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3D printing your aquarium parts

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3D printing your aquarium parts

For those of you serious DIY folks, you may be interested in how you can make your own plastic aquarium parts by printing them on a 3D printer. Just this year, costs for the 3D printers have dropped to under $500 USD for a pre-built one, and under $200 USD for a kit. 3D printing of your plastic parts works well when:

1. You are good with computers.

2. You like trying new designs or colors.

3. The part is small, or can be put together with small parts.

4. The part does not require great strength.

3. There is no easier/cheaper way to get the parts.

Some aquarium parts, such as simple boxes or tubes, are not suited to 3D printing because they can be more easily made with simple plastic or acrylic shapes. But some parts are so complex that there is no other way to make them except to print them on a 3D printer. I'll be using 3D printers to make the next version of algae scrubbers because of the built-in air tubing, magnet compartments, holes, and bubble pathways that make it impossible for the part to be made (in one piece) any other way.

Some things I've learned that pertain especially to 3D-printed aquarium parts:

1. Only use ABS plastic, not PLA or PVA. The ABS plastic is the same type of plastic used in kid's LEGO toys and is very strong. PLA or PVA plastic, however, will slowly dissolve when underwater or when subjected to high temps.

2. Only use FDM (also called FF) printers. These are the types of printers which use coils of plastic filament. These are also the cheapest printers. Other types of printers such as SLA (liquid) use a photo-cured plastic that will get brittle under aquarium lights, and "powder-printers" make parts which are not water tight.

3. The 3D printed parts will not be "glossy smooth". They will instead be more like carbon fiber, with a texture (or lines) running in one direction through the whole part.

We are too new at 3D printing to be able to recommend a particular printer, but I'm sure each reef or aquarium club has someone who has a 3D printer, and this is usually a great place to start.

Summary of 3D printing links:

Endless things to print:

Thingiverse - Digital Designs for Physical Objects

General forum for all printers:


Massive forum for lots of printer kits and DIY:

RepRap Forums

Current lowest-cost assembled printer to print aquarium-safe ABS plastic:

The Buccaneer® - The 3D Printer that Everyone can use! by Pirate3D Inc :: Kicktraq

Current most popular U.S. based assembled printer:

3D Printing | 3D Printers | MakerBot

Low cost Chinese clone of Makerbot:

Flashforge 3D printer

Another low cost Chinese clone of Makerbot:

3D printer

Easiest free 3D modeling program to start with:

SketchUp | 3D for Everyone

(needs the "Export STL" plugin from http://www.armanicreations.com/download/export_stl_file.rb )

Happy printing!

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Nice one! I've always been interested in the 3D Printing and was really keen to get one.

But with so many in the market, it's hard to know which one is best to get.

The Makerbot seems like the most solid retail 3d printer available I think.

Any Australian companies selling them? (Or other 3d printers?)

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Problems I see....

1) Cost of raw materials far outstrips any costs associated with simply buying the part or piece of equipment

2) Sourcing blueprints for your project. It has been said you can build anything with a 3D printer but the limitation will be that manufacturers will only allow you to have their blueprints if you pay for them. I have yet to ascertain if these blueprints will have a quantity control on them or not, which would limit your commercial use of these printers.

3) Yes [MENTION=4720]Shanoz[/MENTION], you can make guns. I have heard that the US are considering outlawing 3D printers because the guns you can make from them don't get detected when passing through security screens at airports.

Awesome devices but I think we will see some very tough regulations on them in the very near future.

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