Last fall, we’ve renovated both bathrooms and all in all, everything went well. For some reason, the glass installers had problems in the master bathroom because of slight discrepancies which happened during the measuring process or at the glass factory.
Because of the Corona virus, a service call is out of the question so I designed a small part that would push the glass plate into the right spot.
FreeCAD precision drafting for 3D printing
Not many software programs amaze me but FreeCAD is a program that is mind-blowing. Just like Blender, FreeCAD is opensource and free. This means that you can download it from their website and start designing. Once a part is finished, it can be exported in the form of an .stl file.
All in all, FreeCAD is easy to use and everything I print on my Artillery Sidewinder X1 is designed with this amazing program.
When I am finished, I export the part as an .stl file and open it in Cura which also runs amazingly well on my Linux boxes.
Preparing an STL file for 3d printing with Cura
I bought my first and only 3D printer a bit before Christmas of 2019. Back then, I didn’t really know about slicing software but I was lucky because Cura manages to run just fine on my Linux computers. Everything I print gets sliced with Cura. Bigger parts are easy to print but the part I was making today was only 55 mm long, 18 mm wide and 12 mm high. The two disks which cover the two openings are only 12 mm in diameter each and for those, I used the fine profire for the first time.
In addition, I also slowed down the print speed to a setting of 30 from the default 60. I did this based on a hunch and was ready to reduce the print speed even more in case there were issues.
As always, Cura does an amazing job of preparing the gcode files and a few minutes later, they were saved onto my blue USB stick which I got with the printer.
As you look at the image below, keep in mind that the actual part is only 12 mm in diameter. That’s about 1/2 of an inch. I printed a total of two since the main part needed to be held in place by two screws.
Once the profile was tweaked for tiny parts, I exported it to the USB stick and moved on to printing. There is an image of the finished print of this part towards the end of this article.
Calibrating the SWX1
I calibrate my Artilery Sidewinder X1 every day. If I print a bigger part, I re-calibrate before I start a new one. So far, doing it this way has payed off. Everything comes out as I expect.
The blocker (main part) took about an hour to print with a speed setting of 60 (default) and the smaller parts maybe 7 minutes. Amazingly, the shrinkage was negligible and all it took was a gently tap to seal the two openings. Here is my robot at work.
I usually watch the first few minutes to make sure that the 3D printer has no issues with the first layer. When everything looks good, I continue with designing other parts with FreeCAD and check in once in a while. It’s amazing how quiet it is.
Perfect part adhesion
To me, the most important part after a level bed is part adhesion. The best settings are useless if a part warps. It’s a tight game between the fan speed, print bed temperature, nozzle temperature, room temperature and filament. The later is tricky too and the gray one I have chosen for this job can be stubborn at times.
After that, it’s basically a waiting game. Thankfully, I can work on other stuff while the printer does its thing but all in all, it’s quite quick. Now let’s have a look at the final parts.
I’ve designed two tiny parts that would cover up the screws. The biggest challenge were working with small dimensions. There was little room for error and shrinkage plays a bigger roll than when working with bigger parts. There was nothing holding the covers in place but a tight fit and the setting of 11.7 mm proved to be perfect. I was able to push in the covers by hand and then just tapped both with a hammer to straighten them out nicely.
The best part of doing this job were designing and printing those tiny parts. FreeCAD made this process a 5-minute job and slicing took no time at all. Even my SWX1 took only 7 minutes to print the pair at a speed of 30 which is half from the default.
Cura infill setting for tiny parts
As you can guess, I set the infill value to 100. There is no point to use anything else. I do so for all small parts. On contrast, the main part which was designed to push the heavy glass plate away from the door is not solid. I used the default of 20 which, in part, was based on the small size. When I print bigger parts, I sometimes go below 10 for an infill value.
Last but not least, I’ll leave you with how my little project will be seen by others. In closing, I want to say that it was a great project to do. Staying home because the company I work for is has temporarily shut down would be boring without creating something. I enjoyed fixing our shower and am already looking for the next project.
Thank you for reading and if you have a 3D printer than I hope that you love printing stuff.
Now I’m going to change the filament back to black and see if something else was meant to be made today.
The whole project took up half of an afternoon from start to finish. The company who installed the glass would probably have used an aluminum rail across the ceiling just like I saw in their showroom. I prefer my little solution much better. The grey blends in with the chrome and no one really notices it.
If I ever have to remove it, then I just pull the two covers and unscrew two screws. Wouldn’t it be great if everything in life was that easy?