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  1. #1
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    Could use guidance on choosing printer for prototyping PCB enclosures, etc. please :)

    Hi everyone, so I'm developing some custom printed circuit boards and I've been using Fusion 360 to learn to design my own enclosures for the boards. I also have some other various enclosures that I want to prototype using a 3D printer, but surely there will come other things I will want to design and print later, maybe some automotive-type stuff. I won't be printing any small figurines or anything like that.

    A couple of years ago a coworker showed me something printed using filament (FDM), and something else he printed using resin (SLA). I loved how much more solid the resin variant felt, and how much better the detail was on the resin-printed item. So using that knowledge, I may have jumped the gun a little and decided I wanted a large volume resin printer. I ordered a QIDI TECH S-box, and between the bad instructions that are written out of order in broken English, to the broken English used when operating the GUI on the printer, so the fact that the holes drilled in the build plate causing nubs on everything I print..... I'm questioning my choice. I do want some of what I'm printing to be able to survive sitting out in the sun during summer, so I did order some "ABS-like" resin, but I'm seeing there are a lot more options currently with filament, such as carbon fiber-infused nylon.

    So now I'm looking at some high-precision, large build volume (because some of my enclosures will exceed 140mm in length) FDM printers. I want high precision because I'm trying to keep minimal clearance (ie: .25mm or less, if possible) around all external-facing connectors on the boards. A lot of tight tolerances on the enclosures, including how they fit together. The boards are using surface mount components, and are assembled by a machine, so the consistency in the connector positioning isn't an issue). I don't want to have to go back and sand or file loose material and such, so now I'm wondering if one of these 3 FDM printers might make more sense for my application:

    FlashForge Creator Pro
    https://www.amazon.com/FlashForge-3D.../dp/B08GJ44T6Q

    QIDI Tech X-Plus
    https://www.amazon.com/Intelligent-I.../dp/B07JCKNQSZ

    QIDI Tech X-Max
    https://www.amazon.com/Large-Intelli.../dp/B07JBXVCWG

    The Creator Pro would give me the option to print 2 pieces at the same time (not sure if I can do 2 DIFFERENT pieces at the same time), but the reviews on the QIDI products are a little better and the volume is larger..... though I'm right back to dealing with the broken English from QIDI. But perhaps with either of these FDM printers I'd have the ability to upgrade the nozzles and use some more durable materials, like the carbon fiber-infused nylon, when needed.

    I understand a lot of this comes down to personal preference and use, but is there anything else I should be considering when planning to prototype PCB enclosures with tight tolerances, when it comes to choosing a FDM or SLA printer? Thanks so much to anyone willing to help!

  2. #2
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
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    Hmm, well tecdhnically youmade the right choice and might be giving up on the s-box a little too soon.

    There are a lot more resin types around now than there were a couple years ago.

    Have you joined the s-box facebook group ?
    That would be a good place to find some real anoracks who can probably address whatever issues you're having.

    From a precision point of view - even the best fdm machine with a 0.25mm nozzle is still not going to deliver the quality of print you can get a from a resin machine.

    Also you've got dual exrtrusion mixed up with dual extruders (idex).
    The creator pro will - technically - do two things at the same time - but as the two nozzles and stuck together - the things need to be very small. It's actually usually easier to NOT do two things at the same time :-)
    What dual extruders are meant for are two different materials at the same time - so maybe pla and soluble supports. Or a rigid materia and a flexible material. Or two different colours - those all work well.

    For idex you'd need to look at something like the flashforge creator 3.

    I don't want to have to go back and sand or file loose material
    Yeah that's pretty much standard with many complex fdm prints.
    I do a lot of tidying up, it's usually saves a lot more time than printing slower and at a higher resolution and getting a print a little ckeaner.
    I figure 1-0 minutes with a sanding block beats an extra 8 hours printing every day :-)

    But before you invest in another machine, fidn the s-box facebook group and have another go at it.
    Last edited by curious aardvark; 01-25-2021 at 03:46 PM.

  3. #3
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    Hey again curious aardvark! I really appreciate your input as always! I did end up reading your message and joining the QIDI Tech Owners group on FB last night. I did also reach out to the QIDI tech support after having one print only do the first few layers and stop, and another print that resulted with nothing formed on the build plate. They gave me some troubleshooting to do (level the build plate again, clean the resin vat again, etc.) so I'll be trying that tonight. Unfortunately, as far as the nubs go, they said the only thing that can be done is to sand them down -__- ....on every print of course.

