3D Printworks Meets SlimprintNL
We recently had the pleasure of talking to Erwin Boxen - who you may know better as SlimprintNL on Instagram! Erwin, 26, tells us all about Instagram, 3D printing in the Netherlands, and his favourite prints in this Q+A.
How did you get into 3D printing? Was it very sudden or was it more of a gradual process?
My 3D printing journey started in early 2018 when I was introduced to the fablab at my college. Students there were given the opportunity to turn their ideas into tangible objects using 3D Printers, CNCs, laser cutters and more. For me, that was the first time I came into contact with desktop 3D printers. I was so impressed by the idea of being able to design and print almost anything with very few geometrical shape limitations that I started saving up for my first printer, an Ultimaker 2+. I then started learning Fusion360 & Rhino7 to design my own objects and I haven't stopped designing and making all sorts of (decorative) things since.
What’s your favourite method of 3D printing? And what’s your favourite material to print in?
My favorite 3D printing technique is currently FDM and I own 3 cartesian style printers (Ultimaker 2+, Prusa i3 MK3S, CR10 S5) and one industrial delta printer (Tractus3D T1250). In total I have printed about 7000 hours in the last 3 years (next to my parttime job). My passion for designing decorative items, such as vases, plant pots and artsy stuff, has led me to mainly make relatively large objects up to 60 cm high, so these 3D printers are perfect for that. In terms of materials, I mainly use bio-based (& recycled) PLAs, PETGs and composite materials, because for me the visual quality / surface finish and minimizing environmental impact is very important.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever printed?
Since I have printed a lot of objects over the years, I don't really have one thing I like best. But if I have to choose, I think I have a 60 cm tall, matte black vase that I recently printed in 25 hours. It is super satisfying to make your own digitally designed model tangible in a large format.
In the past year, my hobby has become a passion and a business. The idea that you can use a 3D printer to decorate your entire house (with your own made art and decorations) is very inspiring to me. Most of my prints are prototypes of upcoming models or actual end products. My focus is therefore mainly on decorative models.
For the people who want to decorate their home in a unique way (and don’t have a 3D printer), I print the vases for them. And for the people who have their own 3D printer, I make the 3D models available so they can make it themselves (decentralized), which is pretty amazing.
Over the years, I have met many great designers, creators and friends through social media, many of whom also share their DIY projects. I find that very inspiring and insightful. In my region, there are very few people with a 3D printer, but there are a lot of them in the Netherlands! At the moment, the conditions are not favorable for meeting each other. But I would love to go to MakerFaire in Eindhoven or Formnext in Germany to meet like-minded people, whenever it is possible again.
Why did you start your Instagram account?
I started my Instagram account with the aim of creating a portfolio for myself and to document what I create. Not knowing that after 3 years it already had such a large following and reach.
Now it has grown into a channel where I hope to inspire others to also get started with designing and making 3D printers. Sometimes there is still the perception that plastic is only for toys or functional purposes and that it can't be beautiful. I therefore want to show that you can also make beautiful decorative items with it, from home.
Do you have any tips and tricks when it comes to 3D printing – the kind of thing you only learn through practice?
Sometimes you run into a problem that you don't know how to solve immediately, for example heat creep. I had never heard of it and therefore did not think of it. For me, it worked to exclude every possible cause one by one in order to eventually get close to the possible solution. I looked at things like the PTFE tube, cooling %, fan (duct) position, loose screws, heater cartridge, thermistor etc. Eventually, the issue was a slightly loose heat break in the heater block.
It may be frustrating that you cannot solve it right away, but this is the time to learn how to investigate and solve a problem yourself. And it's okay that sometimes you can't do it right away, just take a break and try again later. Sometimes that will give you fresh ideas. In the end, it works out. Once you finally manage to solve the problem, I recommend you write down the process of what you tried to do to get to the solution somewhere or record it in a spread sheet, in case you need it in the future.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started 3D printing that you know now?
What I would have liked to know from the beginning is that a different nozzle size can make a huge difference in print time (and does not necessarily mean that your model is less detailed). Sometimes a thicker line adds texture, which can be quite nice.
What I would also have liked to know is that filaments are more or less hygroscopic, and that they therefore absorb moisture over time and degrade in quality. It is therefore important to store all filaments in bags with desiccants. If a coil has absorbed moisture anyway (to be seen in print issues such as extreme stringing/ oozing), then I would definitely recommend investing in a filament dryer.
Probably the disconnection / replacement of the heater cartridge while the printer was still on. There was a short circuit and my motherboard burned out. So, I had to replace that one too. Not very smart haha. Always turn off your printer when replacing electronics
Do you meticulously plan your projects or is it more like you just print whatever happens to catch your eye or attract your interest in the moment?
Both. Since my passion has also become a business, I carefully plan all print jobs related to an order. For my personal projects, I don't plan so much. Creative ideas often come to me when I have no deadline and the freedom to work on them as long as I want.
I do record all print jobs including print settings in a spread sheet, so that I can always retrieve which settings I used to make something and what the result was. If something goes wrong, I can use the settings to find out whether something was not quite right.
Finally, what do you think is the future of 3D printing? Do you think it will grow even more than we’ve seen in the last few years?
I see the future of 3D printing as a fully circular workflow where failed prints and materials can be recycled (from home) into new filament to make new items. A future where discarded plastic that is currently dumped in nature can be prevented, collected and used to make new materials. A future where (pretty much all) plastics no longer have to be made from fossil fuels but from renewable raw materials. Which creates a nice sustainable loop. I can't wait for the day to come.
Ultimately, I expect that more and more people around the world will have the opportunity to make their ideas tangible with more efficient, faster and user-friendly 3D printers.