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The Complete List of Tools Every 3D Printing Enthusiast Should Have

How time flies! A couple of years back—in the 90’s to be precise—3D printing was listed as one of the cutting edge technologies destined to revolutionize the world in general and the manufacturing industry in particular. But not even in man’s wildest dreams, did we foresee the impact this phenomenon would have in our daily lives as well as on every professional field.

Today, 3D printing is here to stay as millions of people are now taken advantage of its ability to create art by either becoming hobbyist or professionals in the continuously advancing field of 3D printing.

Now for those who fall into the ‘hobbyist category’, this should be viewed as a slightly more advanced guide on some of the tools you would require in taking your art to the next level. This guide will contain a short review of the listed items, their uses and approximate cost to help you make more informed purchasing decisions.

1. Refine with a Rotary Tool

There are certain sanding, cutting and smoothing tasks you may have undertaken only to discover that your traditional tools—pliers, knife, screw drivers etc.—couldn’t execute these tasks accurately or without slightly deforming the printed model.  This calls for a more powerful tool which can provide the leverage and strength needed to accurately handle the stated activities. The Dremel 4000 is a high performance rotary tool ergonomically designed to simplify handling regardless of your cut angle.

More importantly, the Dremel 4000 comes with multiple tool head accessories which are suited to cutting, smoothing and burring tasks. Its attachments are powered by a variable speed motor as well as an electronic feedback to track its speed.

Image source: Dremel

2. Keep Watch with a Wireless Camera

Every 3D printing enthusiasts has his or her time keeping method when printing time-consuming projects. Some set timers on their printers when printing components, while others have ears which are fine-tuned to understanding every sound their printer emits but there is an easier way. Installing a camera to cover your work space while receiving periodic updates on your mobile device is a much better method of keeping track of projects. Blink is a wireless camera with approximately a years’ battery life. After installation, you can watch live feeds on your mobile device and also receive motion alerts if you are a parent who suffers from the ‘snooping kid’s syndrome’.

Image source: Amazon

3. Light it up with a Flashlight

Although more modern domestic 3D printers are being built with integrated lighting to aid a user’s sight, the average 3D printer in today’s market does not come with this feature. Therefore, the responsibility of strategically lighting up your workspace falls on you. But if like most of us, you still experience some blind spots when printing or finishing a model, you should consider purchasing a LED flashlight to increase all-round visibility.

Image source: Fenix Lighting

4. Track Temperature with a Laser Thermometer

As a true 3D printing professional, it is important to note that you are now playing in the big leagues and as such, it is important to keep track of every aspect of the 3D printing process that may affect the quality of your work. Some of these aspects to track are; inadequate heating when using a heated print bed, the temperature of the 3D printer’s nozzle and the heat distribution to the outer edges of the heat bed. The Kkmoon contactless laser thermometer is the perfect tool for keeping track of your workspace’s temperature and at $24 this precise thermometer with an intuitive display screen is a steal.

Image source: Amazon

5. Build Models on a Polycarbonate Board

Carrying out 3D printing projects by printing on the traditional masking tape should be considered the ‘old way of doing things’ for they get in the way when removing completed builds. On the other hand, polycarbonate boards are a thin yet durable alternative to masking tapes and they provide an optimal surface for 3d printed models to adhere to. Another added advantage it has over its contemporary is its re-usable nature which eliminates the need for constant replacements and waste.

Image source: 3D Printing Materials Store

6. Dry Filaments with Desiccant (or a dry-cabinet, if you are really serious)

As a 3D enthusiast, you must have definitely realised that water is an enemy to your equipment and workstation which means it must be kept out by every means necessary. Most people I know make use of sealed plastic bags and containers to keep out the moisture from their filament stash. While this isn’t completely fail-proof putting desiccant bags into the container or bag may prolong the lifespan of your materials.

Image source: Amazon

There is now an alternative that is better than Desiccant and much cheaper than a Dry-Cabinet. Meet PrintDry. PrintDry is a filament feeder that actively dries the filaments placed within, much like a dry-cabinet or oven.

Image source: Printdry

7. Size Difficult Angles with the Sliding Bevel

When working on small designs with intricate angular edges, the need to accurately measure small angles become extremely important in order to retain your model’s exact dimensions.  In such circumstances, your digital angle finder cannot read these minute angles. Therefore, purchasing a sliding bevel as an added accessory to compliment efforts of a digital angle finder is the way to go. To do this, simply fit the bevel onto the angle and then use the digital angle finder to read it. The sliding bevel can also be used as a check and balancing instrument for maintaining angle consistency along the length of an object.

Image source: Amazon

8. Capturing Curves with the Contour Gauge

The contour gauge is a tool designed to accurately capture the profiles or outline of surfaces spotting multiple curves. For a better understanding, simply imagine trying to build a holder to stick to your car’s dashboard and the difficulties you encounter trying to accurately get the dimensions of its curves. Simply slap the gauge on the dashboard and then trace its shape on paper. You can then import this shape into your digital model or CAD application as either an SVG or DXF file, before proceeding to the 3D printing process.

Image source: Amazon

9. Troubleshoot with a Mechanic’s Stethoscope

This tool is for the serious hobbyist and DIY enthusiast who are willing to dig deep when solving problems associated with his or her 3D printer. The mechanic’s stethoscope is equipped to help with the locating of errant noises emanating from your printer. Simply press the probe firmly to faulty areas to listen to the sounds coming from them.

Image source: Amazon

10. Computer Aided Design Software

The next professional stage for every competent  artist looking to gain some renown is creating original art works that showcase one’s creativity and the world of 3D printing is no different. Mastering the interface of a computer aided design application (CAD), gives you the freedom to be creative while viewing the results of your art in real-time. With CAD, you can design virtually anything you choose and import the finished product for printing on your 3D printer. This gives you the unlimited creative control you desire that cannot be experienced using a 3D scanner or purchasing stock 3D models from the internet.

Image source: 3D Printing Materials Store

So there you have it, our top 10 3D printing tools listed for those looking to expand their abilities to the next level. Note that you can easily purchase some of these items online or at your local store depending on your location. In conclusion, it is important to note that practice makes perfect, so keep surprising everyone including yourself, by building innovative items which could add that little piece of magic to our world.

This article first appeared on the 3D Printing Materials Store.


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