From One to Three

Thank you for coming back! 

It’s the third week in April and I have now completely taken over the Qidi printer, the poor thing has been running non-stop for 600 hours at this point, the only break is when it gets done printing while I’m sleeping.  I’ve got 4 different colors printing all PLA.  By now I have someone tell me she would like to buy 60 ear savers, as well as the other people ordering.  Qidi is printing a set of 9 ear savers, and Shawn walks in with a giant box, sets it down tells me have fun and walks away.  After dragging the box into the garage, I get the thing open and find an Artillery Sidewinder X1!  This thing has a build volume of 300mm x 300mm x 400mm, direct drive like the Qidi, now for comparison the Qidi X-Plus has got a build volume of 270mm x 200mm x 200mm. 

Got the Artillery all set up, and running a calibration cat, I have to make sure I put the printer together correctly.   At this point I have started dabbling in printing masks and face shields, but now I need PETG (Polyethylene terephthalate glycol) which is better for medical settings.  By this point it is the first week of May and I have an inventory of around 100 between 6 colors of the Nevada ear savers.  I start looking for face shields, first one I find is the Prusa model, I try printing that and with the hole spacing for the “shield” part of the mask it calls for a 4-hole punch.  Unfortunately for me, those are pretty hard to find right now.  Kept the search up and found one that didn’t require any type of hole punch, perfect, materials needed were elastic, and Mylar sheets size 12’’ x 12’’.  Easy enough, made that purchase and started working on printing with PLA to make sure the print would work and to figure out some details without wasting PETG which was really hard to find in appropriate colors (not rainbow or glow in the dark or wood).  First one printed had layer separation, so temperature and infill needed some adjustments. Next print was still brittle, adjusted the temperature again.  Next print the top layers were showing some gaps.  Next print looked pretty decent, so I decided to switch Qidi to PETG from PLA. 

First print didn’t stick to the build sheet.  Quick internet search suggested to increase the bed temperature and try prepping the bed with hair spray or Kapton tape.  Seeing as I didn’t have any hair spray, nor did I have any Kapton tape, found the next best thing.  Blue Painters Tape.  But now I changed how close the bed was to the nozzle, so re-level the bed, increase the temp a bit and print.  Successful print!  By success it resembled a face shield, just not a pretty one.  More research and tweaks, between 6-8 prints later, I finally had a face shield that I could sell.  It was taking about 4 hours for each shield, and I was comfortable with it taking that long.  They looked good, very minimal clean up required on my part, so by day I was printing one at a time and by night I had 2 printing on the single bed plate.  After a few days, my order or Mylar sheets and elastic had come in, so I started putting everything together and selling the shields for $10, which was enough to cover material costs, which at that point was all I was trying to do. 

Another week goes by and I come across a respirator style mask, that one could just swap out the filter everyday and after 6 days (approved by the CDC) that filter could be worn again.  So Qidi kept chugging right along with the face shields and I went to work figuring out settings needed to print these respirators on the Artillery in PETG vs the PLA the company was using (approved to sell if only selling for the cost of materials).  And again, bed adhesion was an issue, this time I received a recommendation to try a PEI sheet, what a whole new world.  Bed adhesion fixed, next ran into a temperature problem, and bug problem. PETG was giving off a fruity smell attracting nats/fruit flies that had a death wish.

A lot of baby sitting had to happen on those prints to avoid some, um, dark spots….

But I got things dialed in on the respirators, top layers, temperature, layer height, infill and BAM!  I could get 4 respirators and filters printing on an Artillery build plate. I had my two printers going non-stop, printing face shields and respirators.  But then I got an order for ear savers, my inventory was too low, and panic started to set in.  Luckily for me, Shawn was paying attention and that day a Creality Ender 3 Pro box was delivered, that was ordered 2 weeks prior.

Tune in next time to find out about the adventure that was my first Ender 3 Pro.