6 Things I’ve learned About 3D Printing with the Silhouette Alta so Far
Quick hits about the Alta
Uses 1.75mm PLA filament.
Everything is measured in mm so be prepared to google “4in to mm” until you remember it by heart.
The max print size is 120mm(4.72in) tall and 116mm(4.56in) wide.
It comes ready to go right out of the box.
Now lets get to what I’ve learned so far. These are in no particular order. I’ve just been keeping a note as things come up!
🙅🏾♀️🙅🏾♀️🙅🏾♀️🙅🏾♀️ heat gun on acrylic plate
The Alta has an acrylic build plate. I couldn’t get my print off of the plate one day. I tried a still metal putty knife that slipped off of the print into my poor thumb which resulted in a pretty nice gash and the tetenus shot I’ve been avoiding… but when I got home I still tried to get the print off of the plate with some methods I saw in a facebook group. First I tried to put it in the freezer, still didn’t budge. Then I tried to heat the plate with my heat gun which kind of worked, but it ended up warping the plate and made it really hard to print anything on it. Luckily silhouette sells replacements for a couple bucks!
TL;DR: V HOT DIRECT HEAT AND THE ACRYLIC PLATE DON’T MIX.
If the filament won’t stick or gets too stuck to the plate after printing, 9 times out of 10 its the calibration. One of the sides is either too loose or too tight. Luckily Silhouette 3D has a very helpful calibration setting. All you need is a piece of printer paper (not cardstock!!) and the hex key that silhouette included with the machine!
If no filament is coming out of the nozzle when you first start your print, its def clogged. I’m not sure what causes it to happen, but there’s a couple ways to unclog it. First way is to use the small pokey thing silhouette includes with the Alta to try to clear the clog from the bottom. If that doesn’t work, you can clear the clog by manually heating the machine though the software, unhooking the plastic tube from the nozzle, and pushing the clogged filament through with the thin hex key that silhouette also includes with the machine! I’ve learned that I can usually tell if the nozzle is clogged even before I print because the filament will disconnect and the melted end will be visible in the tube when this happens, I clear the clog, cut the melted end off of the filament, and manually slowly feed the filament till it starts to flow out of the nozzle.
Glue stick for adhesion
Using a glue stick to help the filament stick to the build plate is something that I learned from a facebook group! For 3d printing it is common to see blue painters tape used to cover the build plate and some people use a light coat of hairspray, spray adhesive, or a couple swipes of a glue stick in the print area to help the print adhere to the plate. Silhouette sells their own tape for the plate which is super smooth and you don’t get indents in the bottom of your print that you would from the edge of the painters tape if you used that. Ever since I started using the glue stick method I haven’t had any trouble getting my print started!
Every print I’ve made has started in Illustrator. It’s easy for me to create my shapes, export them as svgs (scalable vector graphics), and use the silhouette programs or fusion 360 to create my print file!
Since I already use silhouette studio for my cameo, it’s been a breeze importing my svgs from illustrator and making files in studio to then open in Silhouette 3D
I’m starting to get the hang of this program, but there’s a huge learning curve. Luckily there’s some videos on youtube that you can watch to learn some things! If you’ve never used it, this is the kind of program that you just have to mess around in and hope you remember what you did haha. This program uses the .stl file format to save your 3D print file.
This is the program that you use to actually print your file. When you open a 2D file in the program it gives you a couple options: Extrusion, Cookie Cutter, Jewelry Box, Stencil Box, Stencil, and Wax Pendant. I’ve only used extrusion and cookie cutter so far and both gave the result I was looking for!
This is a great website to use when you’re starting to get into 3D printing but don’t really know how to make your own files yet. People upload their .stl files that you just have to download and print!
Cleaning up prints
I’ve found that its handy to keep an x-acto knife/razor, spray bottle of water, and wet/dry sandpaper to clean up any rough edges or rouge strands of filament. I haven’t found that I need to do a ton of cleaning up for the projects I’ve made so far but there’s a lot of info about products that fill in the lines and stuff out there for if you want to turn your print into a complete finished product. I personally like the small imperfections :)
I think that’s it for now!
Here’s a couple things I’ve made using the Alta!