3D Printing Experiences and Info

This is a list of tips and links about 3D printing in general. There will be some specific to the Creality Ender 3 and the Monoprice Mini Delta because I own both of those printers and have some bit of experience with them. I will talk about general 3D printing and related topics also.

NOTE: This is a work in progress. It may appear jumbled and there is no doubt duplication. Hang in there while I work through getting the stuff populated.

Section Links

General Printing Tips

Filament Basics and Your First Filament

There is a wide variety of filament types out there to choose from. Without a doubt PLA is the only choice for your first filament. Filament comes in:

  • Two diameters: 1.75 mm and 3.00 mm (actually 2.85 mm). Nearly all current printers use 1.75 mm filament.
  • Various spool weights. By far the most popular is 1.0 kilogram. The length may vary somewhat but generally this ends up as 300+ meters of 1.75 mm filament. That will go a long way. Lesser spools tend to not be economical and bigger spools are just too bulky for the hobbyist. There are exceptions of course.
  • Colors and transparency. If someone can think of it then you can probably find it. Color choices also vary by filament type and composition. Pick your first colors based on your possible use. Purple is probably not a good choice but red, blue, green, white, and black are universally useful. There will be different shades also like dark blue and light blue.
  • Filament types. There are many but PLA is by far the most popular. Stick with PLA until you get comfortable using your printer and know more about what your printer is capable of.
Other things to consider:
  • Price. Good PLA is available for about $20 per kilogram delivered in the United States. Premium PLA can be as much as $50 per kilogram. I have no experience with any of the premium products but I do have experience with the $20 filaments and have found them pretty good. You should avoid anything much cheaper. $19 is probably OK but $15 is probably going too far. It's not worth gunking up your printer to save a few bucks. You get what you pay for - I have found out the hard way!
  • Where is it coming from? This is actually two questions in one. First is where was the filament made. Second is where is it shipped from. A lot of this comes from foreign shores and is generally quite good. Others are made in the United States (or your local country). Consider how long it will take from the time you order your filament until the day it comes to your door.
  • Packaging. You should expect your spool of filament to be vacuum sealed in a thick plastic to keep out any moisture. PLA isn't really sensitive to moisture but you never know what long term exposure may have done to the filament. If what you get isn't sealed up then you should probably avoid that source in the future.
  • After you open the filament. I recommend that you keep your open spools of filament, even PLA, in a sealed bag. Some come in a re-closable plastic bag but my one experience with that was a failure. Buy some 2 or 2-1/2 gallon zipper bags. The 1 gallon bags are NOT big enough. I'm using Hefty 2-1/2 gallon zipper lock bags that I bought from Target and they work great.

Filament Types

There are many types of filament and I'm not going to try to list them all. I'm going to stick to the popular ones and add in a few specialty types:

TypeFull NameTemperatureDescription
PLAPolylactic Acid190-220The best general purpose filament. Adheres easily to the standard bed surfaces. Is not resistant to hot car temperatures. Very easy to print with.
ABSAcrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene220-240A well established filament type but somewhat difficult to print with. Adhesion to the bed is a challenge as it tends to curl. A high bed temperature (80-100) is needed. Noxious fumes can be expected. A full enclosure is almost a must. I have no plans on ever using it.
PETGPolyethylene Terephthalate w/Glycol modifier235-255PETG is a great replacement for ABS. It has the strength and durability of ABS with no warping or noxious fumes. It comes in almost clear variants as well as the usual mostly opaque colors. Do NOT print directly on the bed unless you know it's OK (It's Ok on the Ender 3 stock bed) as PETG is known to BOND permanently - especially glass. On the Monoprice Mini Delta I use green painters tape (used for concrete) and glue stick to get good adhesion with a bed temperature of 60. I could never get the blue tape to stick to a hot bed so the green tape is the solution for that. The only downside is that the green tape has an interesting smell to it. Note that PETG is hygroscopic (absorbs and retains water from the air) and must be kept sealed up as much as possible and dried if it takes on too much water. NOTE: See the Ender 3 section for special notes on using PETG on the Ender 3.
TPUThermoplastic Polyurethane240-260TPU is a flexible filament that is right on the edge of what most printers can do without some modifications. A more robust extruder is a must. I'm using a bed temperature of 50 on the straight Ender 3 bed. Note that TPU is hygroscopic and must be kept sealed up so it can stay dry.
NylonPolyamide240-270Nylon has some very special properties that we all know pretty well. It's tough and flexible and will take a real beating. It needs PVA-based glue for bed adhesion and a bed temperature of 60-80. It is also super hygroscopic and may need to be dried before use and kept dry in storage.
NylonX (MatterHackers)Polyamide with Chopped Carbon Fiber Strands250-270NylonX will eat your brass nozzle. You need a hardened steel nozzle to print any quantity of this. But it's super strong. It's also expensive ($58 for 1/2 kilogram). If you need it it's there.

