Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Laywoo Magic

My eldest son's class is doing a Harry Potter theme this year. So he had the bright idea of 3D printing his own wand (which he designed in TinkerCad). Of course I saw this as a perfect opportunity pick up and try out a roll of Laywoo from Materhackers.
The final result feels a little more like paper than wood. Maybe it's because it's so light and thin like all 3D prints are, but the surface also isn't very wood-like. Still, it's more wood-like than plastic and made for a very interesting, and light weight wand. But it wasn't without it's drama.

To simplify matters, since laywoo can print at a range of temperatures, I went with the PLA settings, 185C nozzle, 60C glass with hairspray print bed. At those settings the stuff is failingly drooly, leaving a very visible seem whenever it switched parts. The picture above was my first semi-successful print. I was printing the handle and staff separately and the staff became unstuck. So I stopped the print when the handle finished and then printed the staff separately. This time without the second part there was still a seam, similar to what prompted me to develop the sacrificial tower technique. Plus, printing something so tall and thin cooked the filament a little more because of the hot nozzle proximity causing the staff to be darker than the handle, and even darker at the tip where it got even more messed up. So it seems the choices are sacrificial tower with drools or no sacrificial tower with burned filament. And I may need to revisit to HPB temp, but the probably may have simply been too small a surface area to remain well stuck.

But the biggest problem came from how it comes in a loose coil. I tried putting it on a spool, but the stuff is so stiff, much like printing with a thin twig, that it can't be wrapped tightly on the spool so there's almost no gain from putting in on the spool. In fact the print I did on the spool, because it was so loose, got tangled and broke my 1 coil into 2 smaller coils. In the end my solution was to put the coil in an empty ice cream bucket and monitor the feed closely, pausing to fix any knots that inevitably formed. Every time a knot formed my attempts to fix it broke the filament where it entered the printer and I ended up unknotting the now loose spool, waiting for the print to use up to the broken end, and then feeding in the new rest of the coil. This happened at least twice in the successful print of the staff and both times it was a royal pain.

On top of that I had a problem that I've had with PLA, where if it cools in the nozzle, like if I don't keep the printer printing all day long, it clogs pretty hard and I need to go through a unloading and reloading process. I don't know if this is common for everyone, but it's one of the reasons I don't use much PLA. Coupled with this stuffs fragility, it's hardly worth the novelty. I may offer custom wand printing services on my Etsy store to use up what I've got, but unless I find a better system before I run out of it, when I'm done with this coil I probably won't be getting another. This initial experience is not very encouraging.

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