Pathio: A new slicer for 3D Printing

Pathio is a new slicer for 3D Printing that is in beta (free now, will be paid once released). It is supported by, but independent of, E3D. The goal of Pathio appears to be to address shortcomings of other slicers available on the market and make certain advanced features easier to use.

A 3D Slicer is software that takes a 3D model and then separates it into layers so your 3D printer can lay down plastic to build up the full model by the end of the print. Some popular slicers include Cura (open source supported by Ultimaker), Slic3r (open source popularly known as what Prusa printers use), Simplify3D (paid), and KISSlicer (premium features are paid). With some rare exceptions you can use any slicer with any consumer 3D FDM/FFF printer. Prusa recommends Prusa Slic3r edition, but you can use Cura or Simplify3D just as easily.

I believe the more quality slicers we have to choose from the better for everyone. Because of the complexity involved with 3D models being sliced for printing I think there is always room for improvement when it comes to slicers. This makes me excited for Pathio because they aren’t just addressing user interface and ease of settings, but they are looking at how to slice smarter and better.

Their focus right now appears to be on generating gcode (what your printer reads to know how to operate for any given print) that produces prints with more consistent wall thickness, better corner reinforcement, easily applying different layer heights, infill, and other settings to multiple parts in a single print, and advanced scripting, all with close community feedback during development. Add in that they are supported by the leading hotend and nozzle manufacturer and I think this has potential for great advancements in slicing.

Keep in mind this is beta software with alpha features. If you are not yet comfortable with the slicer you’ve been using then I would wait, but if you’re an intermediate to advanced user who understands your current slicer settings this might be a great opportunity to try out and help improve a future product.

Mosaic Palette 2 Frist Look

First successful print with Palette 2

The Palette 2 is an appealing device for multi-material printing if it works like Mosaic says it should which is splicing filament changes and queueing up those splices to match layers and sections of layers that use different materials.

For this first look my setup consists of a Palette 2 (not pro), Canvas Hub, and I used Canvas exclusively for slicing. All of this was connected to a Prusa MK2S.

Install

Setting up the hardware is fairly simple. Nothing to build. You will be picking the right PTFE tube length for your printer and either using the included velcro PTFE tube adapter or you will need to print out an adapter for some printers. If you get the Canvas Hub you will hook up USB connections to the Palette 2 and your printer.

If you are using the Canvas hub or are using Canvas to slice models you will need an account at Canvas3d.io. If you have a Raspberry Pi with Octopi you do not need to buy a Canvas hub because Mosaic just adds their own plugins to the existing Octopi software. If you do not have either the Canvas Hub or a Raspberry Pi with Octopi you can still slice and download files to print with the Palette 2 and your 3D printer. My understanding is Palette 2 works better with Octopi because there is communication between the printer and the Palette 2 handled by Mosaic’s Octopi plugins. At this time I’m not sure exactly what that communication involves.

Canvas Hub

Setup

I highly recommend watching the setup videos online for Palette 2 and Canvas Hub. I would also check Mosaic’s website for updated information before relying on the included setup guide. Mosaic also has information on using Canvas (the web based slicing tool) which you should watch as well.

Once you’ve plugged in your Palette 2 and send your first print the Palette 2 should go through first-time printer setup. My Palette 2 did not seem to respond when the first print was sent and after some basic troubleshooting and disconnecting and reconnecting the Canvas Hub connection in software to the Palette 2 it finally started the first-time setup.

This was a fairly easy to follow process that involved:

  • Inserting the correct color filament into the Palette
  • Wait for it to create filament by splicing the filament together within the Palette 2 device
  • Feed clear filament into your printer (or really just a different filament color than what your Palette 2 will be sending)
  • Teaching the Palette 2 how much filament it takes to get the new color out of your nozzle by slowly feeding the Palette 2 output filament through your extruder until it appears out of your nozzle
  • Starting your first print

Printing

Once the print starts you will see your 3D printer output filament based on your model and in between each filament splice it will print to a purge block to ensure you are printing fully with the correct color.

Purge block changing from Black to Silver

This, of course, means printing significantly more filament than you would for a single material print. This also means drastically long print times in some cases.

