When people normally hear about 3D-Printing, they have the idea of a microwave where you can drop your part in, press a button, and wait until a perfect part comes out in due time.
Some machines on the market today such as Prusa printers are designed to handle easier materials like PLA. In this combination, you can trust the machine to print your part with little trouble and the part will come out nice.
However, 3D-Printing is a far more complex and involved process, especially for high-temperature applications with advanced materials.
When you move on from PLA to industrial, high-performance materials such as ABS, Nylon, PEEK or PEI, you’re entering a category of functional materials that require more time and attention to get the perfect part you desire. This is because higher-grade materials melt and adhere at specific temperatures under the right conditions.
The tough reality is that there are no universal settings as each machine will require a different setting to fit different part geometries, different material types, and different environmental surroundings. Even in the instance of PLA, two different filament rolls of PLA can differ on age, brand, and moisture. When you move onto higher-temperature plastics like PEEK or PEI, this disparity increases.
In this video, we’ll cover the basics of tuning, i.e. getting your printer to get as close to those ideal conditions as possible to get the perfect part.
Here at Vision Miner, we recommend starting by tuning for the specific material as each is going to have a different melting point, ideal bed temperature, printing speed, etc.
To tune for the material, we follow the five-step tuning process, and it starts with establishing a baseline.
Getting your material’s baseline means finding out the recommended head temperature, bed temperature, and printing speed. These can be found either online via our website, the manufacturer’s website, or even on the material roll. Input these settings into a slicer program of your choice.
Next, you’re going to select a small test print that gives you results in a short amount of time. In the past, we’ve used simple cubes, string-tower tests, and overhang tests to see how our material is impacted by different part geometries.
For step three, simply examine your part. What you will want to look for is layer adhesion, especially for higher-temperature materials. Ways to examine layer adhesion include close-up visual inspection, bending/flexing, and snap tests. These let you see if layers are fusing properly. Feel free to look at gaps, holes, and blobs as well to evaluate aesthetic features as well as structural properties. Most of the time, you can research using online guides to address specific issues you see with your test part.
After you’ve examined what you want to change, you can move on to adjusting your settings. At Vision Miner, we like to make a change significant enough to check for major differences, but small adjustments are usually sufficient.
The final step in the tuning process is to repeat steps 1 through 4 until you’re satisfied with the quality and strength of your calibration part. This process is highly iterative and relies on your ability to make changes to each run-through until you reach a place where your machine will print the real part with ease. Part complexity and material choice will normally affect how many times you will need to adjust your calibrations.
Once you have completed the tuning process, your printer should be dialed in for the material with which you tested. Now, you can go and print almost anything.
On occasion, you will need to go more complex for more complex geometries, but the tuning process will give you the foundational settings needed for your specific printer, part, and location.
Keep in mind: if you change your material, your temperatures, or your surrounding environment, you will most likely need to re-tune.
If you’re interesting in learning more about tuning, check back on the blog for more updates and visit our YouTube channel for more videos!