Tools for 3D Printing




Introduction: Tools for 3D Printing

About: Interaction Designer working at Kollision, a Danish design office specialized in interactive installations, products and experiences.

So you bought yourself a 3D Printer, maybe a PrintrBot Simple Metal like I did, and you want to get started taking over the world with your mad printing skills. Before you do, however, I've made a list of tools that I think can make your daily life with a 3D-printer a lot easier...

Step 1: Masking Tape

By far the most important thing to buy for your 3D printer is masking tape. By carefully putting strips of masking tape onto your printer's bed, you not only help the printed object adhere to the bed a lot better, you also make removing the completed object from the bed a lot easier, and protect your bed from damages.

To make life easier and have fewer overlaps of tape (where potentially print height will differ) use as wide a tape as possible. From what I know 50mm is the widest available.

Don't be cheap

Masking tape is important, so don't buy the cheap stuff. I like the tesa-brand, but basically what you want is the one with the strongest adhesive. Usually you will see people selling blue masking tape, which is UV-resistant. I've personally never tried it, the yellow stuff works fine for me.

Step 2: Glue Stick

Ever had a 3D-print go horribly wrong because of warping? Yeah me too, but I've found that using a glue stick to add a layer of glue on top of the masking tape right before printing makes the print adhere much better to the bed. Again, be careful not to buy to cheap glue, though they're usually pretty cheap in general. I use the Pritt-brand, which is supposed to be good. Just be sure it adheres to plastic!

Step 3: Tweezers and Pliers

If you've followed the last two steps you might have experienced how well adhesives work in making your object stick to the printer bed. But unfortunately this might also also mean having trouble getting your printed object off the platform. Introducing tweezers and pliers. Get a few different ones for different sizes of objects. I mostly use the small tweezers and the big poly grip pliers. As an added bonus the small tweezers are also great for removing any filament that might ooze out of the extruder pre-printing.

Step 4: Caliper

By entering the world of 3D-printing, like it or not, you're also entering the world of engineering. Get a caliper to make sure your prints have the correct size, but if you're designing your own objects too, use it as great way of dimensioning parts of your object. I've bought a digital one, which is a bit expensive, but it gives you two decimals of precision which is really nice when you want to measure the true diameter of your filament or how much your PLA shrinks during printing.

Step 5: DIY Hot End Cleaner

I never had this problem when I worked with a MakerBot 2, but before I adjusted my PrintrBot filament settings to 1.80 (even though my filament is supposedly 1.75mm), I had a lot of problems with my hot end clogging. To remedy the problem I filed a thin needle using a Dremel until it had a diameter less than the 0.4mm hole that the hot end features (hey, what a great way to use your new caliper!).

Drive your filed needle carefully through your heated hot end to unclog it. The roughness of the filing makes the plastic adhere to the needle better. WARNING: Be careful when you drive anything through your hot end. You can damage the hot end which will really mess up your printing.

For increased usability I added some hand-molded plastics (Polycaprolactone aka. Polymorph) for a handle.

UPDATE: Thanks to ark19 for suggesting using acupuncture needles instead. These can be purchased in different sizes to fit your nozzle.

Step 6: Silica Gel (for PLA Users)

If you're printing using PLA plastic, buy yourself some Silica Gel, or even better, don't throw out the packs that most likely were included when you bought your printer or filament. PLA absorbs water over time, which can results in bubbly printing, so do yourself a favor and store your filament in a closed plastic bag with a few packs of Silica Gel. You can buy 100 packs on eBay for around $1-2 including delivery, so there's no excuse not to!

Step 7: The End

There you go, some tools which should make it easier to print and enable you to spend time on what's really fun to do with a 3D-printer: printing!

Let me know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for additional tools or brands.



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    23 Discussions

    Instead of a glue stick, try Aqua net hair spray. This particular brand works the best. Just give the build surface a light spray and your object will stick.

    5 replies

    I found the Acrylic Mediums a great product to prevent prints from warping.

