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3D Printing 4mm Models on Home
Fused Filament Printers

A look what can and cannot be done


The notes and jottings recorded here are the result of my experiments with 3D printing on 'RepRap' type Fused Filament Printers I use as an aid to developing my kits and chassis. They are intended to neither enthuse or dissuade but rather enlighten the reader to the possible application of home 3D printers to our hobby.

Brian Madge 2013

Solution Graphics
Last updated 3 June, 2014
©Brian Madge 2013
Testing the theory Page 2
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So much for the theory now let's put it in to practice.The 3D model I have selected to print for this exercise is a narrow gauge Hunslet PL in 4mm scale (009). Note the omission of fine detail which would not reproduce on a fused filament printer.


Fig.4 The test piece

I do not propose to include details of how to use 3D CAD packages to draw and prepare the models for printing as there are several available, the use of each requiring a separate description. Once the preserve of trained specialists modern intuitive software has now made it possible to self- tutor oneself to produce the required drawings at home. Drawing the individual components is also easier than producing a one-piece body shell. Fig.5 Component parts in the orientation they will be printed.

The platen on which the parts are printed is flat and smooth; consequently any faces printed directly against the platen will have a smooth finish and that has been taken into consideration in both the design and orientation for printing. The components will not be printed all in one go because we have the option to vary several parameters to achieve best results depending largely on wall thickness and how solid the piece is. These parameters are set during slicing of the 3D form to produce the code for the layers, perimeters, and infilling. 3D printing is also a lengthy process and any failure part way through would mean the loss of all pieces. So let's get printing. The printer I am using for this exercise may surprise you as it is the lowest cost fused filament printer currently available. The printer is a Huxley model from the RepRapPro stable, the only modification being the fitting of a 0.3 mm nozzle to replace the standard 0.5 mm nozzle. The RepRap printers were developed by Dr Adrian Bowyer whose vision was to build a machine capable of reproducing itself and on which most home fused filament printers are based. The printer is supplied as a kit of parts many of which are printed by other RepRaps. The Huxley has a heated platen as standard that enables one to print using ABS plastic, my preferred material for this type of work. PLA, a corn based biodegradable material, is the more popular material for use with home printers in view of its lower extrusion temperatures and greater range of colours, it is however more expensive and I find that unless paying premium prices the quality can be annoyingly inconsistent across batches. ABS abrades better than PLA and is therefore easier to clean up.


All content ©Brian Madge 2014

Last updated 3 June, 2014