3D printing in lockdown

/ artefacto labs

A couple of years ago we bought a Prusa 3D printer for our Artefacto labs. Artefacto Labs is the umbrella under which our more experimental work falls, for prototyping and testing new technologies and new ideas.

We intentionally bought the printer as a kit because we were interested in learning more about the mechanics and intricacies of 3D printers - and how the 3d-printed sausage gets made.

After a day (and a bit) of assembling the pieces, we successfully printed out our first 3D print. It felt fantastic to be able to print an object using a 3D printer we’d only just put together. And the object was an adorable Baby Groot!

3D printed Baby Groot

The Prusa 3D printer is a personal favourite and one we’ve recommended to library makerspaces across the UK.

3D printers are as much an educational and training device as a creative one. But like many 3D printer users, we’ve found we use our printer…sporadically. For designing prototypes, strange ideas, and occasionally for training purposes. But the rest of the time, it stays underutilized and lonely in the corner.

But this has changed recently when we read about the 3d Crowd initiative, a group of UK volunteers printing PPE face shields for NHS and care home staff. We really wanted to be part of this community and to do something positive in these strange and challenging times. So we dusted off our neglected 3D printer and started printing PPE face shields ourselves. We signed up as volunteers and since then we’ve been busy printing.

The 3D Crowd UK community is excellent. If you have any questions regarding printing- what filament to use, not sure about printer settings or just general tweaking FAQs, the Slack communication channels are very useful and straightforward.

So, as part of the 3D Crowd community, we’ve been printing Prusa RC open source face shields (verified by the Czech Ministry of Health).

We accessed the files from the Prusa website and used the PrusaSlicer software to convert and export the files into the print files (G-code).

There are two recommended types of filament for the PPE project, PLA and PETG. These are two different types of filament that have different properties. For this project, it’s better to use PTEG because it has higher physical strength with good thermal resistance in comparison to PLA. In addition, it can be used both indoors and outdoors.

The PLA prints came out nicely, although our first PLA print failed because of the lack of adhesion, but that was easily fixed with applying a glue stick on the print bed and cleaning it with Isopropyl Alcohol or a similar suitable solution.

3D printing PPE photo

We found out that PTEG can leave some strings of plastic in comparison to PLA, but generally we haven’t encountered any big issues switching from PLA to PTEG. It’s as easy to print with PTEG as with PLA, and the bed adhesion is much better, but expect more stringing.

If you have a spare 3D printer and would like to help, you can find more information about the 3D Crowd initiative here https://3dcrowd.org.uk/

And here are some useful documents you should read before printing PPE face shields https://3dcrowd.org.uk/wiki/docs/

Perhaps you would like to buy a 3D printer? The latest Prusa model is the Original Prusa i3 MK3S.

3D printing is still quite a time-consuming process so unfortunately we can’t print as many pieces as we would have liked to. But we’ve been assured by the community that anything counts. So we are sending our first batch to our local hub this week. Happy 3D printing!

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