Dimensional Print Studio


IMG 0662Just call it ASA. It is a 3D FDM printer filament. It is a plastic that is similar to ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene). Note they have arranged the triple name components a bit differently. The butadiene is missing and acrylic is first. What all that means is mumbo-jumbo chemistry to me. It does mean it has different properties.

ASA acts like ABS but is claimed to be stronger, more weather resistant and less subject to the effects of (UV) Ultra Violet radiation. Result, it should last longer in an outdoor environment.

That is why I bought my first kilo spool. I had a ham friend who wanted weather resistant plastic parts for a mobile radio antenna for his vehicle. I made some samples from ABS because I had some. Then I did research and discovered ASA and its better outdoor resistance especially to UV radiation.

I re-printed all the mobile antenna parts and then made end insulators for use with wire antennas. 

ASA prints very well. Temps are high at the 250 C range. Warpage is far less than ABS. With good bed adhesion (glass + hairspray) I have been producing excellent parts.

My son-in-law asked for some parts made for a Yakimo bike rack on his automobile. I immediately recommended ASA rather than ABS for the parts since it would outdoors and subject to a lot of UV sunlight.

I had red, blue, and white ASA on hand. I suggested he could purchase a spool of black if that was the color he wanted for his bike rack. I now have black ASA on hand.

ASA produces a strong and rigid part. No flex in a thin wall can cap I printed in black ASA. Shown in picture with bike rack sample parts. I just a few days ago used red and blue ASA to reprint a mailbox flag I printed in ABS two years ago.

The ABS flag was structurally fine but showing a bit of color fade. The ASA replacement is a real world UV test in exactly the same location. A gave the old flag to my neighbor as it was perfectly useable. (No ABS from me in a landfill yet.)

In summary, I think ASA is a great material for printing. Parts are good. The jury is out on the UV claims, but I will accept the printed specs. ASA is priced higher than ABS and other “standard” filaments. Not an issue for me for the claims of better outdoor durability. ASA is for printing real application durable load bearing parts. Not decorative shelf Junque. :) 

IMG 0239Chair leg tips may be the proper term. To me they seem more like rubber boots. These are the last of 36 I made on the Cetus 3D printer. That’s nine chairs. Print time is 1.5 hours for each leg.

I print them four at a time but there is no time savings in doing multiples. The print time for four (one chair) is six hours. Total print time for all 36 pieces was 54 hours.

The material used is called TPU which is Thermal Plastic Urethane, a rubber material. Very tough and durable once it has been printed. Very good for this use. 

I made a TPU (RED) case for my Apple SE cell phone. This too was a great application. I earlier posted some other red TPU prints in this blog. I now have to look for other uses for the TPU material.

Now that I have mastered the process for printing TPU, more projects with TPU will soon be underway.

IMG 0175I have my newest Tiertime Cetus, I call Big MamaCatus, doing some prints I never thought I would do on a Cetus FDM printer.*

The Cetus printers do not have any mechanical leveling of the build plate. It is bolted directly to the linear bearing with three small screws with no method of adjustment. What you have for level is fixed.

The leveling is done by using a four-layer raft and a four-layer base support on top of the raft. The first layer of the raft is 300% over-extruded and squishes out broadly. This heavy first layer and the buildup of the raft and support eventually results in a build surface that is parallel to the X and Y axis. Then the print is started on top of this level surface.

The result is the use of a lot of filament material to build a flat working surface. With a Cetus printer, one throws away a lot of raft leveling material at the end of the print.

The raft and support do not provide a nice polished build surface for the base of the print. The print bottom is always ruff like about #80 grit sandpaper. I usually “flame polish” the bottom to remove the little sharp points, but the surface is still quite a bit grainy.

I have installed a 3mm thick sheet of borate glass 200mm x 200mm using binder clips on the Cetus build plate. I simply tolerate the bit of non-level of the build surface. It is a bit larger than the 190mm x 200mm Cetus bed. I can live with a bit of overhang as well as the level issue.

I have to remove the ~5mm excess nozzle calibration height to get the nozzle low enough to print without the raft and support layers. 

What I get is perfectly smooth bottom prints from Big MamaCetus! (*Read the first line above again.) I can stick some thin Build-Tac on the glass for TPU and PETG.

I am exceedingly pleased to be able to print without the raft. Some prints may still need the raft if I run into serious leveling issues on a big print. I have had no serious issues with prints up to 100mm diameter so far. First layers may be a bit thin on the high side but as long as the low side will stay attached to the build surface, the second layer evens out the height. I can not see this slight deviation in any of my finished prints.

Big MamaCetus is a MK3 with a heated build surface and the auto level probe. Early electrical problems have been resolved. (See previous posts.) I still consider the flexible power ribbon connected to the heated bed a weakness in design of the MK3. Careful protection of the cable must be maintained. I know to be careful.

The picture shows BMC printing a PETG cap and the glass build-plate with build-tac surface. Nozzle temp is 240C and the bed is 85C.  55mm/s speed. The print is excellent.

IMG 0155Working with a new filament type for FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling). Called TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) It produces rubber-like flexible prints. Many producers and brands. I have no way to evaluate, so I picked a brand “Overture”.

