How to Batch 3D Print (FDM Edition)
Keeping variables consistent
Importance of your bed surface
Batch printing has given me a headache at every point in my 3D printing hobby. It was a problem whether I was selling printed fidget spinners in high school, printing face shields during COVID, or batch printing rollers for our new Fula-Box product. But it’s fair to say I’ve gotten quite good at it in all the years I’ve been doing it. I'm going to be going over my process and providing tips for successful batch printing!
Keep As Many Variables Consistent As PossibleFine tuning batch printing will take some time, and every time a variable is changed, you will have a domino effect. Changing ambient temperatures, the filament used, or even printer location can change everything. It’s best to set these variables in the beginning, before all the fine-tuning begins. Pick your room, filament, and shelf of choice!
Calibrating Your Bed Setup
Whether it's the first layer not sticking, or the part detaching from the bed, I think it’s safe to say most print failures occur at the bed. There are three main things to look for here: the bed surface, bed flatness, and evenness of heating. You want a surface your filament will stick to, and stay stuck to. There are many different options out there, each good for different materials. My personal favorite is PEI. It works well with a diverse range of filament types and holds parts down very well. To compliment the surface, a flat bed, or some sort of MBL (mesh bed leveling) is essential. You don't want high points and low points in your first layer, as this will cause prints to detach mid-print. Third, but definitely not least, make sure your heating solution is even, from edge to edge. Any parts outside the “hot zone” might initially stick, but will release shortly after cooling. Tuning these 3 factors will immensely improve your printing success rate!
Slicer SettingsLast but not least, optimizing your slicer settings. While many of us probably have a wonderful printing profile already made, I customize one for each batch file I know I will be printing often. Things like speed, bridge settings, cooling, z-hop, etc. will need to be customized for your specific prints. For our latest batch print of rollers, I’ve had to increase the z-hop, turn up bed temperatures, lower bridge speed, and fine tune speed settings. The best way to tune this is to test. Print as many times as possible, and observe failure points. Each time it failed, I was able to identify what went wrong and fix it.
Now we run several Artillery Genius printers 24/7 with automated batch printing. After the print is done, the extruder assembly pushes the parts off the bed, and starts up all over again. We use the built-in filament sensor to switch rolls out whenever the printer runs out. How did we automate this? That's for another article ;)