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3D printing gone wrong (pictures)

3D printing is opening up a brave new world of home manufacturing and cheap, accessible goods. But it's a relatively new pursuit, and sometimes it can go very wrong.

Leslie Katz
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
Leslie Katz
tangled.jpg
1 of 8 Tony Buser, CC BY-SA 2.0

Lesson learned

The Art of 3D Print Failure Flickr group, inspired by a 2011 blog post that documents RepRap's own 3D-printing missteps, is entertaining to browse, but also extraordinarily useful. It highlights where and why 3D printing goes wrong so others dabbling in the technology can avoid the same mistakes.

"Untested settings and huge overnight unattended printing is rarely a good idea," Tony Buser notes of this tangle.

lopsidedhead.jpg
2 of 8 Fred Kahl, CC BY-SA 2.0

Strangely shaped skull

A lot can go wrong with 3D printing, a rapidly maturing technology that many people are just now learning how to use. Here, someone's head is looking a bit lopsided.

"It may sound odd, but it's really essential that you fail when doing 3D printing," says RepRap, whose own blog post about 3D printing inspired the Art of 3D Print Failure Flickr group. "It tells you so much about your machine, the boundaries you can operate in, and how good or bad things can be. If all you do is print with safe settings or never play with the electronics or firmware, then you are missing so much of this wonderful project."

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3 of 8 Sandy Noble, CC BY-SA 2.0

Unsmooth move

In 3D printing, successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes. Some parts of this plastic piece look smooth, others not so much.
printbedtemp.jpg
4 of 8 j_ridley2000, CC BY-SA 2.0

Not so hot

A printbed temperature drop caused a part to break loose during printing.
filament.jpg
5 of 8 j_ridley2000, CC BY-SA 2.0

Filament gone awry

Another case involving a temperature problem, which this time caused a temporary jam and shaved bits off the filament, wedging them into the grooves of the machinery. Contributors to the Art of 3D Print Failure Flickr group often include detailed diagnoses of their 3D printing ailments. "Solved by increasing the temperature by 10 degrees to give more leeway on the temperature drop. If this is unworkable for some reason, the feed rate could also be reduced," suggests j_ridley2000.
printbed.jpg
6 of 8 Creative Tools, CC BY-SA 2.0

Loose object

As a previous image highlighted, it's not uncommon for a 3D-printed object to become loose from the printbed.
loomfailure.jpg
7 of 8 Chris Cecil, CC BY-SA 2.0

Loom failure

Upon finding his printer looking like this, Chris Cecil ascertained that "the wire loom to the x carriage had too much slack and caught on the top of a part," causing the bed to disengage.
error.jpg
8 of 8 Chris Cecil, CC BY-SA 2.0

Diagnosing the problem

"Problem was a serial error," Chris Cecil says. "Noisy AC line or bad USB cable was the likely cause."

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