    I'm using a Makerbot Rep2, PLA filament, replaced the acrylic printing base with a glass base. Before printing I'll use a bandage gauze to spread the acrylic medium over the glass base. Best thing is, after printing, just need to wet the glass with soapy water and it can be cleaned off without any big mess. The acrylic medium can be bought from Art Supplies shops. Using this currently:

    Cheers :)

    I've read about the hair spray treatment, and while it sounds effective, I'm a bit worried about residual spray hitting the printer rods or motors. My PrintrBot has fairly exposed parts, but maybe it could work for an enclosed printer such as the MakerBot.

    Aqua Net Extra Super Hold Unscented (purple can) is for PLA only, and usually gets applied only on to a glass build plate. Doesn't work for ABS, which your glue stick will handle quite nicely. And you don't spray the hairspray directly onto or near any moving parts! Spray it onto a paper towel and give a quick wipe across the glass, just enough to make it wet. That's it.

    I've never used the Aqua Net but do use Suave Extreme Hold on the glass build plates for my Afinia with ABS. Find it works much better than the ABS slurry. I still haven't found a good way to get an even coat of slurry on a 5" square plate.

    I use the same stuff. HUGE can lasts forever. a squegee very lightly used works fine

    I found using 0.35 jewelers drill bits excellent for cleaning the nozzle, I just push them up and pull down, the PLA stick to them very well when warm.

    Tried those before, have to be careful when using the drill bits as they might enlarge the nozzle. Actually they best way to prevent clogged nozzles is to print regularly :D Cheers :)

    good idea, thanks! With some sanding to give it a rugged surface, that would probably make a great nozzle-cleaner!

    Nice list. I would add the following:

    A palette knife from the art store. I have two; one flexible and one rather stiff. I use them to help coax the finished object off the print bed.

    A set of dentist tools. You know, the stainless steel pick-thingies you've grown to know and love from your check-up appointments. I bought a set of four for US$5 off that Big Internet Shopping site, billed a clay-forming art tools. These are good for coaxing support filaments and little bits of plastic out of the crevices of your project.

    1 reply

    You can recycle your water absorbed silca gel bags - You can dry them. How to do that?! Microwave is a cheap solution, you can find a lot of tutorials online to do that.

    Also if you're working in a factory or know someone who is, in the storing areas you can find a lot of silca gel bags free of charge. In stead of thosing them, you can reuse them to do cool and usefull projects in 3d printer or mold casting :-)

    Have you ever considered using a "transfer" tape? It is just like masking tape, but comes in rolls up to 25" wide, at least. This tape is used for "transferring" knife-cut, vinyl lettering, etc. from it's carrier, or backing sheet, for application to a sign, car graphic, etc.

    It can be ordered in various widths, depending on the vendor.

    Hi, I've added your project to the "How To: 3D Printing" Collection

    This is the link If you are interested:

    1 reply

    There is already a new product. My company ProCoPrint3D in cooperation with the University of Gent department of chemistry of polymers developed a new formula for the adhesive to 3D printing. This is not another hair spray with relabelled as in the case of similar products. PROGLU3D is a patented formula and now conduct tests for most materials. Glue PROGLU3D has three versions: PROGLU3D-PLA, PROGLU-ABS and PROGLU3D-UNIVERSAL. Glue the PLA achieved excellent adhesion when printing with hard materials derived PLA and Flexi and Ninjaflex, ABS is like the name says to print derivative ABS and Universal to be used for all materials. Universal and PLA-based polymers and water dilutable. Product for ABS is no longer flammable agent. The printed elements are easily stripped from the printed surface after cooling table, and the adhesive layer is reusable until the damaged mechanically. We have also obtained low temperatures prints and for the PLA is from 30/70 degrees and for ABS about 70/90 degrees, of course, the product is also suitable for printing at higher temperatures. Below are some photos of the tests, and one of them carried on board Stratasys Fortus 250 for printing of ABS where platforms are suitable for recycling after one print. Using our adhesive means may be printed several times without damage to the print and the platform. More details on our website


    Hi ogremills,

    Yeah I'm very pleased with it! I worked with a MakerBot2 for several months, but the PrintrBot Simple Metal is much more convenient and fits my printing needs much better. The quality is similar if not better, same speed, and the auto-leveling probe saves me so much time that really it's just a matter of putting tape and glue on the bed, and I'm ready to go. I can highly recommend it.