Introduction: 3D Printer Material Holder.


1 Lulzbot Taz 6 3D printer.

A 3D modeling program(One used in instructable is SolidWorks.)

3 PVC pipe all of the same Diameter.

1 Desire to learn and build.


If you happen to have a Lulzbot Taz 6 3D printer, then this is the Instructable for you! Even if you don't, the basic ideas and principals behind this project will help with any basic 3D printing fitments. In your reading of this Instructable, you shall learn how to create, and customize to your personal printer, a 3D printer material holder. Before I get into the construction here I'd like to take the time to explain why I started this project. So if you don't want to know, feel free to skip to step one.


My first time working with the Lulzbot Taz 6 printer, I'll simply refer to it as the "Taz" from now on, the Material used to print was just held to the side and strung through a really tight tube that barely fit the filament. Whilst it fed the material to the printer head, it received a lot of friction and would make the prints lower quality. The class I use the 3D printer in agreed that this wasn't the best mount for the material, and our temporary solution was and to suspend the material behind the printer on a P.V.C. pipe held up by boxes on either side. This idea made it so that the material had almost a perfect arc that went straight into the printer, but was still held up by boxes. I was not a fan of this and desired to make a better version of this. So I came up with this idea, and I'm quite happy with it.

Step 1: Getting the Size, the Right Way.

The way I mounted the material holder I had to know some key measurements. Now I could have simply gotten calipers and taken measurements, which I did, and just put them in the Solidworks part, but this would have made a piece way too small. This is for two reasons: A, if you made a part that needed to have another piece fit inside it, and it was the exact size they would just press against each other; B, 3D printers aren't very Exact. The one I use at least has what we call a "fudge factor". Not the sweet treat fudge, but this fudge is a margin of error that the printer will not make an exact size item that you programmed it to. So to test this "fudge factor" you create a tester piece that has multiple variants, that slightly vary, of the specific size you wish to know.

First measure the size of the piece you need to fit your connector piece. In my case, it is a metal extrusion with an inlet in the middle. So I needed to know the specific size of the two edges and the middle inlet. In SolidWorks, I created a long rectangle and added multiple little rectangles hanging below it. I smart dimensioned each rectangle to be around .5mm off of the distance that I originally measured. So if you measured 3.5 mm on a distance, you'd make two sets under, so the distances 3.4 and 3.45, and a couple over, so the distances 3.55, 3.6, 3.65, and 3.7. You don't have to go all the way to 3.7 if you don't think you'll have to, but the more possible distances you put the better results you might get. The reason you make multiple numbers for it to fit is so you can find out the specific number you'll be making the distance on the official piece. So you'll go and try to get the part to fit the real world area and see which one fits best. I labeled each of my distances with little shapes that I documented which one was which.

The "fudge factor" I referred to earlier is the amount you add to the real world value to get the machine to print a distance that will fit your piece. Usually the "fudge factor" is based on the printer and what type of fitment you're trying to make. So for instance, if I was trying to get a circle to fit in a circle hole I made I would add .45mm to the size of the hole. The "fudge factor" for the printer I use with circles is different with square fitment. That's why it is important to make testers and find your specific "fudge factor".

As you can see in the picture above, I made a good number of testers to get my exact size of the metal extrusion with the inlet on the 3D printer. After all this testing on my first attempt of the final print, It fit perfectly.

Step 2: Making a Tester in Solid Works: Step by Step

This Step is for those of you that own Solid Works or any other 3D modeling software or don't quite understand how exactly to make a fitment tester. These instructions and diagrams are exclusively for SolidWorks, so if you have a different 3D modeling program the tools and inputs will probably be in different places on the screen. For those of you who do understand SolidWorks, or your specific 3D modeling program, and have a good grasp on how the fitment tester works, feel free to proceed to the next step. The diagrams above show how the part should look after certain steps, and where to find certain functions in SolidWorks.

Step 1: Open a new file on SolidWorks. Make sure to check the bottom right corner and make sure MMGS appears.

Step 2: Click Sketch and click the top plane.

Step 3: Select the corner rectangle, click the origin, and move your mouse up and to the right then click again.

Step 4: Select Smart Dimension and click the top line of the rectangle. Then input a reasonable distance for your printer to be able to print, so nothing over It's maximum, but should still be a reasonably long distance. I'll be going with 80mm for this example.

Step 5: Select the left side of the rectangle and input 6mm. This is so it has a reasonable distance to be able to print and hold.

Step 6: Select the corner rectangle again, click the bottom left corner. Then move your mouse down and to the right then click again. This will create a rectangle hanging off of the current rectangle.

Step 7: Select smart dimension and make the left side of the new rectangle 6mm and the bottom leave untouched.

Step 8: Select the corner rectangle, click on the bottom line of the original rectangle a little bit to the right of the right side of the second rectangle. Move your mouse down and to the right a little bit and click again.

Step 9: Select smart dimension, click the left side of this third rectangle and input 6mm.

Step 10: Now Select corner rectangle and repeat steps 8-9, but to the right of each new rectangle till you have 7 rectangles hanging down altogether.

Step 11: Select smart dimension and find the real world distance of the two metal extrusions on either side of the Inlet. The two distances I measured were 7.4mm and 7.45mm. So I will smart dimension the distance between each rectangle to be a number a good bit higher than the highest of the two distances. I'll be using the distance of 5.8mm, but as long as the inlet will fit inside the shaft and not have any interference feel free to use a smaller number that fits.

