3D printing your aquarium parts

3D printing your aquarium parts

Postby SantaMonicaHelp » Sun Aug 25, 2013 2:10 pm

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.

We are 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.

Summary of 3D printing links:

Endless things to print:
http://www.thingiverse.com/

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

Massive forum for lots of printer kits and DIY:
http://forums.reprap.org/

Current lowest-cost assembled printer to print aquarium-safe ABS plastic:
http://www.kicktraq.com/projects/pirate ... e-can-use/

Current most popular U.S. based assembled printer:
http://makerbot.com/

Low cost Chinese clone of Makerbot:
http://www.ff3dp.com/

Another low cost Chinese clone of Makerbot:
http://www.wanhao3dprinter.com/

Easiest free 3D modeling program to start with:
http://www.sketchup.com
(needs the "Export STL" plugin from http://www.armanicreations.com/download ... tl_file.rb )


Happy printing!
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Postby Luis A M » Mon Aug 26, 2013 2:41 pm

Hi Santa,I´ve moved it to "equipment¨.
Very interesting and a sight of the future which is coming so fast :shock:
A 3D printing shop just opened few blocks away from home.
Thanks for sharing! :D
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Postby SantaMonica » Mon Aug 26, 2013 3:08 pm

Next is a 3D printing aquarium parts shop :)
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Postby Amie » Tue Aug 27, 2013 1:44 pm

Excellent information, thank you.

How cost effective is it to print something like your scrubber using a 3D printer? What is the cost of the filiment that it takes to create an individual item?
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Postby SantaMonica » Wed Aug 28, 2013 5:26 pm

Glad you like the info.

It actually adds greatly to the cost of the shell, but reduces the work required afterwards. Plus it looks much better :)

A roll of the the ABS plastic filament is about $40 per kilogram, which prints about 1000 cc's of solid plastic.
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Postby Amie » Thu Aug 29, 2013 2:46 am

SantaMonica wrote:It actually adds greatly to the cost of the shell, but reduces the work required afterwards. Plus it looks much better :)



Sorry...but could you explain your comment, I didn't understand it. Are you talking about the filament?
I am really interested in the idea of a 3D printer. I have so many ideas, but wonder if they are expensive to use or not. Right now, I am designing a windmill for my back yard. i am wondering if printing it would be better than trying to build it. My design is very hard to make, but probably easier to print.
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Postby SantaMonica » Thu Aug 29, 2013 9:53 am

It's always better to use parts already made, especially larger parts like the case for a scrubber. Our new one is just so complex and curved that's it's impossible to make any other way. A windmill, however, would need to be made with already-made parts too, because the parts are too big.
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Postby SantaMonica » Thu Aug 29, 2013 2:44 pm

Here's my attempt at getting some printers for aquarium parts:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/107 ... n=347e500b
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Postby mrcob » Thu Aug 29, 2013 8:13 pm

What a great thread. Answered a lot of my questions about 3d printing. Appreciate you sharing.

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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Postby Camblonie » Tue Sep 03, 2013 5:17 pm

Anyone have models to share? So far I have a very basic float switch bracket but I'm planning an auto feeder. I'll probably do some clips for dosing hoses etc. I've been using PLA so I guess I'll put in my ABS order.
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Postby SantaMonicaHelp » Thu Sep 05, 2013 9:32 pm

Anybody good at modeling, and would like to make a coral model for printing?
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Postby Luis A M » Fri Sep 06, 2013 2:09 pm

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

Not 3D related,but a stand at MACNA was dedicated to making casts and recreating corals,gorgonians,anemones and such with special resines.
In another booth an ATS,the size of a bread toaster was being presented.It looked like yours,but the place was too crowded to reach somebody to ask.May be an imitation?. :?
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Postby SantaMonica » Fri Sep 06, 2013 2:57 pm

Float switch brackets, auto feeders, hose clips, seem like perfect uses. Those and some coral models could be uploaded to Thingiverse for others to download and print.

The molding people at macna look to be the Smooth-On products. And the scrubber was a version of my old original waterfall design.
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Postby GeorgeCheck » Thu Jun 19, 2014 6:57 am

Im pretty good at Solidworks. I like the design of the HOG, very clever, i see what you did with the CREE LED on the outer part of the assembly, great idea! How are you going with it? If you need any help with 3D modelling I can be of assistance.

