Basic Tools & Supplies¶
These notes are based on my experiences with the Prusa i3 Mk3 printer. If you are using a different printer, please verify the hardware details are same. These pages may be a bit rough as I revise them and add new material. Please check back regularly for updates.
Put some thought into the tools you’ll need in your first few weeks of printing. There’s nothing worse than having a routine problem in the middle of a print and having to wait days or weeks to get the right tool or part. I recommend a “first aid kit” for the inevitable 1st jam. Here’s what I keep on hand:
Bed cleaning and maintenance supplies¶
A clean print bed is the basis of a successful print. If your bed is dirty, bed adhesion will suffer, and problems will occur. You will quickly notice edges warping and prints shifting as the bed gets dirty. The 2 little 70% isopropyl alcohol pads that ship with the printer won’t last long.
If your bed isn’t clean, don’t bother trying to troubleshoot other problems!
The key to maintaing good bed adhesion is to avoid touching it as much as possible. With a bit of care, you should be able to complete several prints without having to do any bed cleaning. If you do start to experience adhesion problems, work down this list:
- Dish soap and water. If you have nothing else, give the bed a good clean under the kitchen sink with a bit of dish soap and plain water. This is the best place to start when you are having adhesion problems.
- 91%+ isopropyl alchol (IPA) for bed cleaning. This may take a bit of work to locate, but you definitely want some. Weaker alcohol will work, but basically thins out the solvent that makes alcohol effective.
- 100% pure acetone for periodic bed cleaning. This may also take a bit of hunting. Acetone will do a more thorough job of cleaning, but is also hard on the PEI surface. Don’t use this unless you’re having adhesion problems even after alcohol wipes. Avoid anything that isn’t 100%, particularly nail care products that may contain additives.
- A 3M 7445 Scotch-Brite Light Cleansing pad or equivalent is useful for occasionally roughing up the bed if the IPA or acetone are’t working.
Nozzle, extruder and hotend maintenance¶
Your nozzle is going to jam. You want to be ready for it with the necessary parts before it happens. Here are the nozzle maintenance tools and parts I recommend:
- Filament for doing cold pulls. I like eSun cleaning filament. White ABS is also commonly recommended, but I prefer the eSun stuff. It’s very sticky, so is good at pulling gunk out. It also operates over a wide temperature range, so I can crank it up to 250C or higher to melt out any material I’m likely to print, yet know it’ll melt at 190C if there’s a bit left in the nozzle when I want to print PLA.
- Additional cleaning needles or bits. The needles are longer but more fragile. The bits are a bit more robust but shorter. The single acupuncture needle you get in the box will almost certainly be lost by the time you need it. Buy a cheap kit of several. I bent a few on my first major jam before I figured out what I was doing.
- A 6”/15cm long 1.5mm solid polished rod with smoothed ends is very handy for dealing with clogs. I’ve been able to avoid extruder tear-downs using one several times. See clearing extruder & nozzle jams for details.
Nozzle replacement kit¶
- One or more spare nozzles. You want to have a “known good” one to swap in.
- A 16mm wrench (spanner) to hold the heater block stable to avoid twisting and snapping the heatbreak. You can use pliers or a wrench, but a sized open wrench is much more stable.
- A 7mm socket (nut driver) for the nozzle. You can use an open wrench, but that little thing will be HOT when it comes out. A socket is recommended to hold onto it until you can move it to a safe place.
- A 6”/15cm long 1.5mm solid rod with smoothed ends is very handy for dealing with clogs. I’ve been able to avoid extruder tear-downs using one several times.
- A soft brass brush is handy for cleaning up filament that gets stuck on the nozzle and/or heater block. Watch out for the heater cartridge and thermistor wires!
There’s a cheap nozzle kit on Amazon that will provide spare nozzles and essential tools. The nozzles are not great, but work well enough for PLA and are useful for an emergency swap. You get a variety from 0.20mm to 0.80mm, which is plenty to play with. I wound up buying a separate no-longer available assortment to get a 1.00mm nozzle.
Nozzle and extruder jam first aid kit¶
Jams aren’t really a big deal once you get a handle on them, but you’d be miserable not having a tool or part to resume printing on the same night. I recommend assembling and keeping a “first aid kit” for the inevitable 1st jam nearby. Make these tools a priority. Here’s what I keep alongside my printer:
- Additional cleaning needles or bits.
- One or more spare nozzles. You want a “known good” one to swap in.
- Appropriate tools for nozzle removal (see nozzle replacement kit above.
- A 6”/15cm long 1.5mm solid rod.
Filament deteriorates when exposed to moisture. This problem can easily be avoided by taking steps to properly store filament when not in use.
- Filament clips. Not every spool is well thought out, and you don’t want filament coming off the spool. You can print some, but you need to find one that works for each filament spool type. I just use small binder clips.
- Some 2 gallon Ziploc bags for filament storage.
- Dessicant packs for keeping filament dry. Get some that can be re-charged (dried out) quickly using the defrost setting on a microwave oven. Beware re-using some of the bags that ship with filament as they might melt.
If your filament does get saturated with moisture, it can be dried out.
Other useful tools¶
- Needle nose pliers. Useful for a variety of tasks, including pulling filament and removing supports. The basic set that ships with the printer is fine, but you may find longer versions useful.
- Diagonal cutters. These are handy for trimming filament.
- Micro flush cutters for cutting away strings and support. These let you get close to the part and are small enough to get into small areas.
- Hex wrenches. The printer comes with a basic set, but longer versions with proper handles are much easier to work with when removing fans and covers. You really only need the 2.5mm size for everyday tasks.
- Digital calipers. These are useful for a number of print calibration tasks. Spend a little more and get some with 0.02mm or better resolution. I found the 0.1mm cheap sets weren’t precise enough for doing calibration.
- A heat gun is handy for cleaning of strings and occasional shaping of printed parts.
Filament stands, filament guides and other 3D-printed tools and accessories.
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Last updated on Mar 18, 2019