Monthly Archives: July 2013

ABS Printing, First Layer

It’s possible to get a mirror finish on your first layer when printing with ABS on kapton tape. Make sure your bed is level and give the kapton tape a quick wipe with ABSynthe; dampen a paper towel with acetone, rub it a few times across a failed print, and then wipe your kapton tape with the residue.

Look closely and you can see the little folds left in the print from bumps and bubbles in the kapton. I’ve given up trying to get my kapton to be perfectly smooth, because I have enough things in my life that give me agita. A few little wrinkles aren’t going to make your print fail if your bed’s level and you’ve got an ABSynthe wipe on your kapton.

If the bottom of your print looks like this, you might have a little trouble getting it off the build platform. I’ve had my best results giving the side of the print a little tap with a hammer while holding my build platform in place. It helps if the platform’s still warm from the print.

This print of a Masonry Bloxen uses Filabot’s recycled ABS at 250°C on a 110° heated bed, on a Replicator1.

What a difference a year makes.

I’ve been printing with my Replicator1 for just about a year and a half now. Here’s what my Penny Catapult prints looked like when I started out. (This print’s a veteran of many Seej battles.)

And here’s what my prints look like after countless hours of learning and frustration and failure and learning.

That cross-grain seam in the catapult’s side arm is probably caused by two pieces of blue painters’ tape butting up against one another. I do all my PLA printing on painters’ tape whether I’m using my Rep1 or Printrbot Simple.

One major difference between these two prints is that the top is ABS and the bottom is PLA– after a year of working with both I’d have to say I definitely prefer PLA. It smells better and heats up more quickly, which saves precious minutes of printer warming when repeatedly iterating through a design.

You can get a mirror-finish base with ABS, but apart from that I can’t see a reason to bother with it. Most of my stuff doesn’t wind up in high-stress situations so the added strength isn’t much of a draw for me.

Filabot Recycled ABS: Print all the things!

As the last bloxen rolls off the print bed my adventure with Filabot’s recycled ABS concludes, and now it’s time to award XP.

Here’s what I was able to print with a single spool of ABS. All of these models are available from The Forge.

Marshmallow Mangonel on the Printrbot Simple

downloadWhen I designed the Penny Catapult to fit on a Replicator1, assuming that printers were only going to get bigger. But the new crop of smaller, inexpensive printers coming down the pike requires a Seej engine that can be printed on a smaller build platform.

Enter the Marshmallow Mangonel. It’ll still throw a penny, but includes a second throwing arm designed for non-coin projectiles; marshmallows, gumballs, magnets, whatever you’ve got lying around that needs to be parabolized. You can find the Mangonel and its bigger brethren in the Seej Engines category in The Forge.

If this is your first exposure to Seej, head over to and grab yourself a starter set. Get printing and then get your tabletop wargaming on.

Penny Ballista Fail

download Still using the demo spool of recycled ABS supplied to me by Filabot. When this print doesn’t fail it creates a Penny Ballista that’ll easily launch Abe across the Oval Office.

I left my Replicator1 unattended for a few minutes and came back to this. This fail isn’t due to any flaw in the filament– if you look closely you can see that the texture of the filament’s very even. Unfortunately, robots don’t do what we want them to do, they do what we tell them to do, and the slicing step of this print went to Wallyworld at some point.

I’ve been having this problem with some models sliced in MakerWare lately; it doesn’t seem to want to add a solid bottom layer to some prints. So I hopped back to ReplicatorG and it sliced just fine; see my previous post.

Penny Ballista with Filabot Recycled ABS

download I’m about halfway through the demo spool that Filabot shipped out to me a few weeks ago so I could test their ABS recycling program.

The spool’s given up all pretense of maintaining its orange color and has now faded completely to ABS Natural. This is intentional on Filabot’s part because they’ve sent me what they call an extruder purge– basically a spool created while cleaning a color out of the Filabot.

Earlier I speculated that the recycled ABS was more brittle than other ABSes, but I found that to be a quirk of a short stretch of the filament. I did get a little more powdering and snapped filaments than usual for a while, but a few meters into the spool the problem went away.

This type of problem is consistent with other rolls of ABS I’ve used in the past and as far as I’m concerned it’s just part of hobbyist 3D printing. All ABSes are not created equal and there’s going to be some gremlins along the way.

This ballista will easily launch a U.S. penny across the room using a single rubber band, and I’ll betcha it’ll crack your fancy triple-pane thermal windows or ding your stainless steel fridge. Be careful with this thing and don’t shoot the cat.

Flagrant stagecraft alert: There’s a twist tie holding the nock in firing position for the photo.