My Experience With 3D Printing
So I got an Ender 3V2...
For the past 10 years, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the 3D printing scene. At first, it was a hobby that was far too out of my budget to invest in and initially, I thought it was just some silly little thing for printing dorky models and little keychains. There used to be a guy at my university who used to sell 3D printed knickknacks for like $5 a piece. Electronics was more or less my specialty back then as I used to experiment with Arduino and breadboards in my dorm room though there wasn’t really that much I was able to accomplish with them apart from assisting in some lab experiments at the time. Then I heard about the Liberator!
In case if you aren’t aware, the Liberator is a completely 3D printed firearm that was developed many years ago which is sort of the spiritual successor to the old school Liberator pistol of WW2 heritage. The design is quite simple and it was ‘capable” of firing one single .380 ACP (aka 9mm Kurtz) before either blowing up into a million pieces of plastic shrapnel. It wasn’t very practical unless you did something with a barrel which would increase the lifespan to about 10 rounds at most in the best case scenario but it brought up an interesting concept in terms of what the technology can bring to the masses. Fast forward a couple of years later and now there are entire communities of hobbyist from around the world developing new firearms centered around classic designs like Glocks, Hi Points, AR15s, AKs, and even big caliber rifles like the CETME. Hybrid designs like the FGC9 are a big step up from the Liberator design that made news medias and concerned mothers shit bricks like there’s no tomorrow. The FGC9 (Fuck Gun Control 9) is a design that was touted as so simple to build, it can be constructed in places like Europe where guns and firearm parts are extremely difficult to come by or in places like Myanmar where 3D printed firearms are being used to fight against an authoritarian Junta at the time of writing this blog. The point is, with 3D printers, gun control and all forms of anti-self defense measures are completely obsolete/dead and my interest in 3D printing had sparked because of it.
Of course, guns aren’t the only reason why you may want a 3D printer. There’s plenty of other versatile uses for 3D printing such as modifying or repairing plastic equipment like headphones or vidya peripherals. As mentioned before, you can print little things like charms and keychains to really personalize your belongings. Printing stuff you’d normally order from somewhere else kind of pays off in some cases with a 3D printer. If it can be made out of plastic, it can be printed. The possibilities are endless when it comes to the sort of uses you can get out of printing objects in PLA, ABS, PETG, or Nylon to name a few. So far, I’ve been printing primarily with PLA and PLA+ variants since it’s the easiest material to work with in terms of heating and it has some decent strength properties especially with the PLA+ filaments. The only downside to using PLA is that it’s not very thermally resistant and the objects you print in PLA will probably deform if you leave them in a car on a hot summer day. For indoor or for non-thermal related projects. PLA is also an acceptable material for some firearm projects though you have to take into consideration that heat could be a problem with excessive use in some cases but for something like a Glock lower, you can get away with about 50-100 rounds mag dumps before you start to have some heat related issues with the frame. Otherwise, such frames can last for thousands of rounds if printed properly.
3D printing isn’t for the lazy minded to say the least. You have to be the kind of person who likes tinkering with settings and printing conditions. That’s probably what you’ll be doing for the majority of your time with a 3D printer. If that doesn’t sound amusing to you, it’s probably not the best hobby to get into. However, with trial and error, when you finally get that perfect print, it’s very rewarding and the next thing you know, you’ll be printing one project after another. It’s always a nice way to start getting into CAD design when you tire of printing other people’s designs. Remixes are highly encouraged and welcome to the hobby as most designs are open source and usually free to the public though some designers do put their works behind paywalls though it’s not always the case. With that said, I don’t think the learning curve with 3D printing isn’t that difficult. You have plenty of online resources to help you get started and if you can put some time into some research, you should be able to accomplish some nice prints. If it weren’t for some concerns I have with 3D printers, I would say everyone should get a 3D printer like an Ender 3 V2 (the one I currently own).
This hobby does have some downsides that I must mention. Especially considering these are problems I had run into since the first day I started printing with my Ender 3 V2. While PLA is an organic material that is advertised as “safe”. My allergies and lungs say otherwise! There is a weird smell when it comes to heating PLA and while it doesn’t necessarily smell bad, it’s noticeable. Some people claim it smells like baked cookies. I don’t know what planet these people live where baked cookies smell like burning plastic. It kind of smells like burning sugarcane in my case. It also causes my throat to hurt and my lungs to feel kind of clogged. This is kind of concerning because some research shows that 3D printing with PLA gives off plastic particles that do float around in the air and though they are very microscopic, they can be inhaled into your respiratory system. In the short term, it’s been said these particles are harmless and though some people report similar issues that I experience, it’s been said that nobody has become seriously ill with 3D printing. What these reports do not explain is what the long term effects of these particles have on the human body in the long run f things as 3D printing in the mainstream of things is a fairly recent activity with minimal to no research involved. Who knows if these particles will cause any kind of cancer or health issues down the line. I would rather not risk it. So I had no choice but to invest in an enclosure (tent) to keep these scents and particles out of my room. Ideally, you would want to put a 3D printer somewhere like a garage or a workshop but I don’t have access to any additional rooms other than my bedroom. There are probably other means of dealing with this issue but they are beyond my capabilities in terms of what I can do in my room. You might also want a HEPA filter for your room for good measure.
The other concern I have has to do with the potential for fire. The tent I specifically bought has a fire-retardant interior that should prevent (or slow down) the process of burning my entire room to a crisp if something were to go seriously wrong with my 3D printer. I keep a fire extinguisher on hand just in case as well as a smoke detector for those nights where I have to keep the printer running. PLA doesn’t really need a high temperature compared to more advance plastics but better safe than sorry in my point of view. They can also be quite noisy too though that hasn’t really bother me from having it run while I sleep. My room fan is already loud enough as it is for me to even hear my 3D printer running. The Ender 3 V2 has some quiet motors but the fan is quite noticeable.
Oh and you better start to like metric because everything form temperatures to measurements is entirely done with Metric Units. Not a huge deal in my case because I’ve been dealing with metric since high school. If you’re an Imperial Units chad, it wouldn’t hurt to learn metric for 3D printing. I personally can’t visualize in metric but I’m still able to work with it regardless. Such is the life of a burger.
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