My first print was not the Mosaic keychain test print. I should have started with that, but I wanted something more interesting. The result was starting a 6 hour print that showed some errors either with slicing or calculating the amount of filament needed. 

Squirtle with stripes where there shouldn’t be stripes

I stopped the print and tried another model. The two-color casino chip was far less ambitious and came out quite well.

Two color casino chip and purge block

With a success I then tried again to print a more complicated model (two color Flexi Rex). The print started great with the two colors switching for the first few layers.

Unfortunately the silver and the brown slowly swapped resulting in the incorrect color and I canceled the print.

I reluctantly downloaded the Mosaic logo keychain to print. On the surface it looks like it could be a very long print, but it was clearly designed to print fast which I appreciate. The keychain printed the colors correctly with some slight issues with either under extrusion or slicing.

Mosaic keychain logo

You can see some of the brown in the green and purple but that is because the filaments I used were clear and the way this prints fast is by only changing colors on the top few layers. Despite the under extrusion or slicing issue I rated this a 4 as recommended by the Mosaic forums. The rating system helps the Palette 2 determine good prints from bad and in this case it was good in terms of getting the color down correctly.

Issues and Observations

I have been using 1.0.1 firmware and so I expect some of these issues will be fixed in time. The Palette 2 never missed a splice over the few things I printed. The touch screen interface responds quickly and is easy to use.

While using the Palette 2 with Canvas hub I found that after a failed or successful print I had to disconnect and reconnect the Palette 2 every time within the Octopi plugin or the Palette 2 would never respond to a command to start a new print.

At some point the Canvas Hub with Octopi stopped being able to connect to the Canvas cloud. I could never get it to reconnect so I ended up downloading the files from Canvas and uploading them onto the Canvas Hub which kind of defeats the purpose of the connected ecosystem.

At the time I was testing there were limited printer profiles in Canvas. You can upload your own, but you at least have to have a little knowledge of GCode to check and make sure what Canvas is using for your printer is acceptable. I hope they can work on adding more printers to their official supported list.

In my experience the Palette 2 never missed loading and unloading filament from the four inputs. The Palette 2 also was able to predict how much filament needed to be extruded before the start of second and later prints based on previous prints which is quite clever.

The  Palette 2 hardware looks to be well designed. I love that you can open up the case and see exactly what is happening on the inside. There are a lot of moving parts, and while I did not have any issues with splicing or loading/unloading, I suspect something like this is more susceptible to issues down the road. This isn’t a knock on their design, but more that something like the Palette 2 is more complicated than just a standard extruder.

In terms of noise the Palette 2 fan is louder than a MK3 but quieter than a MK2S. The device makes  a lot small noises as the filament is moved through the hardware, but the loudest noise is when it cuts the filament. That said, it isn’t terribly annoying.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

Overall I am excited to see what I can do with the Palette 2. A 50% success rate isn’t a great start, but I am the first to admit I did attempt more complex models to begin with. I think printing a number of easy prints, like the Mosaic keychain, and rating them makes sense before moving on to more complicated models. I encourage new owners to follow this path.

Once the PLA multicolor prints working reliably I intend to try soluble supports and different materials including PET and flexible filaments. Multiple colors is nice, but ultimately that is just the start of what you should be able to do with a multi-material device for your printer.

I am hoping Mosaic continues to refine their firmware and the Canvas system. I imagine all the issues I’ve run into are things that can be addressed in software or slicing.

Please see my about page for information about reviews on this site.

Sometimes things go wrong

If you frequent YouTube 3D makers or forums where people show off amazing prints it can be frustrating sometimes to have a string of failures while others are creating great things. What you should remember, especially if you are new to 3D printing, prints do not work like other consumer products. A great deal of tweaking takes place to get successful prints.

Barring some catastrophic printer problems you should not give up because each failure is an oppertunity to learn more and improve your printing skills. There is almost always a reasonable and fixable solution to any problem you encounter printing.

As an example, I recent designed a model for a power supply that not only took several iterations to perfect, but when it came to printing the final design I had repeated print failures. These were 5hr plus prints so often it was 3-5 hours of wasted print time and materials.

My first test print was in PLA to check dimensions. PLA is easy to print and the test came out decent. I printed this fast just to line up the print to the real power supply.

