(NA) Who knows about 3D printing?

Discussion in 'Hangar Talk' started by Jim K, Mar 21, 2021.

  1. Jim K

    Jim K Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    Last time I looked at 3D printers, it looked like it required the commitment of another hobby to get it to work well. I don't have time for any more hobbies so I decided to let the technology mature a bit before I jumped in.

    Today my wife came to me asking about some little plastic clips and told me I should have a 3d printer. I think she was joking, but I was thinking about some other doodads that I'd like to make, and wondered if it was time to jump in. I haven't kept up with developments in that space, and knowing that there's quite a few techy types here, thought I'd ask.

    Has it gotten to the point where you plug it in and make stuff, or is it still pretty fiddly?
     
  2. Jim Rosenow

    Jim Rosenow Line Up and Wait

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    Also interested in the answer to this one....

    Jim
     
  3. DaleB

    DaleB En-Route

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    All I know is what the state of the art was 3 years ago or so. I bought an Anycubic I3 Mega, which is a Prusa clone. Setup was not bad, but getting decent results was a bit fiddly. In fact I didn't really start using it for much until I took the time to load and customize the firmware on my own. Getting the bed level was horrible, and of course it wasn't completely flat, which made things fail often. The new firmware probes the bed before each print and adjusts for any variation. I also replaced the original hot end/nozzle assembly with a new one (E3D V6, I think) because the old one kept jamming. Now it prints great. Oh, and the original stepper drivers were horrific. I couldn't run the printer while my wife was home, the steppers were making a high pitched screaming noise that drove us both nuts but gave her a migraine. That was a $20 fix or so for decent stepper drivers.

    So, yeah, it's been more work than I anticipated or would have liked, but this is still very much an emerging technology, and as a hobbyist you're on the cheap end of it. From what I have seen, changes like this have already been made on a lot of the newer printers, so they should be closer to plug & play... but the less you spend, the more work it will likely take. There is also a new generation of "LCD" printers that use UV light to selectively cure some sort of liquid polymer to "grow" the print upside down out of a little vat. Looks really cool; I haven't tried one or even seen one, no idea how much work they are to get running well.

    All that said, I was able to print out things like chip bag clips and stuff pretty early on. Yesterday the grandkids were here, and they had fun assembling some Star Wars fighters and an F-22 from little kits I had 3D printed. I've done a number of useful little widgets, and even designed and printed a mount for our iFly GPS.
     
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  4. wanttaja

    wanttaja En-Route

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    Less trouble with the printer itself than the steep learning curve for the drawing software. I'm using EAA's free version of Solidworks. This is a professional package that does little hand-holding for new users. There are software packages more suited to beginners.

    I have a relatively cheap printer (Dremel 3D20) and have had little problems getting it to work. This is a basic starter unit, using the common reels of plastic filament to print. It is a completely integrated unit with a full enclosure...it doesn't have the space-frame hobbyist look that some do. I have it in my home office. Uses a lot of space, but doesn't make the place look like a workshop.

    One thing to keep in mind that these filament-type printers can't print any random blob. Anything that comes up at an angle has to have supports when printed; either as part of the design, or the automatic supports generated by the printing software (which have to be stripped away when it is completed).

    I've done relatively few "useful" things, the majority of the stuff I've printed have been fun projects. In the "useful" category is an adjustable floor heat register (the vent was slightly undersized, and I used the metal grate of a commercial unit and 3D printed the vanes), stands to display aircraft instruments and challenge coins, a replacement knob for an antique radio, and a custom bracket to hold a test tube (for testing autogas for alcohol).

    Fun projects include a replica WWII gunsight, a "Buck Rogers" rocket to work as a stand for a mission patch, and a full scale, non-firing replica of a Lewis Gun.
    upload_2021-3-22_8-23-50.png
    Most of these projects have a combination of 3D printed and non-printed components, such as the base for the gunsight and the wood structure of the Lewis (the drum is a commercially-available part, the barrel was turned on a lathe).

