Our stream this week was a little different than they have been in the past, we counted down 10 different things that we wish we had known since starting our print farm. Some of you may not know, but 3DQue started well before we released the Quinly kit, and back then our main focus was automation of 3D printing in an industrial setting. Even back in those days, we ran a very large print farm of Ender 3s, so we have gained a lot of experience and learned a lot about what to do and what not to do in a print farm. Some of these tips are modifications to printers, while others are modifications to your workflow. So for all of you who hope to start up a print farm, or are even just interested in the process, these tips could become very useful.
Optimize 1 Printer Before Getting More
A highly modified Ender 3, not the best candidate for a print farm unless all upgrades have been thoroughly tested.
One mistake we made early on was modifying our existing print farm without enough testing of how the upgrade will work and affect the printer. You’re reading Mod Mondays, so you probably enjoy modifying printers but if you are relying on your printers for your business you have to be more cautious. You can’t just jump the gun on whatever upgrade looks the best, parts should be thoroughly tested on one of your printers before you even think about investing the time and energy into installing it onto every other printer in your shop.
Invest in Reliability and Time Savings
The cost of adding automation can pay itself off in human hours.
Costs add up when you’re modifying a whole farm’s worth of printers, so you want to make sure that when you spend money on your printers, it’s going into something that will save you money in the long run. Things like more reliable hotends, extruders, or a Quinly kit are generally good because they will save human hours which are very costly.
Get involved with the community
Discord and Reddit can be great places to find other 3D Printing enthusiasts to help you out!
One of the best parts of 3D printing is the amazing community. Troubleshooting problems gets very frustrating but if it’s happening to you, it’s very likely that someone else has had the same problem and fixed it. Being involved in Discord, Reddit, and Facebook groups that are centred around 3D printing gives you access to many very knowledgeable people that can help you out. When running a farm, down time gets costly so it pays to have people that can help you diagnose and fix problems.
Consider climate control
Parts can warp and split at incorrect ambient temperatures.
All polymers, even the “easier” ones will perform poorly at extreme or fluctuating temperatures. Not enough cooling, being too cold, and having a draft can all be detrimental to otherwise functional gcode. When setting up your farm, don’t put it in a cold, drafty basement or a greenhouse, try and control the ambient temperature to match the requirements of your material. On our farm, we had to install an air conditioner to get it down to the right temperature, and it drastically improved the quality of our prints and the yield rate of our printers.
Keep it organized!
Note the green cards here which indicated that the printers had been fixed recently
3D Printing is messy. Filament falls everywhere off of failed prints and loose spools roll easily, but try your best to keep the farm itself organized. Giving yourself the ability to easily check if a printer is working or what needs to be done to get it working will save you tons of time. Also, having a system for sending and removing prints will make organizing jobs so much easier. Find a system that works for you and you’ll have great success automating huge orders.
Consider redesigning parts
Flat and smooth parts like these face shields are ideal for printing.
Oftentimes, customers will come to you with prints that aren’t very printable. You might be inclined to just use many supports or print it on a raft, but in our experience it is usually worth the effort to redesign the part to print as fast and easily as possible. Optimizing the print gives a better looking final product, higher success rate when printing, and faster print times. When we printed face shields in 2020, we were able to get incredibly low print times and high yields because of how well the parts translated to 3D Printing.
Optimize your slicing
Much like redesigning a part, reslicing can save you hours of print time and massively increase your success rate. There are many nuances to slicing, and we could make many articles with how many tips we have for it, but when running a farm you will have to practice it a lot and you will learn tons about how to do best.
Avoid large batch prints
Sequential prints like these can give much higher yields than batch prints which all print at the same time.
Something that’s been surprising to learn from our experience at 3DQue is that batch printing is usually not the best way to approach large orders. With batches, there’s a relatively high failure rate of parts falling over during the printing process, bringing other parts down with them. There’s also surface quality issues that come up when stringing forms between the parts, which can also make for costly post-processing. For small parts, we like to use the sequential printing setting in Cura which allows the parts to be printed one after the other without waiting for cooldown and removal in between. For everything else, printing one at a time seems to work really well.
Use large nozzles
The printing time of these key cap display boxes were reduced dramatically after switching to 0.8mm nozzles.
This has become a favourite among the 3DQue staff. 0.8mm nozzles have allowed us to drastically reduce print time for many of our parts. All Quinly parts are printed on 0.8mm now and it has the added benefit of increasing the strength of the finished parts as well. If you only have a 0.4mm nozzle, you can set the line width to 0.8 however you will also have to reduce your print speed. We highly recommend 0.8 for industry as you will see your print times go down as your strength goes up.
Standardize your filament
Running different colours of the same brand can keep slicing time low.
The final point is something that we’ve struggled with a lot. When running a farm, you will go through a lot of filament, so you need to find a reliable source that gives you consistent quality. Many filament manufacturers slightly change formulas or suppliers as time goes on, which is fine for consumer 3D Printing, but can ruin a production run. Make friends with suppliers and ensure that you have consistent quality so that you can keep your slicer profiles and maintain maximum efficiency.
We hope this helps improve your print farm goals! If you want more detail, we have uploaded the whole livestream with timestamps to our youtube channel along with a highlight video so make sure to check them out. Do you run a print farm with Quinly? Send us a photo of your setup for a chance to be featured on our next stream!