PLA print test version
PLA test print

For a power supply cover, however, I wanted to use PETG/PET so I made changes to my model and printed the next one in PET. This resulted in bed warping and a significant crack in an important part of the model. During this print the filament runout sensor triggered despite having filament pausing the print which may have lead to the layer separation. That is three major issues on one print.

PETG print with crack
Cracked PETG print

Third print. This one warped badly on both sides so I stopped the print early because it was well on its way to failure.

Badly warped edges forced me to cancel the print

Fourth print. Everything went great until 3/4ths up a nozzle jam resulted in significant under extrusion.

Clogged nozzle results
This is what a clogged nozzle print  looks like

Quick aside: The nozzle not only jammed but cold pulling filament did not fix the issue. The jam was at the tip of the nozzle and no amount of cold pulls was getting the filament to flow better until I used a acupuncture pin to push up into the headed nozzle. Subsequent cold pulls pulled out the debris and the jam was cleared.

The final print, while not perfect (as you can see from two of the layers), did not warp, did not crack, and there were no significant nozzle issues.

Final print
Final usable print

Some of the things learned from these prints:

  • It takes time to find the right settings for new print material. I have printed with PET/G before, but this was a new brand and it turns out it needed more heat from the heated bed than the manufacturer recommended and more fine tuning of the first layer.
  • If something goes wrong try and figure out what the issue is before attempting a new print. I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes prints fail for no good reason, but it is rare. Usually there is a reason and you’ll save frustration, time, and materials if you can narrow down the cause from one print to the next.
  • PLA is easy to print with, but other materials can be harder and take more tweaking. Before you print with materials other than PLA, make sure you have your printer making great PLA prints first.

Commissioning 3D prints from hobby printers

You might not own a 3D printer, but you may want or need something printed. There are a number of commercial printing services that allow you to upload a model and have them print it in a number of different materials. Despite either having or sourcing massive printer farms these services are often the most expensive option for your one-off print.

Print farms are designed to print a large number of models usually at a single quality. Anything custom is going to cost more like changing layer height, infill, material, or print speed.

You might want to consider finding a hobby or semi-professional printer instead of a print farm. Before you do that you should know the limitations of FDM/FFF printers. These are printers that lay each plastic layer one at a time building up from the bed of the printer.

Some models are simply not printable

This is especially true for 3D models that were not designed for 3D printing to begin with. Some models can visually look fine but have thousands of errors for a 3D printer. The best models are solid or water tight (but does not have to hold water). This means there are no gaps between inner and outer walls of the model. It also means there are no 3D elements of the model that either are separated by an air gap, or improperly merged so the model contains crossed over geometry.

Extremely small models could lose detail or simply fail to print. Very large models may not fit on the printer without cutting it into multiple pieces.

Very complex models may result in repeatedly failed prints or just be too complex for software to figure out how to print it in layers.

You cannot print clear on FDM/FFF

There are clear or semi translucent filaments available, but a printer will never be able to print glass clear. The nature of melting plastic layers together reduces transparency. There are some post print techniques that can get more transparency but it will never be clear.

Some materials cannot be used outside

PLA will eventually breakdown or crack in direct sunlight. This is the most common, easiest to print, and one of the cheapest print materials so a lot of people use it as their go-to material. Other plastics may hold up better but almost all of them will fade, change color, or completely lose their color.

Printed parts should never be used when safety is needed

This means you should never use a 3D printed plastic part where someone’s health and safety is reliant on that part not failing. Some obvious examples would be rock climbing gear or functional car parts.

This extends to food safety as well. Because printers put each layer down prints have many microscopic holes that bacteria could get into. It is almost impossible to clean these parts fully. You might, however, be able to apply a post print coating that could make printed parts food safe.

Some materials and colors show layer lines more than others

Typically white or shiny colors will show printed layer lines giving you the impression that the print is worse than the same model printed in another color. Semi translucent materials hide pint layers well, and some colors just naturally hide these lines better. Some of this can be mitigated with smaller print layers (significantly adding more time to the print), but the reality is, even on the absolute best print, you will see print lines if you look close enough. Post sanding and finish work can all but eliminate these layer lines.

Most hobby printers do not have multi-color capability

And even if they do expect these prints to cost significantly more due to increased print time, more prone to failure, and increased material for color changes. Most 3D models you find online will not be multi-color ready.