    Most of the things I've done haven't really HAD to be done on a 3D printer, but it does take the stress out of trying to get the thing right the first time to avoid having to keep starting again from scratch. The heat register is a good example... having to attach 3D parts to a commercial grate, and having the vanes adjustable. First version was too tight, go back to Solidworks, adjust a few dimensions for the various parts, and re-print. Much easier than hauling out the right wood, re-cutting the various pieces, sanding them to fit, drilling new holes, etc.

    The downside is the AMOUNT OF TIME the printer takes. It isn't a magic replicator. The Buck Rogers spacecraft (done in two parts due to the limits of the filament-type printer) took a total of twelve hours to print. The stand took almost as long. Fortunately, you don't have to sit and watch it, though an occasional check is a good idea in case the filament broke or the unit isn't adhering to the build platform.

    Ron Wanttaja
     
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  5. Jim Rosenow

    Jim Rosenow Line Up and Wait

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    How long did the Lewis gun take, Ron?

    Jim
     
  6. asicer

    asicer Final Approach

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    I don't know how far back you are using for the comparison.

    I'm an Ultimaker user and I'd say that line hit a plateau with the advent of Olsson blocks, geared feeders and heated bed plates.
    You could bypass a lot of that by downloading someone else's model, but you still have to play around with optimal orientation in the slicer.
    Dual extrusion and PVA help with that. :)
     
  7. asicer

    asicer Final Approach

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    These are SLA (Stereolithography) printers as opposed to filament (FFF/FDM). I've used a Formlabs SLA printer. It's got it's pluses and minuses versus filament. It's more precise but it's also messier since you have to deal with an isopropyl alcohol rinse and a UV cure.
     
  8. wanttaja

    wanttaja En-Route

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    Not sure, probably around 35-50 hours total. By this point, I was pretty jaded in just cranking it up and going away from it for the rest of the day. Had a couple of items that I left to print all night.

    Details, and full CAD files, can be found at:

    http://www.wanttaja.com/lewis/lewis_gun.html

    Also shows what the printer looks like.

    Ron Wanttaja
     
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  9. schmookeeg

    schmookeeg Administrator Management Council Member

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    I run an ender 3 with several mods. Yeah, it can be fussy. Switching filament brands is still a chore to "get right"

    I think the ender 6 SE is their attempt at "you don't need to learn another hobby to just plug this thing in and go" -- I've recommended it to some of my non-technical buddies and they seem to like the thing. It has a lot of the mods I put on mine, plus some quality of life features to help as the thing ages.

    https://www.creality3dofficial.com/collections/top-sell/products/creality-cr-6-se-3d-printer
     
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  10. Jim K

    Jim K Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    It's been about 5 years since I looked seriously at getting one. Seems like at that time it was cheap toys that didn't work, build it yourself and make it your hobby, or drop a couple grand on a decent machine, and whichever way you went you were still going to spend a bunch of time on it.
     
  11. DaleB

    DaleB En-Route

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    It's better now than 5 years ago. Better materials, better hot ends, better software, better quality machines, better firmware to run them. Printers have, in general, better printing resolution and performance, I think. I'd say still not really plug-and-play, no-hassle. But compare it to any other method of making things out of raw materials... wood, metal, casting, whatever -- they all require a certain degree of time, energy, skill development, etc.
     
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  12. asicer

    asicer Final Approach

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    I think the "cheap toys that didn't work" have more or less fallen out of the market. It's still a hobby like other methods of making stuff as @DaleB points out, but maybe the kids in your avatar pic need hobbies?
     
  13. Arm3

    Arm3 Pre-Flight

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    I’ve had a Prusa I3 MK3 (https://www.prusa3d.com/) for about two and a half months and have really enjoyed it so far. While researching which printer I wanted to buy I found it had a reputation for working well out of the box which was high on my list of priorities. I didn’t not want to have to tinker and troubleshoot something to get it to the point I could get reliable prints with it. In the time I’ve used it I haven’t had any mechanical problems and the few failed prints I attribute to my part design.

