Cool Tools for 3D Printers

Over the years we’ve accumulated a collection of handy but inexpensive tools for supporting our 3D printers.  These usually live in a couple coffee cups and IKEA silverware caddies mounted next to the machines. 

From left to right: 

  • Super Lube synthetic grease for the build plate lead screw (the lube supplied with most machines gets used up quickly)
  • Cutting pliers for trimming PLA spools
  • Metal feeler gauge for consistent results when manually leveling the printer build plate (Makerbot Rep2 works best when 0.2mm gauge just fits between nozzle and build plate)
  • UHU glue stick for securing prints to build plate (useful even with heated build plates).  This works better and is more convenient than covering the build plate with blue painter's tape.
  • Window scraper for removing glue residue and stubborn PLA deposits from build plate
  • Cricut craft spatula for un-sticking prints.  We'll create a little gap under the print with the window scraper, and then lever the rest of the print off the build plate with the craft spatula
  • iFixit metal spudgers for scraping off and digging out printed support material and other defects 
  • Cheap dental picks for removing support material from internal cavities
  • Steel tweezers for getting gunk off the extruder nozzle without melting fingers

We’ve mounted an appropriate set of Allen wrenches on a 3D-printed bracket attached to every machine.  We also have a couple self-healing cutting mats taped to the table next to the machine so we can fuss around with scrapers without scarring the tabletops or damaging the build plates.  To reduce filament-jams in our oldest machine, the trusty Replicator 2, we printed and mounted this filament guide from Thingiverse on the back of the machine. 

For storing PLA, we were delighted to discover that even the big Makerbot-brand spools fit perfectly inside a standard 5-gallon bucket.  To prevent humidity from spoiling the PLA, we snap a Gamma Seal Lid on top of the bucket and throw in a handful of silica gel desiccant packs before we screw it shut.

We’re still learning how to get the best results from our 3D printers for the least amount of effort.  Some machines create rafts (print bases) that are tedious to remove.  Although we’ve had success sanding parts with paper or a Dremel, the resulting smooth parts very quickly look grubby (something about dust and oil getting into the seams).  For high-quality aesthetic models, we haven’t found an alternative to the laborious process of: bondo, sand, primer, paint, clear-coat.