3D Printing FAQ
Last Updated: April 18th, 2022
What is 3D Printing?
3D printing is the process of taking 3D models and printing them into real objects, either with plastic filament (FDM) or UV-curing resin (SLA).
3D printing is still relatively new, and far from perfect. Please do not set expectations too high, as all prints have imperfections, even those created with industrial machines!
FDM vs SLA Printing
The most common type of printer is an FDM printer, which takes a spool of coiled plastic filament and heats the filament while extruding it through a nozzle layer by layer to slowly form an object. This is the most common type of 3d printing, and probably what you are thinking of when you think of 3d printing.
FDM printing is useful for stronger prints, functional prints, and any prints that don't require extensive attention to detail. 3D printed stress reliefs are a great example of what you can use FDM printing for!
Another type of 3d printing is called SLA printing, which uses epoxy resin in a large vat that is slowly cured into plastic layer by layer, using lasers inside of the machine. This type of printing is much less common, but it has great benefits when printing smaller models that require much finer attention to detail. Miniatures, figurines, and jewelry are all typically 3d printed much better in resin opposed to FDM.
How much does 3D Printing cost?
We currently only offer FDM printing services.
3D printing in most cases is usually very affordable. Pricing depends on the size of the print, time to print, and the type of material used. Larger prints use up more material and take longer to print, so they will cost more.
We are generally very competitive and reasonable with printing costs, so you should expect to pay less for most prints compared to other services online. Please keep in mind, that we do not use an industrial machine. This helps us keep our costs lower, but our prints might not match in quality to something printed industrially. If you need something printed completely perfectly, we might not have the printing service meant for you, which is completely okay!
Note: Our machines are still well calibrated and very suitable for most home printing use cases. If you would like to see some examples of our prints, please check this page here:
FDM Filament Types
There are several different types of plastic that can be printed with FDM machines. They all have different use cases and require different printing processes. The most common filaments are PLA, PETG, ABS, and TPU; we will cover them quickly here.
We currently only offer two different types of plastic, PLA and PETG. We will offer more options as we become more comfortable with printing them.
PLA is the most common type of filament - its cheap, has vibrant colors, and prints easier with much less post processing needed compared to other filaments. Most FDM 3D printing is done with PLA.
PLA can deform when exposed to high heat, and is more brittle than PETG. It works great for anything kept indoors, anything that needs to be printed with supports, and anything that needs to be printed cleanly and nicely (as it is the easiest filament to print).
PETG is another common filament. It is slightly more expensive and difficult to print, but it does have some advantages compared to PLA.
PETG is a much tougher filament, with better physical strength and temperature resistance. It can handle outdoor usage much better than PLA can, and works much better for mechanical parts as it can handle much more stress without breaking.
It requires much more post processing after printing due to excessive stringing and seams, and is overall more difficult to print due to its stickiness and higher required temps.
ABS is a difficult filament to print. It requires an enclosure with stable high heat, and proper ventilation of fumes released when printing.
ABS excels in printing costs and temperature resistance. ABS is one of the cheapest filaments, and can withstand far greater temperatures than other filaments, making it a great option for any parts or prints that will be exposed to high heat. For example, and prints for your car would be great in ABS!
TPU is a flexible filament and is a blend of rubber and plastic. It is quite expensive and difficult to print - it must be printed extremely slowly and requires modifications to most printers to allow them to print without clogging or jamming issues.
TPU works great for printing items such as phone cases, tubes, and gaskets. It also works great for any prints that require high impact resistance, as the flexible material can stretch to absorb much more impact without breaking.
What are the advantages of 3d printing?
3d printing is an amazing tool when used for rapid prototyping, quick and temporary solutions to problems, and inventing unique quality-of-life improvements to real life routines.
In the mouse community, we most commonly use 3d printing to create baseplates to place wireless PCBs onto to create custom wireless mice that are better suited for our personal preferences using a mashup of existing mice.
What are the disadvantages of 3d printing?
3D printing is nowhere near perfect. Most prints will not come out perfectly, especially with FDM machines. This is most noticeable with any printed overhangs, bridges, or support areas - all of which require the printer to print in mid air and will look noticeably worse. There are endless factors at play when 3d printing, so even the same object being printed twice can include small differences.
3D printing can occasionally be "sloppy" with stringing or layer lines and seams visible on prints, and almost all prints will require some type of post processing. Most stringing and excess filament can be removed with tweezers or some light sanding.
What is stringing?
Stringing is when filament oozes from one location to another in the middle of a print. FDM printers use retractions to minimize this effect (where the filament is quickly pulled away when the printer moves without printing), but plenty of prints still have stringing due to the nature of the print moves required to print them. Stringing can easily be removed with some tweezers, or by rubbing them off with a towel.
What is a "seam"?
FDM printing will always produce a Z-seam, which is a tiny blob of excess plastic on the outside of a print which indicates where the has printer raised up a level in height. It can be "hidden" on many prints as they can blend in with corners and internal geometry, but they cannot be hidden on certain objects such as round objects or simple shapes.
Unfortunately, the Z seam cannot be removed. When FDM printing, it will always be there. It can be minimized through seam placement, retraction settings, and post processing, but it will always exist.
What printer do you use?
We currently use an FDM machine created by Prusa called the Prusa Mini. Prusa is known for amazing machine reliability, upgradability, and support.
We've spent quite a long time with our machine, learning the strengths and weaknesses of 3D printing, and we stand behind the quality of prints that we are able to produce.
What is the difference between the regular and glitter / matte filaments?
Glitter filaments are manufactured with glitter additives which are then later reproduced in the prints. Matte filaments are blended with certain additives to make them less reflective to light.
Certain filament blends can hide layer lines and seams better than others. Glitter and Matte filaments do the best job of hiding layer lines, Z-seams, and other small imperfections. However, they do not always print as perfectly as regular filaments, as they are blended with other materials to give them their glitter or matte properties. For the most part, they are still fantastic, and we recommend them.
Our guides are not published live yet. Once they are, we will place them down here.
In the meantime, there are plenty of amazing guides already on iFixit for you to use.
Thanks for your patience and see you soon!