How to 3D-print model-ships

I like miniature wargaming and also like to build models. And for me the 3D printer is changing my world of wargaming and modelling. You can still buy your models and you should to support the game developers. You can also buy your ship models in many different sizes and scale, that is easy and simple. But what if you want to build a Dutch WW2 Destroyer in 1/100 scale, like the Kortenaer or the Piet Hein? Those models are not available. In the past you could build it from scratch if your had the skills and to be fair, I did/do not have the wood making skills. But things changed when I bought myself an Creality Ender 5 3D-printer in December 2019.

December 2019. The Creality Ender 5 ready.

FDM 3D printing.

Getting started with 3D printing is not that difficult anymore, you can get a basic 3D FDM printer for a few 100 Euro’s. But you still need some IT skills and also technical skills will be a great help. Without going into too much detail, a 3D printer is not a regular printer. You will run in problems, you will need to fix issues and you will need to learn and understand the workings of your printer. Not just your printer, also the plastic you use will influence your print succes.

Most important decision is what you want to do with your printer, meaning do you want to tweak your printer with extra option, change the firmware, add components and all these other interesting 3D-print things. Or do you “just” want to print without spending to much time and effort on the 3D-printer tweaking. If you want to just print it is best to spend a bit more money and try to find a printer which works well out-of-the-box. I myself wanted something in between, I wanted to print lots of stuff, but also want to tweak the printer to make it fit my purpose. And thus I bought a Creality Ender 5, as that offered a cube build printer which should be a bit more stable compared to an Ender 3 type of setup. But it uses mostly the same components which are not expensive and on the internet there is loads of information available.

When I started I had problems with prints failing, mainly because I did not take the time to properly learn my printer. As it was my first printer I also had no idea about the 3D print workflow. How to get from some 3D-model to a well printed Plastic 3D printed model.

My FDM 3D print history

I received my Ender 5 in December 2019. It requires some construction and connecting all the wires for the different components. This is all very well explained in the documentation. The most interesting and also one of the most important tasks is to attach the extruder and make sure the PTFE tube is connected properly. As most of my problems, well challenges is a better word, have been related to the PTFE tube connection on the extruder and the hot-end assembly. With this out-of-the-box setup I was able to get started printing. And as most 3D printer users… it did not work…… until I understood and figured how to get the bedlevel perfect to make my prints stick to the bed. At that time my 3D print workflow was a follows;

  • Find an 3D-print file I like
  • Load the file in Cura
  • In Cura prepare my gcode file the printer can use
  • Save the gcode-file to a memory-card
  • Put the card in the 3D printer and switch it on
  • Print the 3D object

A simple process, which worked ok. But after a few weeks I ran in problems. Prints failing due to corrupt memory-cards. Main reason for this was the Creality powerfailure option. That option would keep writing and reading the memory-card during the print. As this is an option you can set in the Firmware I decided to flash the 3D printer with a new firmware version. And thus I decide to use OctoPrint.

Using Octoprint does mean to get a Raspberry Pi and attach that to the Ender 5. It also meant to flash the Fireware of the printer. Which is not that difficult but does require intermediate technical and IT skills. There are a few good YouTube Video’s available. Best one by far is from Teaching Tech; https://youtu.be/aQIg9zxuCvM. So I flashed my Ender 5, installed a new Raspberry Pi 4 with OctoPrint and I did print a case to mount the Raspberry Pi to the Ender printer which I found on thingyverse; https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4095160

Now my workflow has become more simple;

  • Find a 3D-print file I like
  • Load the file in Cura
  • In Cura prepare the gcode file the printer can use
  • Open Octoprint in my favourite browser
  • Drag & Drop the file in the browser to upload the file to the Raspberry Pi
  • Start the print from the Octoprint control screen
  • And track the progress of the print via a camera connected to the Raspberry Pi.

Easy and simple, but a warning, I do have recurring problems with the USB connection between my Pi and the Printer. Not always, but after a few months I did need to re-install the Raspberry Pi which fixed the issues for an other few months. I have not found the root-cause for this problem. But I am thinking to replace my Raspberry Pi with a Intel NUC running Linux and see how that works. But for now I just switch between the Raspberry Pi and sometimes using the SD-card reader of the Printer. Overall I am happy with the Creality Ender 5, I have been printing almost daily when I am at home and that has been a lot because of the Covid19 pandemic. Working from home is the standard for almost a year now. I will show examples of the things I have printed in upcoming posts.

Adding LED’s to the printer

I added some LED’s (WS2812B LED-strips) to the Printer as the WebCam needs a bit of light. One strip of 18 LED’s I attached to the front of the printer and I used a small reading-light from an IKEA laptop stand to have some lighs shining on the printbed from above. The LED’s are controlled from the Raspberry Pi, but have their own powersupply as the Raspberry Pi will not be able to provide enough power for the LED’s.

Next step was to change the prepare the old IKEA reading-light. I removed the original 12V battery powered LED’s and glued four WS2812B LED’s in it.

Final step was to print an mount for the LED-light. I used the Raspberry Pi Camera Case – End Stop mount for the Ender 5 by thedweller, which I already used for mounting my WebCam. I changed the the design a bit, printed it and attached it to the printer.

The 4 LEDS in the IKEA Light are connected to the LED-strip. And now I have enough light to check the progress of my prints with the webcam and the Octoprint web-interface. I run a small Python programm to control the 22 LED’s.

In the next article I will tell a bit about the Anycubic Photon Mono SE and the way I use it for modelbuilding.

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