Tips

  • Find a local printer. This means faster turn around and minimal or no shipping costs. It also allows you to establish a relationship with someone local if you find yourself needing another print in the future.
  • Ask for well lit high resolution pictures of the printer’s other prints. If possible, be specific and ask for images of the same material, color, and print settings. This gives you a better idea of what to expect.
  • Some prints (like figurines) will require a huge amount of support material. Detailed models will need significant clean up time which can add to the cost.
  • You should expect your hobby printer to give you an accurate quote. All print software can estimate time and material use.
  • Be understanding of delays. 3D printing is not at the paper printer point. They are more likely to run into problems than most other appliances. Failed prints can be the printer owner’s fault, but a lot of the time it can also be poorly manufactured materials, errors from the software creating the print, and other issues outside of a printer’s control.
  • Do not accept clearly awful prints. Use the example pictures, suggested above, as a benchmark.
  • If you want a model modified expect to pay a lot more. 3D modeling is not easy and takes a lot of time to learn. Not all hobby printers can make changes, but those that can will charge a high rate by the hour (expect between $40 and $150 an hour).
  • If you want a model designed from the ground up to your specifications expect not only to pay for that modeling time noted above, but also expect to go through at least 3 iterations before you get a final model. Even more iterations may be needed for a functional part. You should expect to pay for every iteration. No one will be able to design and print the prefect model the first time.
  • Consider offering a barter for 3D prints. Some people are good at modeling and printing but might lack the painting and finishing skills. This is a great opportunity to help a fellow maker and limit both your costs.

Rusting Iron Filament

Proto-Pasta makes some really interesting filament hybrids including copper, brass, steel, and iron. PLA is mixed with metallic dust to create something around 70%-85% plastic and the rest metal dust.

For the iron Proto-Pasta it means you get two added properties over normal PLA.

Magnets are able to stick to iron filament prints
Iron is prone to rusting and you can achieve a rustic or aged effect by purposefully rusting your prints

Magnetic

Prints that allow magnets to stick to them are as easy as simply printing a model with at least 15% infill. The magnet needs to be fairly strong, but does not need to be rare earth type magnet.

Rust

To achieve a rusted look for iron prints you need water, salt, and time. You can create a wide variety of rusted looks depending on how long and what parts of the print you expose to the water-salt mixture.

I printed the, now famous in the 3D printing world, Aria the Dragon by Loubie, in the Proto-Pasta iron fill PLA.

Iron filled PLA before rusting

Before starting the process of rusting the print I used some steel wool and light sanding to expose more of the iron dust elements in the print. Next I combined warm water and salt in a bowl with the dragon print. I used a paper towel to keep the tops of the print moist and put some lightly wrapped plastic wrap over the whole thing to try and keep it from drying out too quickly.

Salt and water bath to rust the print
Salt and water bath to rust the print

After about 13-15 hours and some air drying I achieved the light rusting effect I was going for.

 

Dragon with light rust

Dragon with light rust

The longer you leave the print in the salt water solution the more it will rust. Some people have been able to accelerate the process and even make entirely rusted models with other solutions. Just make sure you take proper precautions when mixing chemicals other than just salt and water.

If you plan to try printing with iron filled PLA be sure to use a hardened nozzle or the Olsson Ruby tipped nozzle. The normal brass nozzle tips will get worn down with metal filled filament.

Multicolor, Multi-Material, and more!

There are a lot of exciting innovations coming to the consumer/prosumer 3D printing world surrounding multicolor and multi-material prints. Lets look at some of the upcoming options.

E3D Tool-Changer

Image copyright E3D

We previously covered the announcement of the E3D’s Tool-Changer which looks to have a great motion system and integrated tool-changer. E3D has an updated blog post with some additional details including some information on assembly, updates on build changes, and other minor technical details.

One of the most significant changes is with the frame to allow bigger tool heads. They’ve started manufacturing 30 to send to beta testers. Finally, there is some suggested pricing information depending on how manufacturing goes. Expect to pay at least $1800 for a full system (some of which will not come from E3D, like electronics).

Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 Kit

Image copyright Prusa3D

Prusa announced Multi-Material 2.0 kit a while ago and has been working on improving the design getting ready for shipment in what appears to be November now.