There are many other filaments out there. Things like glow-in-the-dark, transparent, multicolor, wood filled, metal filled (nozzle eaters), and a host of others.

Know Your Printer

Before you start printing anything you should get to know your printer. Learn how to adjust things and what to expect when you turn it on.

Watch several videos about how your printer works and how it's put together. If you didn't put anything together you should still look for videos on how to fix things - they will show you how to get to those parts of the printer that you didn't directly experience when you pulled it out of the box and plugged it in.

Printers that require at least some assembly will have some number of videos on how to put it together. These will be 'unboxing' videos and vary in length from 20 minutes up to several hours. I don't personally like anything more than about 20 or 30 minutes myself and I found everything I needed in the shorter videos.

In the beginning Never Leave Your Printer Unattended!.

Always have a plan to pull the plug if things get too far out of hand. You'll probably never have to go to that extreme. Learn how to quickly go through the menus to stop a print that is in progress and going badly.

Printing With PETG

It's easy, right? Yes and no. I'm using a spool of Build Series PETG from Matterhackers. Here's what I've done to make it work for me:

  • I've found that the nozzle needs to be HOT - 245. I had tried 235 and that worked but it had that 'not hot enough' look. At 245 it looks much better.
  • A nice and warm bed - 60. Needed to keep down the curl. I tried lower and off but was never satisfied with either.
  • You need TAPE on the bed. PETG will BOND to the regular bed surface - especially if it's glass. I tried the blue painter's tape but that wouldn't stick when I warmed up the bed. I looked for something with a little more stick and found the GREEN painter's tape, used for concrete and block, worked pretty good. This stuff does have a 'smell' to it so don't be surprised. It's not horrible and I've learned to live with it.
  • I haven't tried it yet but why put sticky stuff on the TOP of your bed surface? Mine is removable so turning it over will eliminate that minor stickiness left over after you remove the tape.
  • Glue stick will help if you are having adhesion problems. I'd recommend you use it every time just to be sure. You WILL be replacing the tape and may have to work to get the tape off of your print. Cheap insurance though.
  • This is silly but I didn't seem to be able to estimate where the center of the bed is when I need to put the tape in the right place. I finally put a mark with a black permanent marker on each side of the bed (on the aluminum) for the center spot.
  • I don't cover the bed completely, just enough to cover where the start strip, right side corners (for leveling), and where the actual print will happen. I only put enough tape (a generous amount though) down for the print as I hate wasting the stuff. I CUT the tape with scissors. Trying to tear it never seems to work out for me.
  • SLOW DOWN the first layer. Mine is set for 20mm/sec and that's a lot slower than the run speed of 60 mm/sec.
  • I know it seems to take forever but WAIT for the bed to cool down (at least below 30) before you try to get your print off. You might get lucky and not have to replace the tape for the next print.
  • I tend to batch together my PETG prints so I don't have to redo bed leveling as often.
  • When you're finished with PETG and have removed the tape make sure you clean the bed according to your instructions. I've skipped this step a couple of times and when the need finally sunk in I finally got good first layer results with PLA.

