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Measure tool: To see the overall dimensions and volume of a model , we clicked on it within the software. However, there’s no tool to measure sections of the model. So, when we wanted to rescale the model in the software, we had to take the model back to our stand-alone CAD software and use its measure tool to find the new dimensions of a section.

• Unclean-file warning: Pay attention to the color of the model in the software. It’s the only indication that a model will or won’t print correctly. Red-colored sections have holes or other inconsistencies; light pink sections are okay. Otherwise, there are no other warnings or messages. In contrast, most professional CAD software gives messages on the bottom toolbar that declares a model Fully Defined or Undefined.

By clicking Edit > Fix, your model should turn light pink. If there are still red sections at this step, clean the CAD file in another program such as Netfabb or, better yet, in professional CAD software. The Affinia’s Fix tool is one-click, so there are no options to see or adjust what the software is doing to fix the model.

Afinia, Fig. 3

• Units: The program is in millimeters and there is no way to change the units.

• Instructions manual: The printed manual that comes with the Afinia is helpful but poorly worded. Our least favorite is the manual’s instructions on how to navigate the software. First it directs the user to submenu items, and then to where they’re found — so instead of saying “Go to Edit > Fix” the manual says, “Click the Fix option from the Edit menu.” In fact, we recommend following the online instruction manual (at afinia.com/support/manuals-guides) instead of the printed manual. The online manual is more comprehensive and includes more photos.

Setting up and calibrating the printer: The instructions to set up the printer were straightforward, but there was confusion or lack of appropriate interface messages on the following steps.

Afinia, Fig. 4• Confirmation of connection: The Afinia H-Series connects to a computer via a USB cord. However, it’s not always obvious when the printer connects successfully. One way to check is to go to 3D Print on the Afinia software’s toolbar and make sure all options are available for use — especially the Maintenance option.

• Leveling the platform: If the platform is not level, the print won’t be even. What’s worse, the nozzle can scratch against an unleveled platform, which puts it at risk for damage. To level the platform, don’t eyeball it. Get a level and use the manual screws at each corner to adjust. We used a smartphone with an app called Bubble Level. Placed it on the platform, it told us when we were on target.

• Setting nozzle height: The nozzle height is the distance between the platform and the nozzle. The desired nozzle height for printing is when the platform sits as close to the nozzle as possible without touching it — about 0.001 in. To move the platform to the fixed nozzle, the user must enter into the Afinia software the desired nozzle height in millimeters. Note that the platform height cannot be manually adjusted.

This step is hard because the software reads the platform at 0.00 mm when the platform is furthest from the nozzle (and not when it’s touching the platform, as one might expect). It’s also hard to physically measure the distance between the nozzle and platform. That forces the user to guestimate the distance and then input small increments until the platform reaches desired height. We used an online reference at machinedesign.com.technologies/3Dprinting to hone in on a nozzle height of 134.4 mm. Tip: Place a sheet of paper between the nozzle and the platform. When it’s hard to move the paper, the nozzle is at an ideal height. 

Printing: After cleaning the 3D model and setting up the machine, we were ready to print. However, we ran into a few additional hiccups.

• Estimating print time and amount of material: There is no way to check how much time it will take or how much material is required to print a project while scaling, multiplying, or fixing a model in the software. The only time the user is given this data is after pushing the Print button. If the user wants to change the model to reduce the time or use less material, the print job has to be canceled. Then the designer has to manipulate the model in the software, or separate CAD software, and reload into the printer.

• Warning after hitting print: When printing our RoboCop Droid, we hit print and got this message: “Error: Part material not enough, Add material? Yes or No?We had enough material on the spool, and the file within the software was completely light pink (so had no errors). When we clicked on "Yes" nothing happened. When we hit "No" the machine started printing the Droid.

Resources

Afinia

3D printing library

How to avoid desktop 3D-printing errors

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This file type includes high resolution graphics and schematics when applicable.