Quick links for the initiated:
- OctoPrint web interface to control the 3D printer. You must be connected to the “vislab” network for this to work. Log in using “vislab” and same password as for the wireless.
- Documentation for the Creality CR-10s printer (this document is really for the Affinibot-A31, but the two printers almost identical).
If this is your first time to 3D printing, keep reading.
A typical workflow for making a 3D printed object is as follows:
- Obtain a 3D model of your object in STL or OBJ format
- Slice the 3D model into “G-code”
- Send “G-code” to the printer
Let’s look into that in a little more detail. Note that this page is designed to get you started quickly, so it is by no means complete on all details.
Obtaining 3D models
There are several options to obtain printable 3D models. If you’re new to 3D printing, start with the following:
- Thingiverse – This is a warehouse with tons of free, community built 3D models. If the object you want is “common”, you may not have to model anything at all!
- Tinkercad – Also an online warehouse but at the same time an easy to use, web-based 3D modeler. Because it’s web-based you don’t need to install any software. You create 3D objects by combining and intersecting primitive objects (cubes, spheres, wedges, etc.). This may sound limited, but it’s actually pretty powerful once you get the hang of it.
A second option is to scan an existing object. The Visualisation Lab has a 3DSystems Sense scanner for that.
If you need something specific, you need to learn to use 3D modeling software. There are many options here, each with their own features and learning curves, but here are a couple of suggestions:
- Blender – A free 3D modeling package that’s extremely powerful, but it has a steep learning curve.
- Wings3D – Also free, with fewer features than Blender but easier to use.
- Fusion360 – This is commercial software from the world-renowned AutoDesk but it is free for students and educators. Very steep learning curve but packed with loads of professional features.
- OpenSCAD – This is not an interactive modeling package like the previous, but a programming language for creating 3D models. Useful in situations where you need full control over the design of your objects.
Whatever you use, keep in mind that creating a printable 3D model takes a bit of consideration:
- Remember that objects are printed as layers of plastic deposited on top of each other, starting at the printer bed. Later layers cannot float in mid-air, so they need support from earlier layers. The slicing process described in the next section has an option to create additional plastic as a “support”, but if it’s possible to model your object without a need for support, this is definitely preferred.
- Save your model to either STL or OBJ format before you continue to the next step.
Your model needs to be “sliced” and converted to G-code, which is the language 3D printers understand. The most popular and easy to use slicing program is:
- Cura – This is a free software package that supports a large number of printers. When you run Cura for the first time, you will be asked to set your printer make and model. Set that to “Creality CR-10s”.
Sending G-code to the printer
The 3D printer is connected to a Raspberry Pi that can be reached over the “VisualisationLab” wireless. The Raspberry Pi runs OctoPrint, which is a web-based system that controls the printer and also provides a convenient interface to monitor the printer while it’s printing.
To upload your G-code file to the printer using OctoPrint:
- Connect to the wireless network “vislab”. If you don’t know the password to that, ask Rob Belleman.
- Go to the OctoPrint server webpage and log in. There is a generic user account available called “vislab” with the same password as used for the wireless network.
- Upload your G-code file to the OctoPrint server by dropping it onto the left side of the web page.
- Turn on the 3D printer by flipping the switch on the back of the black box to the left of the printer.
- Select your job in the OctoPrint server webpage and click on the print button!
- Remember to turn off the printer once your print is finished.
Monitoring your print job
The OctoPrint server webpage (only accessible if you’re connected to the “vislab” wireless) provides a way to monitor your print job:
- The “Temperature” tab shows the temperature of the print bed and nozzle. Note that a print will only begin once both have reached their target temperature. This takes approximately five minutes.
- The main web page shows you an estimate on the approximate time needed to finish your print. Note that some time is needed to calculate this estimate.
- The “Control” tab shows the view of the camera mounted on the print bed. This is useful to monitor the printer even when you leave the Visualisation Lab. Note you have to stay in reach of the “VisualisationLab” wireless in order for that to work. Otherwise, run TeamViewer on one of the PCs in the lab and use that to monitor the printer. It is not a good idea to leave the printer unattended for an extended period of time.
Selecting the right filament
In the Visualisation Lab, we use two types of materials:
- PLA – This is the most popular material for 3D prints. PLA is bio-degradable, easy to use and strong, but it is somewhat brittle and it does wear down after some time. Good for non-demanding objects and prototypes.
- PETG – Very similar to PLA but a lot tougher and sturdier. Use this if your objects need strength. It also has a shinier finish. Do note:
- PETG is more expensive: don’t use it for prototypes
- PETG needs a higher nozzle temperature than PLA which will destroy the magnetic print bed surface! Remove that and use a glass bed instead (there’s one in one of the lockers).
- PETG sticks to the print surface like mad, even to glass. Spray a layer of adhesive to prevent this (there’s a can of that in one of the lockers).
Do not use any other materials on the 3D printer in the Visualisation Lab as these may release nasty smells or even hazordous fumes during printing.
When things go wrong
If you’re new at 3D printing, chances are something will go wrong. 3D printers are getting easier to use by the day, but they can still go wrong in plenty of ways. Too many in fact to list here. The following web site is a good place to start in case of trouble:
One often occurring problem is that the first layer does not stick to the printer bed. In almost all cases this means the build plate needs to be leveled. Take a look at this video to see how you do that for the Creality CR-10s printer.