Printing With TPU

With the MacEwen extruder installed I figured I should be able to print TPU. I did a lot of searching for general articles and videos and I think I found the right combination for printing with TPU. I purchased a kilogram of TPU from Hatchbox and here's what is working for me:

  • Use a higher nozzle temperature - 230C for the first layer then 220C for the rest.
  • Print SLOW - I'm using 25 mm/sec with half of that for the first layer.
  • Turn OFF retraction - It's too much to ask any extruder to try to push and pull that wet noodle that TPU resembles.
  • The stock Ender 3 bed works fine. Nothing other than keeping it clean is necessary. I use 50C for a bed temperature and I've found that if you let it cool down to 40C it's pretty easy to peel off (and that's a good description of the method) the part.
  • Expect stringing - They're pretty easy to deal with so it's better to deal with them than wrestle with retraction settings.
  • BIG filament boogers - You will get a lot of ooze of the filament before things start printing. Be ready to wipe the nozzle before it sets down to start your print.
  • REALLY stringy threads. You get these all over and particularly at the end. It can stretch out so thin that spider web silk seems huge. It's just a minor annoyance and one I'll gladly accept for all the unique things you can do with TPU.
The biggest thing about TPU is PATIENCE! Don't try to do fast. I changed no extrusion settings (other than retraction) so the MacEwen extruder seems to be handling it all nicely.

The Quality Differences in PLA

First, this is from MY observations. Your mileage many vary.

I've bought four different brands of PLA since I started 3D printing and my results have mostly been good. My most recent challenging prints have been Polypanels. I struggled trying to get them to print so they would go together properly and finally found the breakthrough in the Creawsome Mod for Cura and the Ender 3. You can read more about this under the Creality Ender 3 Experiences section.

I have not paid more than $25 for a kilogram of PLA (yet) and I have found that price does have some influence on quality. Here's my ranking of what I've tried, from lowest to highest quality:

  • Generic PLA ($14). This was a disaster. I had a desire to have some bright orange filament and found "Luminous Orange" in a very generic filament on eBay. I ordered it and it came fairly quickly. The word "Luminous" is a quite a stretch for this color. It's really pretty dull. I gave it a try anyway. It seemed to print OK for a while and then I started having odd problems. It turned out that it was clogging up the works and I had to disassemble and clean the hot end. This spool of filament now sits on the shelf and I will not likely ever use it again. I also don't want to even give this to anybody knowing what it may do. I MAY try it on something that I print with the 0.8 mm nozzle.
  • MatterHackers Build Series ($20). This seems to be pretty decent and for most things it works fine. It does NOT do well with Polypanels though. The strength of the print isn't as good as my higher rated filaments. I ordered my second spool of filament from MatterHackers (PolyMaker's PolyLite in red) so I decided to try some of their own filament. I'm not unhappy with their filament but it's just not suitable for something that needs some strength.
  • Hatchbox PLA ($20 on Amazon). This was actually my FIRST filament (in silver) and it has performed quite well. I have a lot of parts printed for the Mini Delta in this filament and I continue to print things with it. It may very well be the first spool that I run out. I'll certainly buy another one. This does print Polypanels successfully.
  • PolyMaker PolyLite ($25). This has become my favorite of the inexpensive PLA filaments. I've printed a lot of printer enhancements (for both printers) in the red I ordered back in the beginning. I've recently bought a couple more spools (orange and teal) and I expect I will buy more. I know this is the best filament I have and when I have trouble printing something I switch off to this to get the job done. It prints Polypanels quite nicely and was the filament I was using to work out my problems printing the Polypanels.
That's it for PLA. If I try anything else I'll add it to the list but right now I'm thinking that I'll just stick with Hatchbox and PolyLite.