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6 Great Tools for your 3D Printer

Updated on April 30, 2014

Gas Powered Soldering Iron

I was surprised when I spotted one of these at the market the other day as I had never heard of them before. They work like a normal wall powered soldering iron but have a few characteristics which make them far superior in my opinion when working on your printer. Firstly because they fill with butane, they're portable, meaning not only can you get to hard to reach soldering points but you are also no longer restricted to working at your workbench. There's always a big to-do list with things I need to do to my printer, such as wiring up connection clips, switches etc. Now I can happily sit in the living room and watch some t.v. while soldering away on my lap (caution - make sure you have some sort of a work table on your lap, I use one of those boxes that poker chips come in). Another awesome feature with a gas powered soldering iron is that they heat up a lot faster than the wall powered ones, which can be exceptionally handy when you are adhoc-ly requiring to so a little soldering, then something else, then back to soldering. They are real cheap- I picked mine up for less than $20.

Fire Putty/Cement

This...stuff...is...golden. You can find it in most hardware stores for around $10 and it lasts forever. This stuff can be extremely helpful for when working on your hotend. Because the hotend can heat up to around 230 degrees (C), it can be tricky to find materials to work with that can handle these sort of temperatures. This can be handing for doing things such as securing the thermistor in place, or to perform repairs to an otherwise unfix-able problem with the hotend. Think of it like a bicycle puncture repair kit for your printer.

Heat Shrink Tubing

Wicked for that professional finished look for once you are 100% happy with your wiring. I spent far too long covering up wire connections with electrical tape which, although is a good short term solution while you are trouble shooting, is far from a permanent solution. You just cut of an inch or so of tubing, cover your exposed connection, and apply a hair dryer to it for a few seconds. The heat shrink will shrink around the connection and create a neat and reliable connection. However remember to make sure you put the heat shrink on BEFORE you solder your two connections. I have made a great, clean solder connection so many times only to realize I forget to thread on the tubing first.

IDE Computer Hard Drive Cables

I have so many of these lying around in my bottom drawer of computer graveyard components. Since most computers have now moved to SATA, they just sit there with no real purpose..until now. So it you have a look at the 3d printer circuit board (usually an arduino based board), they will have a series of male header pins which do a variety of things such as control the stepper motors, connect reset switches, thermistors etc. If you don’t happen to have female header pins handy these can be a pain to connect however these IDE cables fir perfectly on them.

Infra-red Temperature Gun

These things are cool. They work like a regular thermometer but instead of having to have the thermometer close to or ideally touching what you are trying to measure, you can aim the temperature gun at the object which you can line if with its inbuilt laser pointer. This is really handy when calibrating your 3d printer, both for the hotend and the heated print-bead. For the hotend, there's not really any other way to know if your printer’s thermistor is reading correctly. It can be very useful for the print-bed also because you can scan different points on the bed's surface to see if there are any hot-spots which could be affecting your print.

Allen Keys (all of them)

A full set of allen keys, in their container and kept there. Can't believe how much time I've spent looking for the damn m3 allen key. Keep them in their box so they are always close at hand. It's always a good idea to have a backup m3 and m4 allen key so that you don’t pull your hair out trying to find where you left it.

Some other life savers

Wire Strippers - you're probably going to need to strip a lot of wire when wiring up your printer..a lot. Save your teeth and invest in a good quality pair of wire strippers. You won't appreciate them until you try working without them.

Vice - Good for drilling, good for an extra arm when soldering. For the price of less than $30 it's silly not to have a vice. Of course you're going to need a bench you don't mind drilling through to secure it.

Digital Calipers - You may not thing you need them when building your printer, but you will save yourself a lot of time during calibration if you just grab a pair of these online. I got mind for around $10.

Volt and Amp Meter - Although not essential, you will most likely find yourself getting your hands dirty a lot more than you think when building your 3d printer. Might as well bite the bullet and start learning electronics. It helps.


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