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3D Printing - Bendy, Detailed or Sturdy (Part 1)

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With my first bee printed I had an abundance of questions and ideas.  This 2-part post and the next post happened in parallel but I’ve tried to put some order on the chaos.
I still find it difficult in 3D printing to find the line between the effect of the material used in the print and the effect of the printer.  Both advance and change so much, it’s still hard to tell.  The design changes are explained later so we will start with the materials. 
Check out the picture of the bee from the last post.  This was my first successful bee and it was done in yellow PLA, probably one of the most popular materials for 3D printing.  If you look closely you can see very thin horizontal lines in the body and jagged edges.  The lines are because the printer prints in layers of plastic.  The thickness between the lines is determined by the nozzle diameter.  Better printers mean thinner gaps.  This print had quite a fine nozzle diameter compared to some of the prints I have seen. 
As you can see,…

3D Printing - Beeeeees - The Difficulty of Design

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3D printing is new, shiny and a wonderful opportunity to make amazing things.  From the outside, it looks easy but it can be really difficult to get the good quality information on it.  That is where I struggled starting out.  Here I’ll share the things I’ve learned on my own journey so that you might get to skip the first few mistakes I’ve made. 
We wanted bees.  Fast.  I wanted big fluffy ones but that’s beside the point.  These beautiful little creatures are quite complex if you want an accurate representation of them.  I dove right in to try to 3D print them.  Reading the specs on various printers I naively assumed that if a printer could print a 100 micron layer then I could design to that size.  This was not my cleverest moment.  There isn’t much structural integrity in a strand of skinny melted plastic.  My very first design never even got to print as the tail and antenna were too thin.  So I started with a head, wings and body on a little stand.  He was tiny. 3DHubs.com was r…