    All the talk about minimal fiddling required aside, I did buy the kit version of the Prusa to save myself $250 off the preassembled price. Their provided directions were comprehensive and if you go that route their website has the most up to date plans along with comments from other builders with techniques that worked or problems they found during the build. The folks at Prusa had replies to clarify most of the questions builders had. In addition to saving some money I figured building from a kit would make me more familiar with the machine if I ever had to replace or fix a part.

    I’ve also been really happy with the slicer that Prusa has available. The slicer is the program that takes your design and converts it into the g code instructions the printer follows to make the print. The Prusa slicer has Beginner, Advanced and Expert default settings you can use to customize the print to whatever level you are comfortable with. I believe you can also use their slicer for other machines in addition to their own.

    All of my prints so far have been for stuff I designed. If designing parts isn’t something you want to do then you can find other peoples’ designs to print. https://www.thingiverse.com/ is a popular site that has most everything you may want to print already designed. Prusa’s website has something similar but not nearly as many designs to pick from.
     
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  14. nauga

    nauga Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    I also have an Ender 3 but it's been updated with a considerably larger bed (and heater), a high volume extruder, and auto bed leveling. ABL saves me a lot of fiddling, and with a 0.8mm nozzle it prints fast, but the parts require a lot of post-processing. Since I'm doing a lot of finish work anyway I can be less fussy about the print quality, which also saves a lot of fiddling. It took a while to get dialed in but now that it's relatively straightforward to use.

    Like @wanttaja I use the EAA-licensed Solidworks and like it very much. The learning curve is steep but once you get the basics you can do a lot with it.

    Nauga,
    splooged
     
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  15. asicer

    asicer Final Approach

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    If you want to play around with making models before you buy a 3D printer, give Microsoft 3D-Builder a try. It is (or was) a part of Windows 10.
     
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  16. Jim K

    Jim K Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    I understand it's not like a laser printer that you just hit the button and it works, but last time I looked into it, it seemed like prints would fail for no apparent reason. I guess I'm wanting something like my old Bridgeport.... once you square the spindle, table, and vise, you can count on it to make square parts. You still have to know what you're doing, but the hardware is reliable.

    Ha... the oldest might be into it, but she needs some instant success to keep her interested. She does like making stuff though.... would be fun to see her grow into it.

    That's interesting, never heard of it. I'll have to see if I have it or can get it.

    I searched some of the models listed here. Looks like the cost of a nice machine has come down. Might be time to jump in. The eaa solidworks license might be the push i needed to join that organization as well.
     
  17. brcase

    brcase Pattern Altitude

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    I have a CR-10S and and Ender 3 Pro. Agree a bit fiddly to get set up. But relatively easy to use once setup. I use a glass bed and a glue stick. The 6 Se sound interesting. I already knew how to do the 3d Cad, so that helped a lot. But now my 3D printer is about as useful as a screw driver or hammer. I almost can't hang a picture with using it to make some little fitting, Jig, or Tool to use.

    Here is a rope tensioner I made from PetG, and a Mockup Mount for a new Master Cylinder in my glider. After fitting a couple revisions of it I then fabricated a metal mount .
    upload_2021-3-22_18-19-49.png

    ] upload_2021-3-22_18-13-55.png
     
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  18. kmacht

    kmacht Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I bought an ender 3 pro when it was on sale around christmas time for a little over $200. It requires some assembly out of the box but has been making perfect prints since day 1 with very little tinkering. I just finished my third spool of filament and although it is a bit slower than some more expensive options out there is is leaps and bounds above what was out there for 3x that price a few years ago.
     
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  19. DaleB

    DaleB En-Route

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    I’d have to say, pretty much. Once you’ve got the settings dialed in for a particular type of filament, you can generally count on consistent results. I’m comfortable enough to start mine printing and walk away.
     
  20. asicer

    asicer Final Approach

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    They still fail alright. However, now the reasons are more apparent. :)
    Here's a recipe:
    1. Buy printer
    2. Go to www.thingiverse.com and download/print a bunch of toys
    3. Repeat step 2 with some useful gadgets
    4. Repeat step 3 with some not so useful gadgets except modify them in the slicer to be useful
    5. Repeat step 4 except modify them in a CAD tool.
    6. Start making your own toys and gadgets in a CAD tool.
     