This kit allows up to 5 different materials to be printed in a single print. This means either multicolor prints or different materials like flexible mixed with PLA or dissolvable material mixed with non-dissolvable.

The Multi-Material 2.0 kit takes five filament feeds and, along with Prusa software, determines when filament needs to be changed. So a red, green, blue print would physically move the feeder to the current needed color. When the next color is required the Multi-Material 2.0 will cut the current color and move to the next needed color, feed it, and start printing.

The Prusa team is taking their time with this new product which I think is great. The previous multi-material kit had some frustrations for end users that look to be addressed with this update.

Pricing is $299.

Mosaic Palette 2 and Palette 2 Pro

Image copyright Mosaic Manufacturing

Mosaic’s take on multicolor and multi-material involves figuring out how much of each filament type is needed throughout the entire print and then fusing different kinds of filament together to deliver a single line of filament to your printer.

Basic example: Say you have a model with red bottom and blue top. The Mosaic figures out how much red it needs then when the time comes for blue it fuses blue filament to the red all while continuously feeding your printer.

For more advanced model coloring or multi-material the Mosaic Palette does the same thing except multiple times depending on what color is needed in each part of the model. This could mean slicing red, green, blue, and yellow hundreds of times over the course of a multicolor print.

Mosaic has announced the Palette 2 series along with two other products to improve the user experience.

The Palette 2 is cheaper than the previous Palette+, and appears it is easier to access internals. With the newly added filament queue the Palette 2 can deliver filament faster than the previous Palette models.

Also announced from Mosaic was the Palette 2 Pro, designed for more demanding professional print situations. The CANVAS Hub which allows communication between the Palette 2 and your printer with the help of a Raspberry Pi. Finally they have created an online slicer called Canvas which currently makes coloring multi-part 3D models easy and provides slicing that is designed to work with the Palette series of accessories. In the future Mosaic has promised the ability to color 3D models that are not already split into parts.

Pricing starts at $499

Which one makes the most sense?

For multicolor prints, all three will get the job done (note the Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 Kit needs a Prusa MK2.5 or MK3 printer). I have not tried any of these (none are actually shipping yet) but on paper it looks like the Mosaic Palette 2 would provide the fastest multicolor solution because filament being supplied to the printer is continuous.

For multi-material prints, on paper, the E3D Tool-Changer would be the best option. You could have wildly different materials like Nylon and PVA because each material gets its own dedicated tool head. This means the Nylon head can maintain the desired temperature without adversely affecting the PVA.

The next best option, on paper, is probably the Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 kit if you have a Prusa printer. The direct feeding of five different materials allows for the tool head to change temperature as needed although with a delay compared to the E3D Tool-Changer.

Finally the Mosaic Palette 2 will be able to print multi-material as long as the two materials are within 10 to 15 degrees Celsius of each other’s preferred printing temperature. This rules out some combinations of materials people might like to use.

For Prusa MK2.5 and MK3 owners, on paper, the Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 kit gives you multicolor and multi-material printing for the lowest price. If the kit turns out to be well designed and it performs as expected, it will be the go-to choice for owners of Prusa printers. As a runner up, the Mosaic Palette 2, would also work on a Prusa printer.

For the future and crazy ideas, on paper, the E3D Tool-Changer is the only option. Keep in mind this involves building a whole new printer that, in total, will cost at least 3 times a Prusa MK3. That said, if you want to have a fine print .25 nozzle combined with a volcano that does .8mm infill, or a pick-in-place tool head, laser engraving integrated into your work flow, or some other crazy idea for a tool-head, your only option is the E3D Tool-Changer.

When can I get it?

The Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 Kit is shipping very soon. Probably in September. The Mosaic Palette 2.0 is expected to start shipping in October. The E3D Tool-Changer will ship when it’s done, which I suspect will be November-December or later.

What do I need to know?

