We’re now into the traditional last-minute rush to get the last Christmas presents bought, and lockdown hasn’t helped this year. Hopefully you’re doing better at picking out gifts than I am, but if you’re still looking for 3D printing-related gifts this post might help you out!
An actual printer is an obvious gift, and we’ve covered a few of those in the last couple of weeks, but what if your favourite 3D printing enthusiast already has a printer they’re happy with? Don’t worry; there are plenty of 3D printing accessories that help make life easier and deliver better-quality prints. In fact you might want to pick up a few of them yourself.
Print bed upgrades
The beds that come with most printers are… well, they’re OK. It’s rare to find one that’s terrible. Unfortunately it’s just as rare to find one that’s really good. That’s a pity, because a good-quality bed helps your projects adhere firmly as they print, then come off easily when they’re finished. A replacement bed that’s coated with borosilicate glass is ideal. They’re very heat-resistant, which pretty much eliminates warping in the bed, and that helps avoid warping your prints, too. The surface of borosilicate glass also helps material stick to it, so these are a really good upgrade.
Nozzle cleaning kits
Blocked extruder nozzles can be incredibly annoying. They’re also hard to clear, and trying to do it with a bit of bent wire can easily damage the nozzle. Luckily there are nozzle cleaning kits available, with tools to fit any of the common nozzle sizes. One of these is an ideal gift – and you should probably invest in one yourself, too.
Filament storage containers
For something that’s basically plastic string, printer filament is surprisingly delicate. If you unwrap a spool and use some, then leave it on a shelf for a couple of weeks, you’re apt to get a nasty surprise when you use it again. That’s because it tends to pick up dust and – much worse – moisture from the air. If any of that moisture finds its way into the extruder it quickly boils, and that leads to broken filament or bubbles in your print.
The solution is to store your filament in an airtight container, with a couple of desiccant sachets. That will keep it nice and dry, so no stray droplets wreck your work. Companies like PrintDry sell stackable, airtight containers that keep your filament safe and out of the way.
The Raspberry Pi is a tiny mini-computer that costs less than £45, and it can be used to add lots of functions to a 3D printer. You can set it up to let you control the printer remotely, or even watch your prints with a webcam while you’re out. There are lots of printing apps written to run on the Pi, and it’s not that hard to write your own, either. This is a really useful little accessory.
Well-chosen 3D printing accessories make a huge difference to printing, and there are a lot to choose from. They’re idea gifts for any enthusiast, and that includes yourself. So if you’ve been scraping prints off with an old butter knife, or cleaning your nozzles with a bent paperclip, Christmas is a good excuse to treat yourself to some better tools.