I got a 3D Printer.

I first tried 3D printing back in around 2010 in a now-long-dead maker-space in San Francisco. Back then it was a struggle to get anything reasonable to print with endless calibration and tweaking. I have a friend who had graduated from an old Creality Ender 3 to a Voron that he had printed with it, and offered to sell me the Ender 3. I was curious what had changed in the last decade. I’ve had a bit of bad health which has kept me from the mountains, so a few projects in the workshop sounded appealing.

With a little bed leveling, I was able to print a half decent boaty in ABS immediately. This was encouraging. When I switched to PLA though, the problems started to mount up. In fact, at this point, the majority of my prints have been failures. Which is great. The fastest way to learn is to fail fast and fail often, and I have built up an impressive list of what not to do in a short space of time.

Most of the failures came down to bad bed adhesion. Because of this I raised the temperature of the bed, which led to warping. After much experimentation, it seems the key is to return to a lower bed temperature and use hair spray and a brim to keep the model well bedded.

After getting to what I thought were fairly reliable settings, my ambitions grew to printing larger models, one of which, a screwdriver holder, broke away from the base after 7 hours of printing, leaving the dreaded birds nest of filament printing in the air. This failure also managed to gum up the extruder enough that a further morning of calibration and fixing was required.

At first I was worried that I had more bed adhesion issues, but as I puzzled it out, I noticed that the model would have knocked into the filament spool at around the level it would have cracked off. To compensate for this, I pulled the printer forward out of its build box to give it more space, and the next print promptly collided with the webcam. Clearly some more space is necessary, so my next project is to rearrange the build box, and move the filament rack outside.

Overall, I’m very impressed at how the technology has improved in the last decade. The tooling, and software is worlds better, and the hardware, even on a cheap commodity printer like the Ender 3, is wonderful.