I read a lot of prose on what brands are best. Most of what is printed is pure BS. It is like picking which tree in the forest has the best wood for your current woodworking project. Real craft people can adjust for slight variation in materials and produce excellent products.

It’s also like baking cookies. There are always slight variations in flour brands and also various “grades” of flour.  Bread and cake flour are both still flour.  OK - rant over…

I am learning how to work with my new TPU. 

The TPU filament is like boiled spaghetti, a bit past “al dente”. It is SOFT! Very flexible. For that reason, the suggested print speed range is between 20 to 40 mm/s with 40 really pushing it. It seems 10 to 20 mm/s is a great speed for printing. No so good if you think FDM goodness is judged better by how fast you can go…

I also noticed material is extremely under fed and I have pushed extrusion multiplier to 1.5 (150%). Most PLA and other hard filaments I run between. 0.9 and 1.0 for example.

I am also playing with UPStudio3 (BETA) using my CETUS Mk3 printer with heated bed. CETUS has a very closed coupled direct drive filament feeder. I cannot see TPU working well with ANY Bowden type printer. I have not tried, but with all the filament flex, a Bowden feed will be total frustration controlling the print.

Suffice, the Cetus drive is working very well.  UPStudio3(beta) is not quite ready for “prime time” for use with Cetus. It works, but there are limitations that must be removed before getting my stamp or approval as an everyone’s slicer/ printer.

The next step with my new TPU material is discovering what it can print. Things that must be flexible. How do printed supports work with TPU? I will be “playing” with TPU and looking for the “killer application” that needs to be made with TPU.

IMG 0156My soda can cap in the picture is a good start. The very first print was air permeable (not airtight) so will experiment with line widths and flow rates. A rubber cap should seal…  all part of mastering the process.

IMG 3335My Big Mama CetusBMC, Big MamaCetus now lives up to her promise and expectations.

After being abandoned by Tiertime (Cetus) support, I have been on my own to trouble shoot and fix the problems with the Cetus MK III printer.

What I think led to the issues was my lack of knowledge of how the multiconductor ribbon cable termination sockets mechanically function. Absolutely no instruction was provided by Tiertime on the process to open/close or unlock/lock the connectors.

Looking at these very small connectors, I assumed (incorrectly) they were simply friction fit terminations. This was false. There exists a very tiny lock/unlock bar to clamp and unclamp the termination to properly insert and remove the cable from the connection.

I was able to force fit (with rather moderate effort) the ribbon cable into these sockets without releasing the clamp bar. But something went astray from the high current 20 conductor ribbon cable to the heated build surface. One conductor in the center of the cable vaporized when I first enabled the power. The trace is supposed to be non-connected as an empty buffer between the plus and minus high current leads on both sides of this unused trace.

Somehow it conducted a high amount of current, which made it glowing hot.  This short circuit COULD and likely DID lead to all the other failures.

The issue was that the printer could still print but had no temperature control over the build surface. The build plate would power full on and become extremely HOT. Even melting PLA rafts to the build plate.  The CPU could not read the temperature sensor attached on-to the build plate.

Having no schematic or description of operation, I had to use my experience of how I thought it SHOULD work. Again, NO HELP was available form Tiertime after the very first contact. That’s another story.

I discovered the micro SD memory card failed on the main board, and the CPU board never, ever produced a WiFi signal. The Build Plate cable was the only visible damage and was obviously bad. The cable is not available as a repair part. Tiertime did send me a new build plate with a new cable. I also bought a second replacement just to have another good spare cable on hand. It is an obvious weak point in the bed heating system.

The new build plate cable didn’t fix the issue of not reading the build plate temperature. There is a signal problem between the build plate and the CPU.

At this point Tiertime stopped responding to my subsequent attempts to communicate.  At least six more attempts through website and Facebook.

I bought (paid for) a new intermediate control board and a new CPU unit. Both came with necessary cabling, so all in the signal path was changed. The order department in China is very responsive to paid orders. I received the new parts 3 full days ahead of promised delivery.

After installing all the new parts, Big Mama Cetus was powered up again. Glory Hallelujah! Everything is working as it should. She is in perfect health.

I have now made a half dozen parts and all are perfect, top notch quality and all function of the printer are correct. Cetus MK III is a great tool when wired correctly and all components are in working condition.

I have been constructing electronic components since I was 10 years old. I am presently 73. Sixty three years of experience and a ham radio builder and licensed for over fifty years. I know my way around electronics. I am a career expert in electronic and all other types of environmental and machine control systems. The average Joe is going to have no idea how to solve these types of issues.

Can I recommend Tiertime and Cetus?  I think the product is not perfect, but the two I own demonstrate I do like how they work.  Currently, I think the support group is in a mess and un-supportive. Published support information is disjointed and randomly arranged. Scattered.  Look long and hard, there is good information. But a vast amount of conjecture and guessing from “user forum” type comments.

In my honest opinion, User Forums is NOT a good way to provide customer support. Too much “chaff” for the few grains of valid information.


Using wax base filament for FDM printing models for Lost Wax Casting (LWC) master models.

3D Printing operation details will be published here. The casting and finished art will be presented elsewhere with links provided.

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