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  21. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I was gonna make a post, but @Arm3 already said what I was going to, only better. :thumbsup:
     
  22. WWFeldman

    WWFeldman Pre-Flight

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    I bought the Prusa Mini because of all the positive reviews about it being a "works right out of the box" printer. They really weren't joking, I assembled it and took off printing and haven't looked back. I designed and printed PTT switch brackets for my 172. Also an ipad holder, and N number dash plaques for half the airport. I can't say enough good things about this printer.

    As far as CAD software... Autodesk Inventor is the easiest CAD software I've ever used and as an added bonus, If you tell Autodesk you're a student you can download and use a full version of it.
     
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  23. 172andyou

    172andyou Line Up and Wait

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    Another Ender 3 user here. No problems.

    OnShape.com is an online cad tool that is amazing.
     
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  24. IK04

    IK04 Pattern Altitude

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    Yes, you can purchase a 3D printer and print stuff right out of the box.

    The online compendium of thingies is limited only by your imagination and ability to use a search function.

    Making your own custom stuff that nobody has already done (pretty rare) will require learning a couple of applications. No biggie.

    The ability to make certain tools for repairing or assembling common items is where a printer will pay for itself.
     
  25. Bob Noel

    Bob Noel Touchdown! Greaser!

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    ok. stupid question from a 3D newbie: How much for a 3D printer? Obviously, it would likely be an entry-level one since I've never done 3D printing.
     
  26. kmacht

    kmacht Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Entry level you can get them under $100. If you want something reliable then you are looking in the $200 range. From there price goes up proportionally to size of the print area and the number of different types of filament it can print. My recommendation is one of the ender 3 models. They range from about $180 to $300 and will give you a good start to printing withou having to do too much fiddling. If you have more to spend then look at the models that prusa offers.
     
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  27. Bob Noel

    Bob Noel Touchdown! Greaser!

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    thank you
     
  28. WWFeldman

    WWFeldman Pre-Flight

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    The Prusa mini runs about 400, has a 7x7x7 inch printing envelope. It's stupid easy for a beginner, because I was one when i bought it.
     
  29. Jim K

    Jim K Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    The Prusa stuff seems pretty attractive. I was teetering on the edge of buying the i3, but I'm just not sure if I'd use it enough to justify the spend. A lot of the stuff I've thought of to print is probably less effort to machine out of aluminum, and then I don't have to worry about the strength or uv resistance.

    Maybe it'd make more sense to get the mini and see if I use it or it collects dust. It looks like that print head would be wobbly cantilevered out there like that. Is it more stable than it looks?
     
  30. WWFeldman

    WWFeldman Pre-Flight

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    It really works well, there isn't much weight to that head so it hanging out in the breeze like that isn't a problem. It's been trouble free for me so far. Knock wood.

    I thought about buying the bigger one as well, but 7x7x7 has been big enough to do all the parts I've needed.
     
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  31. EugeneR

    EugeneR Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Another happy Prusa user here.

    Initially I bought FlashForge Creator Pro, but found myself spending too much time making the first layer consistent and stick well. Ended up replacing a print bed and making my own printer config for Cura slicer to get good prints out of it.

    At some point along the way I bought Prusa MK3S kit, spent a few evenings assembling it and it was pretty much plug-n-play after that. So I almost exclusively print with Prusa now.

    Having said that, if you want to make your own custom prints it will grow into a second hobby.

    I don’t print as much as I did in the beginning, but acquired modeling skills proved useful to make spare parts for all those toy fire trucks my toddler breaks on a regular basis :) oh, and also making a new panel cutout for my avionics upgrade so my shop could use their CNC machine to cut it.
     
  32. WWFeldman

    WWFeldman Pre-Flight

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    Here's the PTT switch brackets I designed and printed to get away from the switches held on with velcro. Also the N number plaque on the dash was printed as well.

