Dragon printed in translucent PLA

3D printed PLA Plastic dragon head on a bed of purple paper

Dragon Head (Thingiverse thing # 1466)

I’m working hard on writing up my electronics assembly notes for my Makergear Mendel Prusa, but off to one side my printer is faithfully assembling molecules into magic, printing a Dragon’s head .

It is a week since I printed my first wonky, stringy calibration cube on my hand-assembled kit printer. Today I ran out of the red PLA, and switched to clear PLA, which is its natural, unpigmented colour. If anything it is easier to print with, and extrudes more smoothly. And it is beautiful! In celebration, I printed a magical being.

Printed PLA Dragon head on 10mm gridded background

Printed PLA Dragon head on 10mm gridded background

This dragon is translucent. When held up to the light, the eye-sockets are brighter because there is less plastic behind them. I’ve uploaded the photo with the green background so you can judge scale.

It is 74mm from neck to nose, 59mm wide and 54mm tall. It took 8.1 metres of 1.75mm diameter filament and almost exactly two hours to print.

And you only get to see the right-hand side of it’s head, because the horn on the left-hand side fell over before it was linked to the head. The whole thing printed with the neck on the bottom and the nose at the top.

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4 Responses to Dragon printed in translucent PLA

  1. Cath Clark says:

    molecules to magic, indeed!

  2. Paul Stevens says:

    I had been wondering about the printers ability to deal with overhang* or the degree of negative angle* it could manage without printing support structure, and am interested if you have cut the support away or is the head as printed or has it been assembled from parts? either way an impressive indication of the printers capabilities.
    *(excuse my fumbling for correct terminology but trust you understand the line of my enquiry)
    Sorry you ran out of fire engine red despite it’s inability to extrude faster.


    • BrazenArtifice says:

      The key to this print is described in the last line of my post. It was printed standing on the flat of the ‘severed’ neck, building upwards to the tip of the nose.

      As a general rule, overhangs are ok up to about 45 degrees, because each strand of plastic will stick to the edge of the plastic below, and to the plastic next to it on the same layer. So, you might go around the outside of a cylinder three times (called the ‘perimeter’), starting on the inside and working outwards. The nozzle squishes the new plastic against the plastic below it and the plastic beside it.

      Sometimes you can manage more than 45 degrees of overhang, if you cool the extruded plastic fast enough with a fan, and don’t maintain the angle unsupported for too long. The bow and stern of the pirate ship are close to the limits. The mainsails were way beyond the limit, in that they were only supported at the centre, the mast, so they started off very wormlike and drooped out towards the sides of the ship. Over the course of maybe ten layers, the new layers sat on top of the solidified droopy layers and all became smooth again. But doing that is risky, and left some texture in the bottom of the sails.

      Objects like your centaur and faun would likely have to be sliced into parts somewhere unobtrusive, printed out separately, and glued together afterwards. Or, as you say, its possible to design in support pillars to help hold stuff up. The dragon’s horns were an attempt at that. One of them was so thin at the base that the nozzle movement knocked it over before it could be joined to the back of the skull.

      Some 3D printers can print in a second, soluble, material that can be used to hold up complex shapes. My printer has no way of printing that sort of ‘support’ material. I would need another nozzle, and software to manage both nozzles at once. People are working on it.

      Of course, if you use one of the powder based printers, support is a non-issue. Then you just need many thousands of dollars, and a maintenance contract.

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