3D Printing School: Tools!

30 Jul


I’ve been slowly building up a tool kit since I built my first printer in 2011 so I thought I would make a list of my “must have” 3D printing tools. I found some of these by reading 3D printing blogs and news sites, and while pretty much none of these tools are made specifically for 3D printing, they have turned out to be super helpful. ┬áSo here it is: the tools I find essential to my printing process.


Needle Nose Pliers

Starting with my most used tool I’d say some needle nose pliers are pretty much mandatory for any 3D printing tool kit. I use these pretty much every time I print: useful for removing prints from the print bed, pulling off stubborn support material, and safely removing rafts. Of all the tools I’m about to list this one would be the hardest to print without. I’m using some old pliers from a very old tool kit, but any cheap set would be better than nothing.



Craft Spatula

This was recommended to me by Thingiverse user craigmclark and I don’t think I could go back. These spatulas are designed to remove vinyl cut stickers from their backing after cutting with a craft CNC and as it turns out they’re also the perfect shape for removing prints from my print bed. They’re super thin and flex a bit which can help pop off parts that are very well adhered. I’ve been using a Cricut Spatula Tool for the past year and like it a lot.



Diagonal Cutters

I use my cutters for a couple of things and like to have them handy all the time. While my pliers are my go to for removing support material often times they’re a bit too clumsy for delicate parts, I use the cutters when I need to trim away support material rather than tearing it off. I also use them to clip off my filament before feeding it into my extruder, it really helps keep a nice sharp edge on the filament. I’ve been using Xcelite Diagonal Cutters for years and find them to be very reliable.



Gel Super Glue

It’s hard to beat some good glue and I’ve been sticking (get it) with Loctite Gel Control for awhile now. It seems to slightly melt the ABS parts I glue and bonds them to together really well. The “gel control” does delay the glue from setting for about 30 seconds, though this has never prevented me from glueing my fingers together. I’ve seen many sites suggest using an aceatone and ABS slurry for gluing parts together but I’ve never had super glued parts fail, PLUS I can always have it on hand in a bottle (which for me is a lot more handy than mixing up a witches brew of ABS slurry every time I want to repair or connect two printed parts).



Vinyl Applicator Tool

This one is specifically for laying down kapton tape on my build platform. As I posted in this previous post the vinyl applicator is really helpful for pushing air bubbles out of the kapton tape after application. I generally heat my print platform before pushing out air bubbles and have found that my tool has started to deform from use in the past year or so. Though for a ~$5 tool I’ve yet to find a better alternative. I’m not entirely sure where I got mine, it may have come with my Replicator 2X but they can easily be found on Amazon and in most hardware and art supply stores.



Compressed air

I use this to clear my build plates in between prints. I like to minimize transferring the oils from my hands to my build plate and kapton tape. So blowing debris off the bed just makes sense. Not much more to say on this one, no preference on brand either.



Kapton Tape

I’ve been using the same roll of kapton tape since 2011. I ordered it to go with my Thing-o-Matic a long long time ago. It sounds like glass build plates with hairspray has been all the rage for awhile but I’ve never had issues with kapton adhesion, in fact I generally have trouble removing prints more than I have trouble with prints sticking. Both of my printers have been ABS machines with heated beds so this advice may be specific to my machines. I don’t have much experience with non-heated print beds but I’ve heard great things about blue painters tape.



Cleaners and solvents

Lastly I have my supply of cleaning products and acetone. The window cleaner, paper towels, and rubbing alcohol are used during kapton tape application. As I mentioned earlier the acetone can be used as a glue to fuse parts together, made into a slurry to help with print adhesion, and even vaporized to smooth the outside of printed ABS parts. I think this is another ABS only tool, as far as I know acetone doesn’t do much to PLA or other printing materials.