Sometimes, success is defined by preparation. Therefore, be prepared. If you can never find the right tool for that screw or the perfect blade for that crevice, it’s probably time to fill your 3D printing toolbox.
In the first part of this article, we list eight essential tools for your 3D printing experience. Then, towards the end, we include some non-essential, but still very helpful tools. In both cases, we categorize tools as useful either for operation and maintenance or for post-processing.
Prepare to consider the best tools of the trade!
What it is: Sometimes, prints just won’t budge. You’ve tried pushing. You’ve tried pulling. You’ve tried shaking your printer upside-down (don’t do that). It’s time to sharpen your 3D printing toolbox with a print removal knife (or knives). Chances are you already have a putty or paint knife that works just fine. But if not, 3D print removal knives are readily available for between $5 and $20 USD. Otherwise, simply print a handle for a blade to easily remove prints. Thingiverse has some great ideas.
What it is: The description for screwdrivers and hex keys (or Allen Wrenches) is pretty self-explanatory. Screw and bolts come loose, these tools help tighten them up. If you’ve owned a 3D printer for any amount of time, you know that the usefulness of these tools cannot be overstated.
Note: Make sure to use metric or imperial tools depending on your printer’s hardware. Stripped screws are no fun!
What it is: Especially if you’re not printing on glass or a smooth printing surface, build plate adhesion can be difficult. Here’s the solution: Simply lay strips of masking tape (or blue painter’s tape) on your build platform, and print away! Be sure to use wide masking tape. This will cut down on the time it takes to cover your bed and create a smoother surface for your print. This is a definite must-have for your 3D printing toolbox.
What it is: Having problems with build plate adhesion? Use adhesive! Now, glue sticks and adhesive sprays are produced specifically for 3D printing. However, typical glue sticks or hairspray work fine!
What it is: Pliers and wrenches are necessary editions to any maker’s toolbox. Whether tightening nuts, removing the printhead, or cleaning nozzles, pliers and wrenches make the job a lot easier. Pliers can also double as wire or filament cutters. They can even help you clean prints by removing strings or support structures.
What it is: Sometimes a plastic ruler just won’t cut it. It’s time to pull out the caliper. Most calipers measure with an accuracy of up to at least 10 microns! With such accuracy, you can measure test prints for printer calibration and ensure your prototypes are precise. A digital caliper is a must-have tool for any 3D modeler.
What it is: A utility knife, commonly an X-Acto Knife, is an essential tool for post-processing prints. Strings? No problem! Annoyingly protruding brim? No problem! Stubborn support structures? Zero. Problems. With an assortment of blades, you can even clean tight or rounded corners that would be otherwise impossible to improve.
What it is: According to Merriam-Webster, sandpaper is a “paper covered on one side with abrasive material (such as sand) glued fast and used for smoothing and polishing.” And that is exactly what it does for 3D prints. It’s helpful to have an assortment of sandpaper grits to gradually smooth prints to perfection.
Note: Sandpaper does discolor prints, so be sure to paint them or get used to the awkward white.
The previous list provides you with the best, must-have tools for your 3D printing toolbox, but here are some additional tools that will make your 3D printing experience even better.
Operation & Maintenance:
License: The text of "3D Printing Tools – 8 Must-Haves (And More) for Your Toolbox" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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