3D Plateau

I’ve had runaway success with dozens of intricate, long, big 3D prints thus far. So my excitement was naturally riding the crest of the wave. I ordered several more boxes of PLA filament which I got at a good deal from the manufacturer of my printer(ANYCUBIC), which meant that they were shipped from China. And I do mean SHIPPED. Which means moisture variables come into play. Kentucky is a dry state, compared to my home state of SC where you can drink the air. So I’ve been taking these concerns into account and keep my filament in bags, in boxes, in an air-tight container with desiccant.

I ordered some ABS filament (black) which I sort of regret. It gives off smoke and what I’m sure are toxins. My printer isn’t enclosed, and I don’t have great ventilation where I do my printing, which is right here on a massive coffee table that I also write and do about 1,000 other things on at any given time. It’s a workbench, basically.

So I printed out a few things that turned out great. Then I changed out filaments. I don’t recall what the move was, but nothing dramatic. This is all PLA. But afterward, I haven’t been able to get a satisfactory print at all. And I don’t mean a “pretty good” print with a little flaw. I mean, the filament isn’t adhering, the bed seems misaligned, which I corrected, and even when the filament does adhere, it doesn’t build upon itself properly as it used to.

The best results I’ve had are with the rainbow/silky filament, which looks really cool. But it’s not for everything and I think it’s a little more expensive. I still have some “Wood” filament from Hatchbox which I haven’t even opened.

So, looking back and creating a mental scatterplot in my head, I can see that I’ve plateaued. Which is to be expected with any endeavor. I’ve played guitar and taken up enough hobbies spanning decades now to know that plateauing is something that is very common in anything you want to master.

But I’m kind of stuck as to what to do. While I was printing away and the 3D gods were smiling upon me and raining down perfect prints time after time, I was noticing so many articles, forums, Facebook Groups, and so on that had “3D printer people” all asking little detailed questions about settings, upgrades, modifications, and for the most part, what seemed like just little nitpicky problems, that I see many people in “niche groups” focus on. They are the people that have been doing the activity for years and have drilled down to the finest of settings, knowledge, and expectations. I’ve discovered some very helpful websites for my specific Anycubic Mega S 3D printer, like this one for example.

What I mean is that is if you bought your dream muscle car, say a 1969 Chevy Camaro (just for an example), and started joining groups and going down 1969 Camaro rabbit holes, which is easy to do with the internet, you’ll find people that know EVERYTHING about 1969 Camaro’s, and more. Like what issues of Hot-Rodder magazine featured them on their cover, and stuff like that.

It is great, to have such intellectual capital readily available. It’s amazing, in fact. So many incredible resources online. But as. a newcomer, it’s hard to discern between the niggling little details that don’t really matter and the details that make all the difference. Perhaps like printing bed temperature, hot-end/nozzle temperature, different temperatures for different filaments, or different nozzle diameters, or what have you. This is where it can make or break your print.

And as someone who has been rolling along with no problems, to suddenly have nothing but failures is frustrating. I’m a patient man, though, to say the least, and I’ve learned how to contend with such issues. You just keep going and making incremental improvements until you get it right sometimes. Same with many things in life. Don’t give up. You could be at the 99-yard line (yes, I know there’s no such thing in football but you know what I mean: the 1-yard line) and give up. SO. CLOSE. TO. SUCCESS.

So here’s what I’ve done:

  • I’ve cleaned the glass printing bed thoroughly with soapy water and alcohol.
  • I’ve prepped it with purple glue.
  • I’ve calibrated the Z-axis as well as the printing bed to be “flat” using the paper method. (I also ordered some silicone anti-vibration bushings that should help with “flatness.”)
  • I’ve increased the printing bed temp to 67 Celcius.
  • I’ve increased the hot end temp to 210 Celcius.

So, what else? My next step is to try some of the other, older filaments that printed well. But that doesn’t really reassure me, because they’ve been sitting around for months. And to have to calibrate your printer around every single spool o filament you use is tedious. I’ve gotten pretty quick with it on my Mega S but if you had a printer farm, you’re hating it. There needs to be some type of standardization and “freshness” dating on the filament. I have a feeling some Chines manufacturers are dumping old filament at discount prices as well. Not pointing at anyone, but they’ve done it with steel, so 3D filament isn’t a stretch.

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