  • The Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 Kit and the Mosaic Palette 2 will require purge towers. This allows the printer to get the next color or material ready when there are changes during a print. On paper the Mosaic Palette 2 might have a smaller purge block, but we will know more once it comes out.
  • The E3D Tool-Changer will not have purge towers but it will have to purge and wipe the nozzle before and after printing each color or material type. This is done at the sides where filament is pushed out then the nozzle is wiped across a brush. This will slow down prints and waste filament just like the two products above.
  • The Mosaic Palette 2 will only work with 1.75 filament.
  • The Prusa Multi-Material 2.0 Kit is the cheapest option by at least $200.
  • The E3D Tool-Changer will require some advanced knowledge and experience with 3D printers, firmware, and tweaking to get running. Your costs will be at least $1800 since it does not include required electronics.

Prusa i3 MK3 Review

Prusa started the i3 style printers but the printing industry has expanded well beyond the original Prusa i3 to include many i3 clones. These clones are often cheaper and many print quite good. With these readily available clones, should you still be buying Prusa brand printers?

Image of prusa i3 mk3
Image Credit: Prusa3D

I bought the kit version of the Prusa i3 MK3 printer in early March and received it early May (note: mine came with B2 parts). My MK3 was not a review unit so I did not get the fancy powder coated PEI spring steel sheet that showed up with reviewer models. I still don’t think they are shipping the powder coated PEI sheets in any kind of volume so my recommendation is base your purchase on the performance of the double sided PEI sheet instead (spoilers: it works fine).

So what does the Prusa i3 MK3 have that the Prusa i3 MK2S (and older) doesn’t have?

Continue reading “Prusa i3 MK3 Review”

Update on Pulse Layer Shifting

After watching the Pulse printer from MatterHackers go through a number of prints I thought the Z frame wobbled quite a bit compared to other printers. I saw this happening even at fairly slow print speeds.

Just as an experiment I decided to try and secure the Z frame during printing with a custom bracket (3D Printed of course).

Pulse Z bracket

I essentially stabilized the Z frame by attaching the bracket to a nearby stable shelf. The plastic on the right of the bracket between the shelf is just a shim to get it as stable as possible. The bracket is then screwed into the shelf.

The resulting prints are significantly better. The picture below has two prints from the Pulse that use the exact same gcode and filament. One is with the bracket (left) and the other is without the bracket (right).

Comparison print

You can see the worst of the layer shifts are significantly better, and in some cases they completely disappear.

I think other cartesian printers mitigate this issue by securing the power supply to the Z and Y frame, but because the Pulse has an unattached power supply (which is great for enclosure printing) the Z frame reacts more to movement. The Pulse has the filament spool holder in the place other printers might have a power supply, but it does not seem to provide enough stability, especially with tall and thin prints.

If you have a similar setup you are welcome to download the STL file and customize it for your needs:

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2996677

Specialty Filaments – Steelfill and Brassfill

In addition to all the plastic filaments out there (ABS, PLA, PET/G, Nylon, TPU, etc) there are some speciality filaments that mix plastic (often PLA) with another material. The added material can be metal, wood, cork, glow-in-the-dark additive, pine needles, carbon fiber, and even coffee. Today I am looking at my experiences with steelfill and brassfill filaments.

Important Stuff to Know

Metal, carbon fiber, and glow-in-the-dark additives will damage normal brass nozzles by wearing the nozzle opening. This can happen fairly quickly so you will want to get a nozzle that is capable of withstanding this wear. Your options include a hardened steel nozzle or an Olsson Ruby Nozzle.

Also keep in mind these filaments are still mostly plastic. The manufacturers are mixing metal and wood fibers into plastic to create a hybrid filament. Typically the non-plastic element is between 5%-30%. Most manufacturers do not list exactly how much. This means you can’t print in brassfill and expect it to be as functional as true brass. In fact it will still be susceptible to all the degrading factors that PLA has. Brass gives no added heat or UV resistance, no added strength, and rarely gives added conductivity.

These specialty filaments require post processing to have any value in many cases. Metal filled filaments will need polishing, tumbling, or aging. Wood filled filaments will look best when sanded and potentially stained.

The exception here is carbon fiber filled filament which provides added stiffness and strength to regular plastic filaments. For the best mechanical properties I would suggest using a tough plastic filled with carbon fiber like NylonX.

In all cases specialty filaments are more expensive than regular filament without the filler. Sometimes significantly more expensive with rare or expensive fillers.