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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Postby SantaMonica » Thu Jul 03, 2014 6:01 pm

Well we make the HOG's with plastic trays now. The printed version needed work, and would be more costly and heavy.

However my new idea is custom-numbered frag plugs: 3D letters and numbers, maybe red on a white or black background, that can be tie wrapped to frags. The model could be taken to a local printer on MakeXYZ.com and spelled out exactly what is needed.
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Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

Postby Amie » Sat Jan 24, 2015 5:46 pm

I have finally started shopping for a 3D printer...I have so many ideas in my head that I am ready to do something about it. I had a manufacturing company build me a prototype for a small device I had designed last year, it cost me $400, and it wasn't correct. So, I can definitely see an advantage to having a 3D printer.

After a lot of research, I was sold on getting the PLA filament, but came back and read this thread again, and Santa Monica suggests ABS. I'm not happy with that.

The reason I don't want to get ABS is because of the need for a heated platform, the smell, Oil based vs. plant based, and requires higher temperatures - which adds cost. I like the availability of translucent PLA filament, that ABS doesn't have.

I have a couple of questions for Santa Monica:

1) I understand the decomposition issue with PLA, but what time frame would we be looking at? 1-12 months ... 1-10 years...longer? And does it decompose because of heat? Or does the water also play into it.

2) If the decomposition time is extremely long, then the next question is, would the plant-based decomposition be harmful in the tank vs. Oil based non-decomposing filament.

3) You mentioned that 3D printers have come down in cost, which is very nice. I haven't found any that are pre-built for less than about $1,000. Where are you finding $500-ish printers? Has you built one before? Is that it hard?

4)
SantaMonica wrote:Only use FDM (also called FF) printers.

I don't really understand this, since I haven't found this FDM label on any of the printers I have looked at. How can I tell?


So here are some of the features I would like to have, let me know if anything is wrong or unrealistic for building aquarium parts.

    1) Fully assembled, unless it is very easy to put together.
    2) Able to print both PLA, ABS and PET. Any additional options would be a plus.
    2) Has a heat plate that can be easily removed for cleaning
    3) has fans/cooling system
    4) Capable of wifi or bluetooth. At the very least, has an SD card slot so a computer does not have to be connected in order to print.
    xx - taken off of list - 5) Can print at least 2 colors. Mixing colors would be great.
    6) auto-calibration of platform
    7) does not use proprietary filament
    8 ) open source would be awesome because that would allow for upgrades as technology improves

    I know that this list is unrealistic and that I will have to sacrifice some of the item. The only 3d printer that I have found that even comes close is the Cube by Cubify. If you have any ideas as to what printer comes close to this list, let me know.

    Thanks,
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    Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

    Postby SantaMonica » Sun Jan 25, 2015 1:25 am

    Nice to see you getting a printer!

    There is a 3rd type of plastic to consider: PET

    Here are the advantages:

    Non-warping
    No smell
    No enclosure required
    Build plate can be heated or not
    Also known as polyester, PETG, PETT, PET+
    Is what most soda pop bottles are made of
    Does not degrade in water
    FDA approved in the USA for for food contact
    Does not absorb water or moisture from air
    Not brittle
    Is the most recycled plastic
    Clear color is the most transparent of all filament materials
    Uses about the same extruder temps as ABS


    As for your #1 and #2, I don't have real answers, but based on PET, it might not be important.

    3) Look at the Printrbot Metal Simple, Craftbot, PowerSpec, Flash Forge Creator Pro. These vary in features, but all will get the job done after some practice. The Cube uses very expensive proprietary filament.

    4) All printers which have a roll of plastic filament, are also called FDM/FFF printers.

    Number #1 through #8 are fine, except for the 2-color. You are going to be in for a headache by needing 2-colors. Stick with 1 color for now.
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    Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

    Postby Amie » Sun Jan 25, 2015 4:36 pm

    Okay, I'm convinced...PLA bad. I just watched a video on the difference between PLA, ABS and PET. They took a lighter and heated each one. The PLA melted instantly into a water-like goo. The ABS caught fire, but kept its shape. And the PET just showed darker burn spots. So PET is definitely better, but twice the cost. I assume it will come down in price over time.

    Would it be safe to assume that if a printer is made to print ABS, that it would also print PET? If so, that is the way I am going to go...using PET when I need translucent materials.

    I am curious why you mentioned to not get a duel filament printer. Are they supposed to be hard to work with? I am sure this won't be my first 3d printer, so I agree with you on starting simple. It is nice that ABS is so easy to glue together with acetone.

    I really appreciate your advice. And thanks for the info about Cubify, I didn't catch the proprietary filament issue before.
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    Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

    Postby SantaMonica » Mon Jan 26, 2015 10:31 pm

    I don't think PET is always twice the price; many times it's the same (see sources below). Also, if you use MakeXYZ.com and search for people printing in PET, some of them actually charge less for PET because they don't need a heated enclosure.

    Printing ABS more than a half inch high or so, usually needs a heated enclosure, whereas PET does not. So yes, a printer with an enclosure (and of course a heated build plate) will work for PET. Some PET suppliers even say no heated plate is needed, but from what I've read a heated plate always helps a lot.

    Dual-extruder printers have trouble with the non-used head hitting your part. They have to be leveled perfectly to avoid this. A single head avoids this issue.

    Current places carrying PET:

    Made Solid - from Matter Hackers, in California USA:
    http://www.matterhackers.com/store/3d-p ... -pet-175mm

    Made Solid - from California USA:
    http://shop.madesolid.com/products/made ... 75mm-1-lbs

    Made Solid - From Australia:
    http://thinglab.com.au/shop/3d-printing ... t-filament

    Colorfabb XT - from Netherlands:
    http://colorfabb.com/xt-black

    Colorfabb XT - from Printed Solid, in Delaware USA:
    http://www.printedsolid.com/shop/175-3/xt-amphora/

    Taulman T-Glase - from Matter Hackers, in California USA:
    http://www.matterhackers.com/store/3d-p ... lase-175mm

    Eco PETG - from China (must email to order):
    http://www.ecoreprap.com/pro/petg-filament

    Reprap PET - from Denmark:
    http://reprap.me/plastic/master-filament.html

    T-Glase - from MakerGeeks, in Missouri USA:
    http://www.makergeeks.com/tpe3dprfibl1.html

    eSun - from Intservo, in North Carolina USA:
    http://intservo.com/products/esun-petg- ... =942259463

    Taulman T-Glase - from Imprinte 3D in France:
    http://www.imprimante3dfrance.com/en/pett.html

    Gizmo Dorks - in Los Angeles, USA:
    http://gizmodorks.com/petg-3d-printer-filament
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    Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

    Postby Amie » Tue Jan 27, 2015 6:48 pm

    You definitely do a better job at search than I do, some of those were a good price. About 1/2 of the links are selling 1 lb. PET instead of 1 kg, which puts the price at least double. [url]thingslab.com[/url] looks to be the most expensive, that is the kind of sites I was finding .. 1 lb. for $54. I am glad there are other stores selling it for less, I am definintely sold on PET now.

    What is TPE? An anagram for PET? ;)

    thank you for explaining the dual head, that makes total sense. I am sure that will be solved over time, but I will just have to wait on that.

    If a 3d printer says you can only print PLA, that means they probably don't have a heated plate, right?
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    Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

    Postby SantaMonica » Tue Jan 27, 2015 8:09 pm

    TPE is flexible rubber-like filament, which is very hard to print, and not water-safe.

    PLA-only printers tend to not have heated plates, and usually always are not enclosed. But, anything can be printed on any printer, if you know what you are doing and make the needed adjustments and mods.
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    Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

    Postby Amie » Tue Jan 27, 2015 8:26 pm

    SantaMonica wrote:TPE is flexible rubber-like filament, which is very hard to print, and not water-safe.

    PLA-only printers tend to not have heated plates, and usually always are not enclosed. But, anything can be printed on any printer, if you know what you are doing and make the needed adjustments and mods.


    Ah, the truth comes out, I have to know what I am doing.
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    Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

    Postby SantaMonica » Wed Jan 28, 2015 3:59 pm

    That's why I still have not got my first machine. I have other people print the needed parts for now.
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    Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

    Postby Amie » Thu Jan 29, 2015 5:54 am

    SantaMonica wrote:That's why I still have not got my first machine. I have other people print the needed parts for now.


    I just assumed you had one because you know so much about them. Do you send your stuff of somewhere? Or do you have a store locally?
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    Re: 3D printing your aquarium parts

    Postby SantaMonica » Sun Feb 01, 2015 4:15 pm

    I use MakeXYZ.com to find printing people.
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