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Posted by on May 30, 2013 in Reviews |

3D Systems’ CubeX Duo 3D Printer Review- ABS

3D Systems’ CubeX Duo 3D Printer Review- ABS

Check out my previous CubeX Duo 3D Printer Reviews

Click here for my link to my initial review of the CubeX

Click here for the link to my follow up review

I received my spool of ABS material last week and I’m pumped.  I knew the first part that I wanted to make… A new 5-blade cleaver prop.  The best way (and really the only way) to add supports to a model is to print it in a different material.  My ideal setup for a part is to print the part in PLA for minimal distortion, and print the supports in ABS.

For those of you not familiar with ABS, it’s an ornery material. It has a high thermal modulus- this means as the material cools, it wants to contract. A material with a low thermal coefficient keeps it shape as it cools with no distortion, i.e. PLA, and Nylon even more so. With ABS, as each layer is being extruded, the previous layers are all in different cooling points and thus under increasingly greater stresses that want to ‘shrink’ or contract. These stresses increase from the top of the model (at that point in time) where it’s hot from just being extruded, to the bottom initial layer that has had the most time to cool. The end result is a model that will want to curl up and pull itself off the build plate. A model can even pull away from itself in the middle if the layers do not adhere well enough to each other. So what’s the solution you ask? Some other printers include a heated build plate and an enclosed build volume to control and slow the cooling to minimize the stresses and warping. 3D Systems claims to have solved that problem without the previous solutions by having an additive in their proprietary material. Does it work? Sometimes. The larger and thicker the part, the less effective it is, but that applies to any warping solution for an ABS printer.

As I said in my note above, ABS becomes problematic when it is long or wide, but if it’s thin like a raft structure it’s fine.  The problems start when that part starts getting 5-10+ layers thick.

Dual material print, white ABS raft and supports with red (really prints almost an orange) PLA part.  With a thin layer of glue on the print bed, the ABS adhered fine.

Dual material print, white ABS raft and supports with red (really prints almost an orange) PLA part. With a thin layer of glue on the print bed, the ABS adhered fine.

Breaking the ABS supports off produces a very satisfying 'snap'.  And it worked like charm on this part.  There's still a few ABS crumbs on the part and some water droplets from releasing the part from the build plate.

Breaking the white ABS supports off produces a very satisfying ‘snap’. And it worked like charm on this part. There’s still a few ABS crumbs on the part and some water droplets from releasing the part from the build plate.

The reason the white ABS supports only went out a fraction of the leading edge of the blade is because the blade edge was close enough to vertical (less than 45 degrees from vertical). That allows the new material to adhere to itself properly and not sag. When the part face being built is greater than 45 deg (measured from vertical down) the new layer does not have enough support.

The CubeX software will insert the raft and support structures automatically.  On more complicated parts, I’ve had to build my own, export it as a different part body from my CAD software, then select ‘no support structures’ on the build options.  So far, it was worked well.  You might notice the minor warping on the blade tips in the first picture.  I believe that is from the surface area being so small, that as the extruder goes around depositing material on each of the five blades, the material doesn’t have time to completely harden- it’s moving around pretty fast at this point.  This causes the material that’s already extruded on the part so warp as the new material is extruded out.  If I build this part again, I will actually build it inverted from this orientation.  This will put the trailing edge of the blade tips down, and the ‘front’ of the prop at the top of the build.  I’ll need a little more support structure to start, but I believe that will make the whole part print really well.  Learn something new with every print, huh.

Lastly but certainly not least…

I began printing parts for other companies!  I finally have the settings and nuances of the machine squared away and I’m available for work.  I’m currently doing some parts for a company that is ordering custom extruded aluminum parts and custom injection molded end caps, but they need to check their fits and tolerances first.  This is a great way for them to get their hands on a sample of the extruded material and end caps without investing the tens of thousands of dollars in the necessary tooling.

First test for a part for a new customer.  It's about 0.7" square and 6" tall and took about 2 hours to print.  VERY cheap compared to a machined or extruded prototype.

First test for a part for a new customer. It’s about 0.7″ square and 6″ tall and took about 2 hours to print. VERY cheap compared to a machined or extruded prototype.  The part held tolerances of +- 0.02″.

If you or your company is looking for outsourced 3D printing but can’t get over paying hundreds of dollars for a part from the internet, contact me at design@tomnuessen.com  with your part or idea and I can have a quote to you within 24 hours and your order to you, in most cases, in less than five days.

Please check back for further updates on the printer, as well as updates on my capabilities and availability.  Thanks for reading!

Tom Nuessen

As I mentioned above, check out my other posts about my CubeX Duo

Click here for my link to my initial review of the CubeX

Click here for the link to my follow up review