job, given the small size and the intricate tiny features.  It was printed twice.  The first time, it was printed with a gap of 10mm and a Bed Height Offset of .01.  Notice that the first layer appears to have slipped lightly, resulting in a blog at the base.  The offset weas removed and it was printed again.  This time the gap securely anchored the object to the plate.

The setting for the first print was 200 microns / Medium infill.  For the second, the infill was lowered to "Low".  And, the second print appears to have benefited by the change.

What is really remarkable about both prints is that the very tiny holes for the pendant wire are completely OPEN!!!

I do not have another FDM printer that could have accomplished that.  Compare the size of the holes with the size of the quarter and I'm sure you can appreciate what an accomplishment this is for a 3D printer that relies on melting plastic filament.

Obviously, the resulting prints are not absolutely pristine and perfect.   But, consider the amazing price / performance ratio this represents.  I took what was designed for a specialized $5,000 micro-SLA printer and printed it on a $349 filament printer!!!   That's quite an achievement.

Oh... and by the way, in my first attempts to print this object on the micro-SLA, the part broke loose from its supports and fell as a blob to the bottom of the resin vat!  It took a good deal of experimentation with supports to arrive at a successful print.  And, again, because it required supports, the surface required considerable work to finish smoothly.  Moreover, in the end, both printers ended up creating a simulated gold plastic object.

The Usefulness and Convenience the Bed Height Offset Feature 

I had tested adding the Bed Height Offset with objects having large, flat first layers.  But, the first layer for this object was 8 very tiny points of contact.  Being able to simply readjust the Bed Height Offset, to fit this new reality, was a piece of cake.  Without this feature I would have had to go through the entire process of resetting the gap.  I love this feature.

The Antique Gold Filament

I can't leave this post without mentioning that I am pleasantly surprised by the quality of the simulation of gold with this filament.  It's actually quite nice.  The filament seems stiffer than standard filament and with a new reel, it wants to unwrap itself from the reel.  So, I would keep a watch on it until enough the filament has been used for the sides of the reel to help tame the filament.

The specks of gold in the final product give the printed part a nice sparkle.  I know this filament will be a favorite for our cadets and my granddaughters.  I also have a reel of Copper that I'm anxious to test.

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