It has been about a year since we’ve talked about the Stratasys F-123 Series, and that’s a shame. Since the time new line of 3D printers was released, they’ve proven to be very popular with customers all over the world; selling the more units in its first year than any former product launched by Stratasys. This allows our customers to experience Stratasys’ industrial quality 3D printing capabilities at a fraction of the cost of owning a production-grade Fortus system.
In our Syracuse, New York headquarters, the F370 has become an important part of our 3D printing lab, cranking out prototypes, fixtures, and benchmark prints every week. It has been fun learning the quirks around the user-friendly machine and what makes it different from other 3D printers, and receiving feedback from our customers. Let’s take a look at some of the best-practices we’ve learned after spending a year with the F-370.
- Print heads must be dedicated to one material only. In order to maintain the highest quality prints and repeatable dimensional accuracy, operators must dedicate a print head for each material. If a user wants to print one set of parts in ASA, then another batch in PC-ABS, the print head for the model material will need to be changed out, and the machine re-calibrated. Failing to do so can result in poor dimensional accuracy, excessive stringing between model features, or filament jamming; all which could require the entire print head to be replaced.
- Proper calibration means reliable performance. Any time a print head is moved or unclamped, the tips will need to be calibrated. Calibrating the tips ensures that the 3D printer is aware of the distance between the tip of each material and the print bed, and the difference in Z-height between the model and support tip. This is very important to make sure the tips are the proper distance from the build tray, to guarantee flat bottoms, eliminate part warping, and make sure printing tips do not drag along the build plate. In our CADimensions 3D printer lab we first run the automatic calibration, followed by manual tip calibration to make sure we got it right.
- Keep the firmware up-to-date. Stratasys released a handful of firmware updates for the F123 Series throughout 2017. For customers who run their machine without an internet connection, the 3D printer has no way to know if an update is available. We have seen huge gains in performance and higher details achieved in prints when we have the latest firmware on our F370.
- Use new build trays regularly. My personal frugal nature makes it very tempting for me to reuse build trays until all the texture has torn off, but to get the most consistent quality out of your 3D printer, it is best to print only one or two models on any given area of your build tray. If build trays are over-handled, oils from your hands can attach to the build tray, hurting print adhesion. When we’re printing full trays of parts, or anything that we can’t afford to let fail, we always swap in a new build tray.
The F123 Series 3D printers have proven to be valuable tools for us, and all our customers to make manufacturing aids, prototypes, and even end-use parts with durable ASA and PC-ABS materials. By applying our best practices, you can get the best-looking, most mechanically reliable parts possible out of your 3D printer.