3D printing your aquarium parts - Aquarium Forum
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-06-2013, 10:42 PM Thread Starter
 
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3D printing your aquarium parts

3D printing your aquarium parts

For those of you serious DIY folks, you may be interested in how you can make your own plastic aquarium parts by printing them on a 3D printer. Just this year, costs for the 3D printers have dropped to under $500 USD for a pre-built one, and under $200 USD for a kit. 3D printing of your plastic parts works well when:

1. You are good with computers.
2. You like trying new designs or colors.
3. The part is small, or can be put together with small parts.
4. The part does not require great strength.
3. There is no easier/cheaper way to get the parts.

Some aquarium parts, such as simple boxes or tubes, are not suited to 3D printing because they can be more easily made with simple plastic or acrylic shapes. But some parts are so complex that there is no other way to make them except to print them on a 3D printer. I'll be using 3D printers to make the next version of algae scrubbers because of the built-in air tubing, magnet compartments, holes, and bubble pathways that make it impossible for the part to be made (in one piece) any other way.

Some things I've learned that pertain especially to 3D-printed aquarium parts:

1. Only use ABS plastic, not PLA or PVA. The ABS plastic is the same type of plastic used in kid's LEGO toys and is very strong. PLA or PVA plastic, however, will slowly dissolve when underwater or when subjected to high temps.

2. Only use FDM (also called FF) printers. These are the types of printers which use coils of plastic filament. These are also the cheapest printers. Other types of printers such as SLA (liquid) use a photo-cured plastic that will get brittle under aquarium lights, and "powder-printers" make parts which are not water tight.

3. The 3D printed parts will not be "glossy smooth". They will instead be more like carbon fiber, with a texture (or lines) running in one direction through the whole part.

I'm too new at 3D printing to be able to recommend a particular printer, but I'm sure each reef or aquarium club has someone who has a 3D printer, and this is usually a great place to start.

Happy printing!


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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-07-2013, 04:56 AM
 
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Super interesting.

My daughter is into 3-D printing...the first time she shared the concept with me, I thought she was dreaming. Since then I've come to learn she wasn't. Until now, I hadn't thought about how 3-D printing could enhance the aquarium hobby. So thanks for posting this...you've got me thinking.
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-07-2013, 05:56 AM Thread Starter
 
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Things like frag plugs, overflow slots, goldfishautolinker.com autolinking image decorations, handles, food containers, probe holders, are good. You can also get more ideas at http://www.thingiverse.com


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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-20-2013, 10:30 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Summary of 3D printing links:

Endless things to print:
Thingiverse - Digital Designs for Physical Objects

General forum for all printers:
https://groups.google.com/forum/#!fo...stricksreviews

Massive forum for lots of printer kits and DIY:
RepRap Forums

Current lowest-cost assembled printer to print aquarium-safe ABS plastic:
The Buccaneer® - The 3D Printer that Everyone can use! by Pirate3D Inc :: Kicktraq

Current most popular U.S. based assembled printer:
Home

Low cost Chinese clone of Makerbot:
Flashforge 3D printer

Another low cost Chinese clone of Makerbot:
3D printer?JINHUA WANHAO SPARE PARTS CO.,LTD


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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-29-2013, 04:02 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Here's my attempt at getting some printers for aquarium parts:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/...token=347e500b


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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-05-2013, 08:45 PM
 
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Anybody good at modeling, and would like to make a coral model for printing?

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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-05-2013, 09:14 PM
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

The technology is still in its infancy stage. If you have actually seen the end product from one of these machines you'll find the quality equal to that of toy in a kinder surprise.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-05-2013, 09:58 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

I've had printed several scrubber cases, and with the right settings the case is very solid, approaching the "manufactured" look. The person running the printer has to know what they are doing though. For us, 2 shells @ 270 or 300 microns at medium print and travel speed and an enclosure and heated bed work well.


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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 09-05-2013, 10:14 PM
 
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

I've seen a whole array of printed RP parts. The cheaper ones with a cheap non tuned machine fall apart and are of terrible quality. With some tuning to the machine, even with the cheap ones, you can actually get some very nice parts. While I've never been impressed with anything less than a $1500 machine (which btw is better than a $100,000 machine was 15 years ago). Rather than buying the machine (and thereafter the really expensive plastic rolls) you may want to look at having another place (I saw some above) do your printing for you, or machine it. It tends to run at least $100 per part, but I've used Protolabs/Firstcut for projects at work several times and been very pleased. They do plastics and some metals, both machined and injected (the latter is a lot more expensive). The benefit is that they can do complex curves as easily as simple shapes.
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