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Author: sgwin

51+ hours VR Googles… almost.

51+ hours VR Googles… almost.

A few months ago, I was scanning the models on Thingiverse and came across 3D printable VR Headsets for smartphones. I instantly  knew that I had to make them! I decided that I would print a majority of the parts in black ABS and a few of the smaller parts in red PLA, because that was what I had on-hand. I have done many small prints but this was going to be my biggest (and longest) so far.

I found that using CURA, I can get a fairly accurate estimate for the cost and time it will take to print each part. As you can see from my spreadsheet, it took over 51 hours to print all of the pieces that make up this headset. However, the cost of the filament was only $5.12 USD.

VR360_Metrics

Settings for ABS.
Settings for ABS.

So the first obstacle that I had to overcome was to get the prints to stick to the bed. I had tried using blue painters tape, a glue stick, hair spray and a piece of Plexiglas. All of these had a little success but none of them worked well in the long run. What did work was to turn up the heat for both the extruder and the heated bed. I ended up setting the bed to 245°C/473°F and the extruder to 100°C/212°F. This allowed the ABS to extrude smoothly and stick securely to the bed.

Since some of these prints were over 11 hours long, I couldn’t sit there and nurse each print. However, the one thing I did for each print was to make sure that the first layer was put down correctly. I would make sure that there weren’t many stray pieces of filament being left where openings should go. If a piece fell where there would be more filament printed down, I would usually just leave it since the extruder would be hot enough to blend it in. As you can see below, the first pass isn’t perfect, but it is pretty clean.

The next thing I noticed was that the first layer would not really look great when it was completed. This is because the first layer is a little thicker than the others.

Completed first layer

However, when I was patient and let the print just finish, I would usually get a nice result like the finished piece below.

Finished Print

As I said above, the pieces stuck very nicely to the heated bed. I originally tried to take the pieces off after the bed cooled down. However, I had so much trouble taking them off, I had to heat the bed back up in order to pull them off.

Here is a shot of all of the pieces after 51 hours of printing.

All of the printed pieces

All of these pieces looked good individually. However, once I started assembling them, I noticed multiple issues. The first issue was when I put the lens in their ABS holders and tried to thread them into the red PLA horizontal lens adjustments. Basically, the ABS threads were more rounded than the PLA threads. I have tried to sand the ABS threads in order to make them fit, but I haven’t had much luck.  The second issue I found was the biggest. The ABS parts started to warp once I started assembling them as you can see from these next few images.

Warped Front Pieces do not matchAfter doing some reading, my theory is that ABS was the wrong choice for the large black pieces. Besides the warping, I noticed that the pieces are more brittle than the PLA pieces and they are not as “sharp”.

So, it is back to the drawing board. Yes, I could buy a nice pair of VR goggles for under $20, but what is the fun in that! Stay tuned for an all PLA version 2.0.

A beginners view of 3D printing.

A beginners view of 3D printing.

 


The Beginning

Monoprice PrinterA few months ago, I decided to finally buy my first 3D printer, the Maker Select 3D Printer v2,  after a long period of researching and waiting for prices to drop. I initially wanted to be able to print cases for the micro-computers I have acquired over the past year like the Raspberry Pi and the Pine64. However, I quickly learned that I can build so much more and that the cost makes it very economical to do so.

Setup

The first thing I learned was that it takes a while to dial in the right temperatures for your printer. For ABS, I had to use 245°C for the extruder temperature and 100°C for the bed temperature. For PLA, I had to use 215°C for the extruder temperature and 70°C for the bed temperature. These temperature where above the defaults but they allowed me to have nice prints that stick to the bed without any glue or hairspray. I also found that I needed to remove the print before the bed totally cooled down because it would stick so well.

Besides the temperatures, it has been very important to keep leveling the bed. The bed would become uneven after my print finished and I scraped off any additional filament. I would then spend the time to re-level the bed because the first layer of the next print would show less filament on one side versus another.

 3D Models

Two piece case for Pine 64 made out of ABS.
Two piece case for Pine 64 made out of ABS.

In order to use your 3D printer, you need a model to print. There are many online sites that allow users to share their models such as Thingiverse, Pinshape and Yobi3D to name just a few. I have been using Thingiverse the most to find interesting prints from kitchen utensils to VR goggles. However, one of the most useful prints I have done so far was to fix a broken latch that was in a center console of one of my cars. To purchase the part would have cost around $10 USD, but I was able to find the model online and print it for around 25¢ USD.

Software

One of the great things about getting into 3D printing now is that there are many mature and free software applications to take advantage of. The one that I have used the most is Cura. When I download the models in STL format, I can use Cura to convert them to GCode files that my printer uses to print. The other nice features of Cura is that it accurately estimate the time and cost of each part.

On the other hand, sometimes you need to create your own models. Autodesk is the well-known maker of the AutoCAD™ line of 3D model applications. In addition, Autodesk also offers some free applications for hobbyists. One such application is their Fusion 360 application.  This application allows you to create very sophisticated models with a pretty low learning curve. Autodesk offers many of there 123D applications for free that allow you to create and manipulate 3D models on your desktop, tablet or mobile phone. One of their other applications that I have found very useful is their MeshMixer for cleaning up 3D models. Other applications like Sketchup Make are easy to use and there are multiple plugins that help you tackle many tough jobs like making screw threads. However, I think once you take the time to learn Fusion 360, there isn’t anything you can’t build right within that tool.

Time and Money

Raspberry Pi Zero Case
Raspberry Pi Zero Case

Besides the cost of your printer, you need to purchase the filament that is used to make your prints. As with most things, the cost of filament has come down quite a bit. I have been able to pick up 1kg ABS and 1kg PLC spools for roughly $20 USD. That takes my cost to about $0.06 per meter of filament that I use and most of my prints have taken 2 to 9 meters of filament. The trade-off of being able to make inexpensive 3D prints is that it takes a lot of time. For example, this Raspberry Pi Zero case that I printed in red PLA cost about 28¢ USD but it took 2 hours and 50 minutes.

Conclusion

Although it took a while to get up and running, it has been worth it. I feel that I can make anything… as long as it is made out of plastic and is smaller than an 8 inch cube!