Okay, so I know I have been quiet for a bit. That is because I have a third printer to play with... or at least it was fun until Covid-19 changed everything. The Fursuit project is officially on hold, but ironically enough the CNC project is now a priority. I'm changing gears here because I cant ignore that I could be making face shields quickly for our medical workers. If I play my cards right, I could start making them completely myself given the raw materials.
New Ender 3
My older brother decided to give me his second 3D printer a month or two back; a modded ender3 that printed PLA beautifully. He has a baby on the way and they are turning the home office into a nursery. Ultimately they needed the space and my brother knew I would take good care of it. The modded parts were printed in PLA for the most part, and most of the mods made sense. I have modded it to print PETG temps and replaced a lot of the PLA parts with PETG, plus other nice to haves that should have probably made it into their own blog post. For this post; its enough to say I have a third 3D printer now that can print PETG like a boss.
Covid-19 and Motivations
Anyone living in the US now knows things are getting pretty unusual now that Covid-19 is racing through the nation. My little brother (he hates when I call him that) ended up contracting it and getting self quarantined with my Mom and stepfather. At the moment everyone is doing fine, but its apparent the there is a need for medical supplies and protective personal equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers above all else. Sitting here, hoarding my now three 3D printers, and a mostly finished CNC machine that could be running with some wiring done.... I said to myself; "Self, do the thing". So I'm holding on the Fursuit project, and spending my time (when off the clock at work) gearing my home setup to making face shields. I will likely not make the deadline for Anthrocon 2020 to finish the suit, but tough grapes I guess.
The Print Farm
Turned out getting set up has been easier said than done. The only solid printer I have had up until two weeks ago has been the prusa mk2.5s with mmu. The timing just worked out before Covid-19 took off that the Ender3 got finished. My second printer (Duplicator i3 Plus) has never been able to PETG reliably because Z lift never worked with the version of Marlin 2.0.x that I had installed on it back in late '19. Z lift is important for PETG because it likes to goop and its super solid. Its almost a given that your part will fail if you don't lift the nozzle when performing a move. Luckily I had just flashed a new version of Marlin 2.0.x to the Ender3 (new SKR mini v1.2 E3 main board) and had a good start on converting the same firmware for the Di3+. I spent the weekend tuning and prepping both printers to get the working solid. I even printed this epic wolf print to ensure it could go unattended. Its in urban grey prusament PETG with zero stringing, but a ton of vibration artifacts from the crappy frame... which doesn't matter right now.
So with printing farm actually up and running, I need to turn my attention to the actual clear plastic shields. These will be made with clear .5-.75mm thick poly-carbonate sheets. I opted for the Prusa Face Shield Design, which seem to be a larger and more sturdy type than some of the other designs out there. They need a little more work to cut to size, but if I can get the CNC machine running it will allow me to cut these quickly and accurately given the correct tooling bits. The size of the work area on the CNC is perfect for these 240x240mm sheets and its almost like it was designed for this specific task.
I also know someone locally who also does CNC work as their profession who I could lean on potentially if my CNC machine doesn't work out. He might help anyway depending on how fast I can produce the 3D prints.
At this point I "think" I have ordered enough PETG and have enough PETG to keep production running once my prints are more tuned in for these face shields. They are a little tricky to print in stacks of 4, but certainly possible. I broke the PLA Ender3 spool holder by dropping it the other night. So printing a PETG replacement was a priority. I have 6Kg of Sunlu PETG coming from amazon and should be here in three weeks. With that I have on-hand I should be able to make a ton of these bands, way more than I will be able to have actual clear plastic sheets for.
I have ordered 60 plastic sheets from here, at the thickness of .75 mm. It cost a ton, but will get me rolling while I try to find another long term source. I needed to get the order in sooner rather than later if I am going to get any of these out the door. I also need to source elastic banding too. Which I could likely get from a fabric store or online so long as the delay shipping isn't ridiculous.
All-in-all, I am probably going to spend about 300 dollars up front to make the 60 shields with left over PETG filament for way more. I believe my biggest limiting factor at this point is getting the plastic shields assuming that getting the CNC running goes well. I could probably produce on average 12 or more shields a day so long as there are no hitches and I had the raw materials.
Plans for the Masks
The first 30 have been promised to a local hospice service. After that I hope to be in communication with my state's dept of health who should be giving me indication of the best place for them to go. I am hoping they will also fund the raw materials as well so I can keep things rolling. I'm not really made of money and it would go a long way. It may not be much, but what I'm currently doing is within my capacity.