    20210219_145424.jpg
     
  33. Juliet Hotel

    Juliet Hotel Pattern Altitude

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    By and large the hardware is not much of an issue these days. That being said, I bought a cheap low end printer specifically because I wanted something I could modify and tinker with. And yes, on that machine you'll end up having to change out a few minor things like fans and bed springs because they're cheap/under spec'd. But I haven't had a hardware issue slow me down yet. However if you're just looking for something you can setup and start printing with, go right for the Prusa Mk3s and don't look back.
     
  34. cowman

    cowman En-Route PoA Supporter

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    I’ve been playing with it for a while. It’s definitely more of a hobby thing with the occasional useful application. I have made a lot of toys for my kid though.

    Stuff to know:
    The parts are often not very strong. Most objects are printed with infill, meaning they’re hollow inside with a kind of honeycomb structure filling them. You can go to solid but large objects will take forever to print that way.

    It’s not very strong plastic. At least the PLA and ABS plastics that are easiest to print aren’t. The objects tend to be particularly weak between the printed layers.

    Larger prints can take all night or more than a day to finish.

    You may throw multiple attempts into the trash before finding the settings that get you the desired result.

    Attached top is probably the most ambitious thing I’ve made and it required probably over a week to print the various pieces. It does work though. 68CD319F-44B0-4A4F-8EED-AD1598F5BBBD.jpeg
     
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  35. schmookeeg

    schmookeeg Administrator Management Council Member

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    Those are both really well done. Kudos!
     
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  36. EugeneR

    EugeneR Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Regarding the stuff to know about materials. In addition to strength points above, all materials have different temp tolerance.

    PLA is the easiest one to print, but it is the least resistant to temperature and may become soft under direct sunlight in the hot cockpit.

    ABS is harder to print, but the best for car/plane applications (out of three most common materials). It is sensitive to UV and may degrade over time, especially non-black colors.

    PETG is almost as easy to print as PLA, not as brittle and while not as temp resistant as ABS, but will survive hot cockpit environment.
     
  37. Spring Ford

    Spring Ford Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I have a very little experience of the CAD stuff for 3D printing. I started with free "starter" software but immediately ran into it's restrictions.

    I then switched to Onshape. This appears to be the real thing. It is a relatively new startup (2012) but they are very serious, "Onshape’s co-founders include two former SolidWorks CEOs, Jon Hirschtick and John McEleney". It is free for personal (or is it any?) use, however all your models are publicly viewable on their cloud.

    It is fully cloud based and you use it in a browser. This means that you do not need a fancy CAD style workstation. I think you pretty much need a three button mouse (scroll wheel will be fine). DarkAero are building a plane with Onshape. There are good tutorials on youtube which I used a couple of times to figure out this and that.

    Fusion 360 is also free for personal use. "Fusion 360 for personal use is free for 1-year for qualifying non-commercial users. A hobbyist user must generate less than $1,000 USD in annual revenue ..."
     
  38. Arm3

    Arm3 Pre-Flight

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    I haven’t ventured beyond using PLA and PETG filaments and will probably stick with those until I have a need for something different.

    Do you have any experience with ASA? It’s supposed to be the successor to ABS with better UV tolerance and lower fumes when printing. I’d experiment with it myself but it’s more expensive by 50% or more over PLA/PETG/ABS. I could see using it in the future but will probably wait until I have an actual use case for it.

    I’d also like to try and use one of the flexible filaments or the wood infused types that can be sanded and stained.
     
  39. WWFeldman

    WWFeldman Pre-Flight

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    I'll let you know about ASA, I have a spool ordered that should be here friday. I've been using PETG for my parts, but if you've been using it you know it doesn't really like anything less than .2mm layer heights which aren't very smooth, and it really doesn't like bridging. ASA is supposed to be better about both those and if you need a smooth finish you can use the acetone fumes for that.
     
  40. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I've been wondering how many people are using 3D printing to make test models before making the actual objects using a CNC milling machine... And how much do THOSE cost? :eek: