Project tutorial
Materia 101: Making Something Useful

Materia 101: Making Something Useful © GPL3+

There are many things you can fix around the house with a 3D printer. I’m going to fix the button on our microwave oven in the office.

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Components and supplies

PlastInk - White Rubber Filament (1.75mm) 0.5 kg

Necessary tools and machines

Apps and online services

About this project

1. Take measurements

First we have to take all the necessary measurements to make the new button. These are the ones we need:

  • The width
  • The height
  • The depth
  • Other measurements of details relevant to the functionality of the button

NOTE: A caliper is a good tool to use for this task.

2. Take notations and make a sketch

Now we need to draw our new button on a piece of paper and insert the measurements we made earlier. We do this to get a good idea on how we will design our button later using FreeCAD.

3. Open FreeCAD

Now we open FreeCAD (download the software). The first thing we see is a welcome screen. Here you can find tutorials and information about the program.

4. Make a new file

Click on the “File” menu and choose “New". The Start screen will disappear and you are left with a blue area dominating the window.

5. Choose workbench

Now we click on the drop down menu in the top center part of the window, where it says “-->Start”. Scroll down and click on “Sketcher”. The tools and menu changes.

6. Create a Sketch

Go to the menu named “Sketch” and click on “Create sketch”.

NOTE: A sketch is exactly what it sounds like, a two dimensional drawing.

7. Choosing sketch orientation

A box with options will pop up where you can choose sketch orientation. Choose YZ-plane since we want to draw the button from a profile view and click “OK”.

8. Drawing the profile

Now you will have a grid on top of the blue surface. Use the drawing tools (picture below)  to draw the profile of your object on top of the grid. The line tool is the most useful one. You simply draw from one point to another. Make a quick sketch of your object in profile. It does not have to be perfect.

NOTE: You can click the “Grid snap” under the “Tasks” tab on the left side of the window. And you can even set the size of the grid to adjust for the size of your object. For this object a grid size of 0.5 mm is good. Now we use the constraint tools to make our sketch accurate.

9. ​ Add constraints

Add constraints to your model to make the angles and measurements exact. You add a constraint by clicking on a line, two points or an arch and then choosing the type of constraint you want to add.

NOTE: By adding distance constraints you can later change the different dimensions of your object with the push of a button. This is what is called a “parametric” model. When the model is “fully constrained” it turns green. It says “Fully constrained” onto the right, in the “Tasks” tab.

10. Close the sketch

11. Change workbench

  Choose the "Parts design" option in the drop down workbench menu.

12. Click “Pad” (Extrude)

Now you should see the pad option in the Tasks tab on the left side of the window. Click on it.

13. Pad options

Here you can set how much to extrude the sketch. I’ve set my extrusion to 27 mm. When done, click “OK”.

14. Now your model is done.

You can click on “Set to axometric view” (and yes I know it’s a typo) to get a nice 3D view of your button.

15. Export

Click anywhere on your 3D model and then go to the File menu and click export.

16. Export options

Choose “Mesh formats” from the bottom drop down menu and name the file “something.stl”. I named mine “button.stl”.

NOTE: Now you can close Freecad, but you might want to save the template file for future adjustments of the object.

17. Settings for Slic3r

Download here

18. Open Slic3r

Open Slic3r (download it here), go to the file menu and click on “Load config”.

Choose the configuration file you downloaded before  and click “OPEN”.

19. Slice your file

Now go to the file menu again and choose “Quick slice and save as”. Insert an SD-card in the computer and save the G-code to the SD-card. Eject the SD-card and remove it from the computer.

20. Go to prepare

Now we have to insert the filament into the printer. Click on the knob next to the screen to access the Main menu, choose “Prepare”.

21. Change filament

At the bottom of the menu click “Change filament”.

22. The printer will heat up

The printer is now going to heat up to 230 Centigrade and then start to eject the filament. If you have one loaded already,It will beep loudly when it is done ejecting it. Remove the old filament and push the scroll button.

23. Insert new filament.

Now your screen will say ”Charge Filament” and you can insert the new filament. The Drive gear on the extruder should be spinning. The elastic filament is soft and can be a bit tricky to get into the extruder. So you might have to push it a bit to make the drive gear grab onto it.

24. Check the extrusion

The printer will continue to extrude plastic when you have inserted the filament. Push the button again when you see that the new filament is being extruded to make it stop. 

25. Print from SD

Now you can go to the main menu and choose “Print from SD”. Scroll down to “Button.gcode” or the name you chose and click on it to start the print.

NOTE: Take a look at our previous tutorial to set up the printer for printing if this is your first print.


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