Step 12: Now find the real world distance of the shaft inlet. The distance I found was 5mm, so I subtracted .1mm from 5mm to get 4.9mm. Then smart dimension the all the way left rectangle, the first one, bottom to be 4.9mm. Smart dimension the next one in line to be .05mm higher than the first one. Keep adding .05mm to the next one in line. So the series of distances on the bottoms should be as follows: 4.9mm, 4.95mm, 5mm, 5.05mm, 5.1mm, 5.15mm, and 5.2mm.

Step 13: Select Trim Entities, click trim to closest on the left side of your screen and click the top end of all the downward extruding rectangles twice to remove the lines in between the main rectangles.

Step 14: Select Features and click extruded boss/base. Then input 3mm so that its big enough to be printed and hold.

Step 15: Sit back and enjoy printing your new tester. Then test it and see which ones fit best in the place you need to attach it, in my case the shaft inlet.

Step 3: Making the Attachment Part

This step is to teach you how to make the actual connector part for the material holder. For this step, I will be imputing the dimensions I used for my specific printer. I have attached diagrams above to show the dimensions of the part, what the part looks like after printing, and what certain steps will look like afterward. Your dimensions may be slightly different so feel free to put your dimensions or tweak the part as you wish. I would recommend making special "tester" prints, see step 2, to make sure the measurements in this step will fit to your liking.

Step 1: Open a new part file, and Check that you are using millimeters, if not then select MMGS for your measurements. Next select Sketch then select the Top Plane.

Step 2: Select the line tool and sketch a boxy block letter "M" with the bottom left starting at the origin. Size doesn't matter as of current just make the "M" for now.

Step 3: Select Smart Dimension and make the dimesons of the "M" match that in the diagram above labeled "Step 3".

Step 4: Select Features then Extrude Boss/Base, and dimension the piece to 8mm in width.

Step 5: Select Sketch and select the front of the "M". Then select the Corner Rectangle tool, and make a box from the bottom right corner, 5mm to the left, and all the way to the top.

Step 6: Select Extrude Boss/Base, input 4mm then select "Direction 2" and input 12mm.

Step 7: Select the Fillet tool, Select the four corners of the new area from step 6, and input 2mm for a constant size, symmetric fillet.

Step 8: Select Sketch, then select the left face of the part, the side opposite of the side we just fillet. Sketch a rectangle just freely around the face.

Step 9: Select Smart Dimension, select the bottom of the rectangle and the bottom line of the part, and input 0mm so that the lines match up. Smart Dimension the rectangle to be 30mm by 30mm.

Step 10: Select Smart Dimension, select the left side of your new rectangle, then select the left side of the original part, and input 11mm.

Step 11: Select Extrude Boss/Base and input 17mm.

Step 12: Select Sketch, select the left face of the new extension we just made and sketch a circle aligned in the middle of the square. Smart Dimension the circle to 22mm(the dimension of the PBC pipe you wish to use).

Step 13: Select Extruded Cut, and input 15mm.

Step 14: Select Fillet, select the four corner of the new extension, and input 7mm for a constant size, symmetric fillet.

Step 15: Now that the file is done, save it as an .STL file, and print the part with the back facing downward. Orient the part so that the "M" is upside down, looking more like a "W" now.

Step 16: Once the print finishes, test it on the metal shaft and see how your PVC pipe will fit in the hole. If the fitments are not as nice as you would like, go back to your part and tweak the measurements as you see fit. If the fitments are to your liking then print another one and proceed to the next step.

Step 4: Making the PVC Attachments.

This step will walk you through making the PVC attachments that the 3D printed parts from Step 3 will hold. If you believe you can make the part without instruction, feel free to proceed to the next step. Diagrams of the pieces are shown above for further assistance as to what they should look like after.

Step 1: Make sure you have 3 pieces of PVC pipe that are all the same diameter. Cut two 180mm(18cm) pieces of PVC pipe, and 1 at least 300mm(30cm) piece.

Step 2: On the two 180mm pieces cut a hole in the side, about 250mm from one of the edges, big enough for the third, 300mm, PVC pipe to rest on. You can cut the hole with whatever works best for you, but we used a Dremel tool to make a nice cut. So you should have two PVC pipes that support the third.

Step 3: Make sure you like the fitment of the third PVC pipe in the other two and proceed to the next step,

Step 5: Putting It All Together

This final step will explain how to put all your pieces together.

You should have two 3D printed pieces with a hole for a PVC pipe and an "M" to fit on the shaft of your 3D printer, two 180mm PVC pipes with a PVC pipe size hole at the end, and one 300mm fully intact PVC pipe.

Step 1: Fit the 2 180mm PVC pipes inside of the 3D printed piece, with the hole facing up and on the opposite end of the PVC pipe.

Step 2: Once you have a nice fitment and alignment going glue the PVC pipe inside the 3D printed part. You can use any glue/adhesive as long as it is strong enough to keep the PVC pipe in place and not come undone. A good adhesive to use is Epoxy

Step 3: Once your adhesive is dry and you have a nice strong attachment, fit your 3D printed part on the shaft of your 3D printer. You should have two 3D printed parts with PVC pipes sticking out of them that jut out the back of the 3D printer.

Step 4: Insert your third PVC pipe into the hole of your 3D printer Material, and place the third pipe inside the cut holes of the other two PVC pipes.

Step 5: Enjoy your new 3D Printer Material Holder, and get rid of your old material holder setup.

Step 6: Conclusion

Unfortunately, this instructable is over, but if you have read this far through it, I would like to thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my instructable. I hope this helped you with your understanding of 3D printing fitments, making a 3D printer material holder, or SolidWorks. If you personally liked this, feel free to favorite it, and if you have a friend that you think might enjoy it, share it with them. Maybe you can get them to favorite it as well, or leave your thoughts in the recommendations below. That's all for now though, have a good day, and thanks again for reading.

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