    Thanks for the clarification on the dual extrusion/extruders topic, that was really helpful, and now I know that the Creator 3 is out of my budget when I just now looked it up haha.

    Also good to know that you don't spend a terrible amount of time with filament prints when it comes to cleaning up. Spending as little time as you do may end up being more convenient that pouring the resin back into the container, cleaning the vat, cleaning the backing plate, cleaning the print, and curing the print. If I do end up going the filament route, I do have a heat gun and would likely purchase one of those acetone misting deals and try cleaning up the lines even further with that.

    I'll absolutely follow your suggestion and keep trying a few more prints with this resin printer... I'm happy to hear from you that it is more likely to give higher precision prints when it comes to tolerances, in addition to the appearance of course. Thanks as always Sir!!!!!!!

    -Andrew

  4. #4
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    So as un update last night I emptied my resin vat to find several very thing layers of my print adhered to the top side (vat side) of the FEP film. The LCD was not damaged, but the film was, so I replaced the film and re-leveled the build plate. I got a great print this time! I printed just the bottom body of the PCB enclosure I was drawing. Unfortunately it warped during the curing process and in trying to slightly bend it into shape I learned how brittle the material was and broke my enclosure in 2 pieces lol.

    I did print the bottom of the enclosure directly to the build plate, and I used AnyCubic basic resin... so not sure what contributed to the warping of the case. I do have a bottle of that ABS-like resin I ordered, so may give that a go next, else I may have to try printing the enclosure off the backing plate, using supports, and see if that makes the difference. When it came off the backing plate it was perfectly flat, so not sure that printing off the backing plate is my answer. I have some learning to do

  5. #5
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
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    A couple of things.

    How important is the appearance of the enclosures ?

    You can easily print 100% solid objects on an fdm machine.

    And depending on the orientation you can print really small and fine details.

    And of course there is the almost limitless number of different material you can get.
    I know you can also get an increasing num ber of resins - but if you compare the cost it's a LOT cheaper to experiment with fdm materials than with resins.

    Are the nubs from where the print attaches to the top plate ?
    In which case you may be able to get a sheet of something to stick on the plate to give you smooth bottom prints.

    Or design a print that goes on top of the plate and has extensions that fills the holes in the late up :-)
    That would probably be the best bet - and it would also give you better plate adhesion.
    Might be a bugger getting the ptints off though as I would imagine resin would stick really well to resin.

    Or simply use an epoxy to fill the holes.
    Whole bunch of ways to gt rid of the nubs :-)

    It might also be worth your while to invest in a little cheap fdm machine and to experiment with different fdm materials.
    I waas thinking about something like the monoprice voxel and then I saw the one below.

    Or get something like this:
    https://www.amazon.com/TENLOG-Indepe...016025&sr=8-21

    That will make two items at the same time.
    Looks like a decent machine, generally good reviews.
    Decent build volume.

    And bear in mind that you don't necessarily need a heated enclosure.
    Pet, pet-g and all forms of pla - are fine without. As are some nylons and various other filaments.
    Even uses 300c hotends - so you can even have a play with polycarbonate and similiar hi-temp materials :-)

    I wouldn't swear to it - but pretty sure it's using linear rails on the printbed - which would be awesome :-)

    And look at it this way - no 3d printer ever goes unused :-)
    Last edited by curious aardvark; 01-30-2021 at 08:35 AM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by curious aardvark View Post
    A couple of things.

    How important is the appearance of the enclosures ?

    You can easily print 100% solid objects on an fdm machine.

    And depending on the orientation you can print really small and fine details.

    And of course there is the almost limitless number of different material you can get.
    I know you can also get an increasing num ber of resins - but if you compare the cost it's a LOT cheaper to experiment with fdm materials than with resins.

    Are the nubs from where the print attaches to the top plate ?
    In which case you may be able to get a sheet of something to stick on the plate to give you smooth bottom prints.

    Or design a print that goes on top of the plate and has extensions that fills the holes in the late up :-)
    That would probably be the best bet - and it would also give you better plate adhesion.
    Might be a bugger getting the ptints off though as I would imagine resin would stick really well to resin.

    Or simply use an epoxy to fill the holes.
    Whole bunch of ways to gt rid of the nubs :-)

    It might also be worth your while to invest in a little cheap fdm machine and to experiment with different fdm materials.
    I waas thinking about something like the monoprice voxel and then I saw the one below.

    Or get something like this:
    https://www.amazon.com/TENLOG-Indepe...016025&sr=8-21

    That will make two items at the same time.
    Looks like a decent machine, generally good reviews.
    Decent build volume.

    And bear in mind that you don't necessarily need a heated enclosure.
    Pet, pet-g and all forms of pla - are fine without. As are some nylons and various other filaments.
    Even uses 300c hotends - so you can even have a play with polycarbonate and similiar hi-temp materials :-)

    I wouldn't swear to it - but pretty sure it's using linear rails on the printbed - which would be awesome :-)

    And look at it this way - no 3d printer ever goes unused :-)

    You're such an amazing help!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't thank you enough for how kind and helpful you've been, responding to my posts and being so willing to help out

    So my initial thought going into this whole 3D printing thing was that appearance was a huuuuuge factor for what I was doing. While I only wanted a printer for prototyping, I wanted to be very happy with the appearance as I put prototypes into use. So the higher resolution and less visible layer lines (and my ignorance of other pros and cons of FDM vs SLA) is what steered my toward SLA. However, at least with all PCB enclosures I've designed and printed so far over the last few days, I'm finding that sanding several areas has been required. Could be due to me still trying to sort out how to dial this printer in, or maybe it's just to be expected.

    I'm absolutely seeing the the cost of experimenting with resin being much higher as you mentioned. Especially with the shallow height of the cases I'm doing, I really can't tell if something went wrong till the printing is done and the build plate raises out of the vat for me to see the result. I've already, for some unknown reason, had several of my PCB enclosure halves end up pretty significantly thicker (on the part that was against the build plate) than I designed them to be... which has already used up almost all of my 1000 mg of ABS-like resin lol.

    Yes Sir, the nubs are on the side that is against the build plate. Good thought about maybe finding something you put over the plate, but it seems the manufacture revised the plate to have these holes because the amount of suction that was happening in the vat as the plate raised and lowered, and this was also causing a bit of splashing around and making a mess for at least one customer in a review I saw on Amazon. Definitely something I can still look into.... maybe slowing the lift and retract speed would prevent that.

    So it did cross my mind to maybe flip my design over and NOT build the top of the top enclosure, and the bottom of the bottom enclosure, against the built plate... but rather use supports and snap them off then sand those areas, since the underside of the enclosure halves wouldn't be seen. Not sure if the extra resin use for the supports, and removing the supports is worth it over me just sanding the nubs down if I'm not able to do anything feasible to resolve the nubs.

    I did just look at that TENLOG printer and seems like most people are pretty happy with it! I totally appreciate you showing that to me, I'd have to decide if I'd rather not just spend the extra money and get the one I was looking at that has the heated enclosure, just so I have the capability of hopefully being able to use whatever material I want. Nylon and carbon fiber-infused nylon sounds interesting to me, but so does the polycarbonate. I haven't done enough research on the various materials I might want to experiment with to know whether or not I would want to try to use them for something or other, and to know whether or not they require a heated enclosure..... but definitely appears I still have a bit of research to do haha. I definitely unknowingly jumped the gun on my purchase.... but maybe it'll still work out for me if I can overcome some of these small obstacles so far. But I will say that post-processing has proven to be annoying and time consuming lol! A 15 minute bath in my new ultrasonic cleaner filled with Mean Green (with and without heat) is not removing the excess uncured resin very well. I have been taking a soft bristle tooth brush and Mean Green to the components to pre-clean them before dropping them in the ultrasonic cleaner. The only thing I'm finding to thoroughly remove the excess is the isopropyl alcohol. I'd almost rather spend money on getting a nice FDM printer as well and just use each one for certain things..... even though price of my current printer and the price of what I'm looking at are a bit more money, combined, than I really should be spending on this stuff. But like you said, if you have them, you'll use them!

    Once again, I super-appreciate all of your help with everything. You've be extremely awesome!!!!!!!!

  7. #7
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    Hello folks. I just read about the resolution differences between SLA and FDM and I read about the affects of resin out in sunlight or exposed to temps and how there are better resins for this. This thread has been helpful to the ill informed that way. But I can not get over the notion of using resin for a functional part. Nobody prints upgrade parts with their SLA printer. You will never see one of them self replicate. Resin makes very weak products that can sit on a shelf. But for strength I am pretty sure FDM is the better way. And also thicker layers and nozzle diameters make stronger parts. I am so sorry for this but that is the way it works. I'm not even sure if resin makes good things to use for molds to remake out of carbon fiber. To make parts to be used and handled on a regular basis and have screws sunk into it I am pretty sure FDM will find the better joy. I will never own or use an SLA printer because I exclusively make functional parts with 3d printing. Aside from the price jump for consumables and arguably much more important resin is weak sauce. That should be pointed out in this thread. That is the tradeoff for the resolution increase. An inherently weak but beautiful looking product that costs notably more to produce. I would argue that SLA printing is a large step away from 'rapid prototyping' But then I really don't care about perfecting a shelf trinket in a day.
    Last edited by AutoWiz; 01-31-2021 at 12:33 PM.

