Here they are… the parts of my first 3D printed tanktainer.
I got a little carried away and painted the tank and tank ends before remembering to take photographs.
Read on for a review of this model.
When I had these models printed I chose to use the material known as smoothest fine detail plastic. As you can see, using this option produced a very smooth finish on the tank surface. I was actually surprised how smooth.
Macro photography is very harsh. When viewed with the naked eye the tank appears much smoother. Yes, you can see a few lines on the tank but this is because I did nothing but wash the tank before painting to test the quality of the print. With my next model I’ll spend some time smoothing the surface even further.
The tank end-pieces also came out quite well. There are a few more surface marks on these pieces which I think will be unavoidable no matter how the pieces are orientated during printing but once they’ve been painted the print marks are more or less invisible from the distances they’ll be viewed from on most layouts.
However, this did give me an idea for future tanktainers. I’m going to produce both full models but also tanktainers as kits that can use a piece of scale size tube for the tank. This will avoid the need to sand and polish between fine details on the tank and also lower the cost of printing slightly.
Tabs & Slots
It’s very easy to lose track of quite how small the details you are creating actually are when you are working in a CAD program. You can enlarge your creation without any limitations and focus on details you’d probably never even be able see in real-life. For this reason I think my idea to have the tanktainer frame slot together using tabs and slots, which seemed reasonable when looking at the model in FreeCAD was a little optimistic.
Although the printed tanktainer did slot together using the tabs they were too small to do this reliably. They will need to be redesigned and made larger on future prints.
I also found that the slot I’d cut in the frame to orientate the tank correctly made the end frame very delicate. This snapped when the parts were pushed together.
I’ll have to be more careful about positioning of tabs and slots and leaving enough clearance for parts to slide together in future models.
Cost Of Printing
The cost of printing was fairly high but this was largely down to how I created the model. I’ve since found it is much more economical to create a single model that incorporates both frame and tank connected by sprues rather than using individual frame and tank models I created originally.
It’s also worth trying to design models with the smallest footprint possible. The more space in the 3D printer your model uses the higher the cost! Future models will be much more efficiently arranged to minimise their footprints.
Remember To Check and Double Check Your Models Before Uploading
Simple advice that applies to most walks of life that I wish I’d followed. When I uploaded my first 3D print to the Shapeways website I accidentally uploaded a model with a solid tank. I’d somehow meshed a version of the tank that hadn’t been hollowed out yet. Taking the time to check my model before uploading would have saved me a few pounds.
Overall I’d call this test print a success and I’m already working on new and revised models. I’ll post more soon.