On to the Brassfill and Steelfill

If you read the above you might be wondering what is the point of certain speciality filaments? With the exception of carbon fiber filled filament, most do not offer any beneficial functional properties. It all comes down to the look and feel for me. The metal adds weight to give it a more realistic feel and it also means you can polish, tumble, or sand to make it look like more like a metal object. I printed this statue with brassfill and one with a non-metal filament that is supposed to look like metal:

Brassfill statue
Brassfill statue after 9hrs in the tumbler

PLA statue
PLA statue with metallic color but no real metal

These were both printed at .15 mm but you can see the one that went through the rock tumbler has smoothed out quite a bit more which I think gives the impression it was printed with more detail. Despite both being shiny, the metal fill has that distinctly genuine metallic shininess that you can come close to with plastic, but not quite perfect.

The above metal fill statue was rolled for 9 hours with stainless steel screws (about 600 small screws of varying sizes). This was a suggestion that Adafruit had for finishing metal fill prints.

Because I used steel screws the brass took on a much darker color. To contrast that, I also tumbled another object in 100% brass screws and the difference is significant:

Brassfill object
Brassfill “Hand of the King” model rolled in brass screws

The “Hand of the King” model picked up the polished brass color and added some shiny flakes of brass to the model. You can see during tumbling the sword tip broke off which I expected. I ended up later filing it to a point again and it looks decent.

You can see what the brassfill looks like before using the rock tumbler:

Unpolished brassfill object
“Hand of the King” unpolished

You can see the polishing not only brought some shine to the object but it also, like the previous print, smoothed out the layer lines to give a more detailed look to the print.

I also experimented with steelfill with a House of Stark coin (there is a bit of a Game of Thrones theme going on here):

Steelfill Object

The polishing in the rock tumbler did help smooth it out a bit and added some shine, but overall I’m not as happy with the result. I think a lot more post work would need to be done to achieve a better “stainless” look. Also I found the weight added by the stainless fill provided less of an impact than the brassfill filaments. Considering how expensive the stainless steel filament was I would be reluctant to buy it again.

Tips

  • If you are going to roll your objects in a rock tumbler make sure they are sturdy enough to withstand the forces
  • You can make objects even heavier with more infill but at the cost of print time and filament
  • No matter how much cleaning, even with soap and water, I could never get the polished metal objects to completely stop marking up anything they touched (my hands, paper, cloth) – I ended up spraying them with clear coat and now they can be handled without issue
  • If you want that golden brass look make sure you use 100% brass screws and not plated – Even brand-new brass plated screws will turn prints dark grey
  • Filament with metal fill are more brittle and will be more difficult to print on printers that are not using direct-drive extruders
  • Store specialty filaments in an airtight container to avoid oxidation or water absorption in the case of woodfill or corkfill
  • Tumble prints for a minimum of six hours for small objects
  • Don’t expect true metal properties; you are still dealing with a filament that is mostly plastic
  • Use a nozzle that is resistant to wear for filaments that have harder materials
  • You will get strings and blobs with metal filled filament on more complicated objects, but tumbling typically takes care of these for you

MatterHackers Pulse Review

The MatterHackers Pulse is a Prusa i3 style printer with the base model including a BLTouch and heated bed with BuildTak starting at $799. The Pulse printer also comes pre-assembled and tested, and is customizable with typically one week lead time before shipping. Speaking of shipping, it ships in the USA for free which is a great deal considering the size of the box. The printer has a generous 45 day return window, and a 1 year repair-or-replace warranty.

Some nice upgrades are available including an Olsson Ruby Nozzle, garolite bed, LCD screen, and a Bondtech Extruder with E3D all metal V6 Hotend (this is a must have in my opinion). The printer has a 250x220x215 build area.

The printer I purchased came with the Garolite Bed, LCD screen, Filament Runout Sensor, Bondtech Extruder with E3D V6 Hotend, and Ruby Nozzle.

One thing to note is, while this is a Prusa i3 style printer, it uses a Bowden configuration instead of direct drive. A lot of printers use Bowden (Ultimaker, CR-10, etc) so this is not out of the ordinary. The biggest things to look out for is setting retraction correctly and handling materials traditionally harder to print with a Bowden printer like flexibles. The Pulse is configurable with a Bondtech extruder and this upgrade would help when printing flexible materials.

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