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Tiny Lettering

Discussion in '3D Printing' started by Historiker, Mar 1, 2016.

  1. Historiker

    Historiker Dramamine Adict Staff Member Moderator Gold Contributor

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    Has anyone done any small or tiny text yet? Is there a better filament for this than PLA?

    So far I have not printed any "fun" stuff with my printer; I purchased it for a specific semi-commercial purpose. I make and sell custom HID gaming peripherals (button boxes, etc). These are DIY quality as I am not a professional and I sell them at only enough profit to supply my habit...er....computer gaming needs. :)

    The item that I most often make is an ICP module for F-16 Flying Falcon (Viper) simulators. The ICP is the up front interface between the pilot and the jet's computer. I have always used my CNC router to make the buttons and engrave the text but I have never been happy with the quality of the buttons and hoped that a 3D printer would help with that issue.

    So far I can do 5mm text perfectly but anything smaller is blurred. I have my nozzle spec'd at .4mm and I can lay a design at that with very well so I know that the printer can accurately do very thin work. I am wondering if that action of moving back and forth to fill in the .1 mm wide text is what is blurring it?

    Anyway, I thought I would share my efforts here with you all.

    These prototypes show that the 5mm text is good, but as I mention the smaller text is blurred.

    The 1 key is a very early attempt and the 2 key is the latest attempt. I have the buttons themselves coming out very well indeed with 37% fill and 1mm wall thickness. I also have a raised frame around the outside top like the full scale ICP buttons have. It looks really good other than the small text.

    Sorry for the poor picture, my phone does not do macro very well :)

    Button Prototypes.jpg



    And one of my ICP modules with the old buttons:


    IMG_0262.JPG

    Here you can see the ICP in the top front of a real F-16:

    f16mesa.jpg
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  2. Ads Master

    Ads Master

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  3. NjMotion

    NjMotion Active Member Gold Contributor

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    I have a friend who works 3d printer and is lately using PETG, harder, better bond between layers and more definition.
  4. Historiker

    Historiker Dramamine Adict Staff Member Moderator Gold Contributor

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    PETG does look very good for this use. Thanks for the heads up!
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  5. stevemontuno

    stevemontuno Active Member

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    You could maybe try slowing the speed of the print down ,, i usually have my nozzle at .3 ,,its ages ago since i printed any text that small though,,,

    that module looks really cool btw.
  6. cgodwin

    cgodwin Active Member Gold Contributor

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    I haven't had much luck with small lettering on my 3D printer. But what has worked well is 3D printing a part, and then laser engraving the small details. I've also tried using my CNC router on a 3D printed part, but the result was about the same as just doing it all on the 3D printer.
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  7. bruce stephen

    bruce stephen Hammer doesnt fix it, must be electrical

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    @Historiker one thing that may work is a smaller nozzle. mine came with .4mm. i ordered .2mm from china but they havent arrived yet. i too was trying to improve detail. poly is best for me so far and abs is second(small parts only nothing long) then pla. pla is very easy to use but the resolution sucks. even with a fan. petg is on my list for the next MICRO CENTER run muuuhahahaha:grin
  8. RufusDufus

    RufusDufus Well-Known Member

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    I don't know where, but I recall reading that some slicers are better at small surface details than others. Cura and Slic3r are the two main slicers I know of but I think there are others.

    ps: If you post a .stl file I (and maybe others) could run a print next time we're printing to see how the results compare? Also have you looked at the visual slicer output to see how good the details have been represented?
  9. Historiker

    Historiker Dramamine Adict Staff Member Moderator Gold Contributor

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    Thank you gentlemen, I ordered a .2mm nozzle (actually they come 5 per pack) and a roll of PETG which should arrive tomorrow. I will give that a try.

    Rufus, here is a sample that I have been working from. I finally realized that I do not have to print the entire button to test the text, lol. It is the top 3mm including the text.

    Attached Files:

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  10. Historiker

    Historiker Dramamine Adict Staff Member Moderator Gold Contributor

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    @cgodwin thanks for the heads up on the laser. I do not have one at this time but it is on the horizon. :)
  11. bruce stephen

    bruce stephen Hammer doesnt fix it, must be electrical

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    My k40 Chinese lazer cost $100 more than my 3dprinter. It's not as useful but maybe for this application. If you do decide to get a lazer stay away from moshi crap. I'm contemplating replacing the control board in mine. I don't really use mine for for a lot but it works awesome for inlay work so this may be an option"

    20151123_010925.jpg
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2016
  12. shannonb1

    shannonb1 Well-Known Member

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  13. shannonb1

    shannonb1 Well-Known Member

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    It might be worth it in your slices to slow the rate of the print speed down at that layer. This will give you a cleaner print if you decide to make them go out. I still believe however that if you choose to emboss the letters insttead, the lines you will be printing are larger and will be cleaner.
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  14. shannonb1

    shannonb1 Well-Known Member

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    Are you using Cura as your slicer? I think its best with printing letters as well.
  15. Historiker

    Historiker Dramamine Adict Staff Member Moderator Gold Contributor

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    @bruce stephen , have you tried cutting out acrylic with the laser yet? Or done any text?

    @shannonb1 , thanks for the suggestions. I had actually tried inset text already but it did not turn out well at all. I want raised letters so I can paint the buttons black and grey and then file the tops off to reveal the white lettering.

    I do use CuraEngine as the slicer, how do you go about changing the speed for only the letter layers?

    The slicer does see the lettering very well and shows that it is layering them. I think the issue is with the PLA as it is "gooey" for a moment and this makes the pull when the nozzle moves. Hopefully the PETG an .2mm nozzle will help with this.
  16. shannonb1

    shannonb1 Well-Known Member

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    Its in the settings, I would need to look. If you use a marlin firmware you can also do it manually from the machine.

    If you pla is gooey then you have your temp too high. What are you cooking pla at?

    similar to what I do with guns you can easily heat up a crayon and poor the material into the insert, then you can gently rub away the excess.

    Here is another solution to the infil.
  17. shannonb1

    shannonb1 Well-Known Member

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    What is your print/move speed?
  18. shannonb1

    shannonb1 Well-Known Member

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    If you want, send me one of your buttons files and I'll see what I can get it to look like on my printer and settings. Send the stl. I wont redistribute, NDA.
  19. Historiker

    Historiker Dramamine Adict Staff Member Moderator Gold Contributor

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    It is posted above
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  20. shannonb1

    shannonb1 Well-Known Member

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    Ok so youre printing at 0.4mm and the base size of your A for example is 0.6mm give or take...your printer has to do 2 passes at which it will do 0.8mm ....thats your issue...
  21. cgodwin

    cgodwin Active Member Gold Contributor

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    I have the same laser as @bruce stephen. Works pretty well for less than $500 USD. Unfortunately I gave away my example of laser engraving a 3D printed part. What worked best was to print with the text surface down on the heated bed, which resulted in a nice flat surface to engrave the text on.

    Also, when just 3D printing text, it was generally more readable if I printed the text down on the bed to give it a smooth finish. This worked pretty well as long as there was a frame around the text to help support it.

    I've cut .22" (~5.5mm) acrylic very often on the laser and it works well. The cut ends up with a little bit of a taper, but the edge is very smooth. For example of very fine text engraved in acrylic, here is the entire Declaration of Independence engraved on an 8" x 10" piece of acrylic. Need a magnifying glass to read it.
    IMG_0664.JPG
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