  8. #8
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    Hi we have been making functional parts by FDM for nearly a year for our prototypes and pre-production runs.

    In practice using nylon and ABS we have been able to print internal threads down to M3 but it has taken some experimenting with hole expansion in the slicer just sometimes we have to clear the thread form out with a tap.

    We have printed female BSP(like NPT)1/8" threads and hydraulic tested them to 10 Bar in Nylon6 LW with no problems once we had adjusted hole expansion correctly.

    Some times when overhangs cause difficulties we make the item in 2 parts out of ABS and solvent weld them together.

    The great advantage of making small parts bf FDM is the cost of each part is low

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by AutoWiz View Post
    Hello folks. I just read about the resolution differences between SLA and FDM and I read about the affects of resin out in sunlight or exposed to temps and how there are better resins for this. This thread has been helpful to the ill informed that way. But I can not get over the notion of using resin for a functional part. Nobody prints upgrade parts with their SLA printer. You will never see one of them self replicate. Resin makes very weak products that can sit on a shelf. But for strength I am pretty sure FDM is the better way. And also thicker layers and nozzle diameters make stronger parts. I am so sorry for this but that is the way it works. I'm not even sure if resin makes good things to use for molds to remake out of carbon fiber. To make parts to be used and handled on a regular basis and have screws sunk into it I am pretty sure FDM will find the better joy. I will never own or use an SLA printer because I exclusively make functional parts with 3d printing. Aside from the price jump for consumables and arguably much more important resin is weak sauce. That should be pointed out in this thread. That is the tradeoff for the resolution increase. An inherently weak but beautiful looking product that costs notably more to produce. I would argue that SLA printing is a large step away from 'rapid prototyping' But then I really don't care about perfecting a shelf trinket in a day.
    Hi AutoWiz, thanks for all of your input! I'm tending to lean toward your thoughts on SLA vs FDM. I've only experimented with ABS-like resin so far in regard to something stronger, and it's definitely less brittle than the standard resin, but still a little on the brittle side for sure. Thinner prints (say less than 5mm) that are printed directly to the bed have broken into pieces during removal, or with a little bit of bending by hand after cured. One PCB enclosure I printed over the weekend came out pretty decent and it won't be seeing daylight, so it'll be fine for me to use it as-is. But you're right.... for everyday handling and for testing in the field, I don't think resin is the best choice now, unless you use a much more durable resin. The quality and accuracy is definitely untouchable, but I don't think I want to handle my prototypes with a bunch of care. I'm still on the fence, because as curious aardvark said, there are definitely some advantages. But the time spent post-processing is more annoying and messy than I imagined. A lot of clean-up if you don't have a dedicated space with a semi-dedicated sink that can be used for the chemicals, if doing it often. I have a large stainless steel sink in my garage.... but it's too cold out there in the winter, and too hot during the summer lol. So right now I'm using my granite kitchen counter and my kitchen sink, and having to clean everything thoroughly each time I print something. Doesn't mean this isn't still the right printer for the job, but the cons are starting to outweigh the pros, in my personal experience, for the purpose I'm using mine for

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambo View Post
    Hi we have been making functional parts by FDM for nearly a year for our prototypes and pre-production runs.

    In practice using nylon and ABS we have been able to print internal threads down to M3 but it has taken some experimenting with hole expansion in the slicer just sometimes we have to clear the thread form out with a tap.

    We have printed female BSP(like NPT)1/8" threads and hydraulic tested them to 10 Bar in Nylon6 LW with no problems once we had adjusted hole expansion correctly.

    Some times when overhangs cause difficulties we make the item in 2 parts out of ABS and solvent weld them together.

    The great advantage of making small parts bf FDM is the cost of each part is low
    I appreciate your feedback Gambo! That's great to hear about the threading for as small as M3 screws. If you don't mind me asking, what was your resolution to nail down the proper inner diameter for your screws? That's great that the parts have withstood 10 Bar for testing, after printing. What printer do you use (or use the most) for your prototyping?

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