MakerBot Print is our newest print-prepration software, which supports native CAD files and STL assemblies,
allows you to interact with all your printers via the Cloud, and many other exciting new features.
UPDATE - 2/1 - Some new developments lead to an update here.
Alright, this model has been a tough print. I've done quite a bit to get the quality & strength I wanted. So, here are my findings:
This was all printed on an Original Prusa i3 Mk2.
Regular PLA : Gives a decent print quality at a decent speed, BUT sacrifices strength. You can get by with this, but make sure your layers are laminating really well; and follow my strength suggestions exactly.
ABS : Great on the strength front, but I never was able to get a print quality that I liked in a reasonable amount of time. Printing at 50um on about half speed could get me almost all the way there, but it would have taken forever.
High-Strength PLA: There's different PLA out there that flexes and laminates better (9x better, if the advertising is to be believed). This is what I had the best luck with. It's comparably strong with ABS and prints at a quality unmatched in any other PLA I've used. I used a brand called Tactink; it wasn't really any more expensive than any other PLA, but I'm so happy with it. Basically, this process has given me my newest favorite brand of PLA.
10 Tips for a Successful Print:
Tip 0 - Added to the top, because it is the most useful of the tips. If you can, split each piece in half along the same axis you would have printed the piece at according to tip 2, print them so the split part is flat on the build plate, then glue both halves together. Prints are strongest along the X-Y axis, as will be discussed in tip 2. However, this requires much support material, which tends to ruin the aesthetic of your piece. Splitting it in half and then re-gluing it creates a print with almost no support material, allows you to print the X-Y along sections of the model that have high failure rates (loops around pins, ball joint towers, and ball joint sockets), and it places a strong glue line along the Z axis. After discovering this (and printing with High-Strength PLA) I did a single print, had zero failures, had a great looking print, and had ZERO failures. I can't stress this enough; on each other print I had to reprint parts, but using this method I never had to reprint a part and got better results than any other method. I used Blender to slice my pieces in half. I didn't do this with the head, hands, or the pins, only the rest of the body.
1 - Print everything with thick shells. It's tempting to do less, to save materials, but trust me, it's worth it. I printed my pieces with 5mm shells. You could probably get away with 2-3.
2 - Even with ABS and High-Strength PLA I’d suggest printing in a way that discourages splitting. You don’t have to do this will all parts, there are some parts where it makes more cosmetic sense not to do this without compromising structural stability (chest, pelvis, foot/toes and head). This is specifically for parts that either: 1) Clip around a ball, 2) have a peg running through them, or 3) are a peg. It’s tempting to print these up and down (like towers) to avoid supports, but I highly suggest printing all of them on their side, then adjust the orientation as follows:
--With things that clip around the ball (wrists and shoulders), print so the printer lays down filament in a Y pattern. Don’t orient it so there is support between the clip; it will tend to split down the middle.
--With things that have 4 pieces that clip around the ball (hips and stomach), orient them so at least 2 get that Y pattern. If one of the other two fail, it isn’t that big of a deal.
--With things that have a pin through them, orient them so the printer lays down filament around the hole, like an O. This will provide strength on all sides of the hole and it will not give the part any easy failure points.
--With the pegs, the slots are offset. Print the slots at diagonals to the bed.
SIDE NOTE: I initially had a problem with the support on balls cracking. Switching to 100% infill fixed this, so I was able to print tower-like for better cosmetics. If you’re having trouble, try turning them as well. Balls should be of acceptable quality if you’re printing so the slit through them is printed in that Y pattern.
3 - Adjust print quality between parts for better strength and look. I’d suggest 50um on the hands, feet, head and pins. 100um on the chest, stomach, pelvis, neck. 200um on everything else (mostly for speed). This works best to check if parts will work without sacrificing much of your time. Feel free to go back and reprint parts at a higher quality once everything is assembled, if you want it to look more polished.
4 - ABS Only : When printing with ABS, do the acetone vapor bath. It doesn’t have to be fancy; just a rag in a cup will do. This increases the strength of the part significantly. If I could have gotten ABS to print at a reasonable quality; this is what I would have done for the whole model.
5 - With so many parts, you may want to print multiple ones at a time to save some time. That is the devil talking to you. The only parts you can get away with printing multiples of on the same build plate are the pins; but only after you know they will fit.
6 - If a pin isn’t going in, try clearing out the hole with a screwdriver of a similar size; there may be some loose filament in there. You shouldn’t have to force it in hard. Make sure the pin can go in each hole individually, with some tension, then assemble. You shouldn’t have to use a vice grip to get the pin in, but you still want it snug. If the pin is still having a hard time; experiment with making it smaller in your slicer. These things take like 2 minutes to print, and reprinting could save you from printing an entire 2 hour piece because you cracked it. Just take those two minutes as insurance.
7 - When you're first starting off, print just an arm (shoulder, scapula, forearm, elbow hinge, default hand). These parts don't take long to print and have all the common failure points you'll experience in the rest of the build. You can experiment with these and get a feel for how the whole print will go, without spending a crazy amount of time on the bigger parts.
8 - Only print the hand gestures after the rest of the print is done.
9 - If a piece breaks, don’t get discouraged. Step back and ask yourself: Why did this piece break? How could I do things better to keep it from breaking next time? Orientation, lamination, calibration, assembly, and material all play a part in keeping your piece together.
10 - Expect a long build, but a satisfying build once you’re finished. If you’re like me, you’ll be proud of the final product (and if you draw, like me, you’ll find it remarkably easier to nail complex poses, now).