Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Shaping the Filament Tip for Loading

It is relatively important to shape the tip of the filament correctly before loading in any 3D printer.  The filament for the Cube is no exception.  Mike asked how I do this.  So, I thought I would mention several ways one can shape the tip correctly.

Since I'd had a 3D printer before the Cube, I'd already found ways to shape the end of filament using several different tools.

Flush Cutters

A micro flush cutter is a small cutting tool with cutting surface that is flat on one side.  This makes for a very clean cut.  Rio, a supplier of jewelry tools and supplies sells many varieties.

Micro Flush Cutter

Right out of college, my daughter set up a well equipped jewelry studio in our home.  It's still here.  As it became clear that shaping the tip of filament was important, I had a lot of tool choices close at hand.  Flush cutters will work.  But, it takes several cuts at different angles.

Nail Emery Board

The least expensive option is a simple emery board normally used to shape nails.

Emery Board

ABS filament is relatively soft and shapes very well.   For under $2.00 you usually can buy a set of boards with several different grits.

Dremel Sanding Wheel

Few tools are as versatile as a Dremel rotary tool.  This is my tool of choice in shaping the end of the filament before loading into either of my 3D printers.

Dremel Rotary Tool with Grinding Stone

The grinding stone attachment makes short work of shaping ABS plastic.. But, a light touch is a must.  Otherwise, it will melt the plastic.  Light touches as you go around the tip tip on all sides does the job very, very well.  Sanding wheels would also work well.

Obviously, these aren't the only ways to get the job done.  But, they represent 3 different approaches that I know work.


  1. Tom: just received the Cube (ordered on 4/25!) and although a bit jostled around by FedEx it arrived in one piece. Tomorrow I'll activate and try a first print, but the quality of the machine and parts is quite good. Also, having watched folks comment on the "magic glue" I think I can duplicate it easily (seems rather expensive from for what it is)... the smell is a dead giveaway, as well as the ASTM spec on the bottle! If you are interested, I'll let you know my results of testing with an equivalent material. - Eric

    1. I didn't even think to check out the ASTM information. Nice catch! :)

    2. I would like to know you results of testing with an equivalent material. And what the equivalent material is. Thanks in advance.

    3. I tested the material to see if it was PVA-based but it is not! However, do you remember the amber glue with a red rubber, slotted spreader on top of the bottle? Based on my tests, I'm almost certain that the Magic Glue is a form of Mucilage...

      My experiments with PVA materials (clear Elmers and derivatives) were OK but not as good as the material in Magic Glue. Alternative sources for mucilage are around but so far I've not been able to find that "classic" glue anywhere locally.

    4. Wow! I'm impressed by the follow through!

      This is EXACTLY why I blog. You learn so much from incredibly talented readers! In light of what you've found, one has to wonder how somebody at a 3D printing factory had the background to come up with "Magic Glue"?

      THANKS! :)

  2. Good ideas, Tom!

    I like your sandpaper and Dremel-with-sanding-drum ideas lots better than what I was doing with a flush cutter. For me either of those works well.

  3. The Dremel is particularly useful when it comes to a variety of things related to 3D printing.