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Tools for Thought

3D Printing Tools – 8 Must-Haves (And More) for Your Toolbox

Picture of Tobias Hullette
by Tobias Hullette
Nov 24, 2018

Things break. And even if they don't, they can always be fixed. Here's an in-depth look at the best tools for your 3D printing workshop. Whether a bolt is loose or prints need some beautification, these tools have you covered.

3D Printing Tools Building a 3D Printing Toolbox

3D printing tools.
3D printing tools. Source: Pinterest

Sometimes, success is defined by preparation. Therefore, be prepared. If you can never find the right tool for that screw or the perfect blade for that crevice, it’s probably time to fill your 3D printing toolbox.

In the first part of this article, we list eight essential tools for your 3D printing experience. Then, towards the end, we include some non-essential, but still very helpful tools. In both cases, we categorize tools as useful either for operation and maintenance or for post-processing.

Prepare to consider the best tools of the trade!

3D Printing Tools 1. Operation & Maintenance: Print Removal Knife

Image of: 1. Operation & Maintenance: <span class="link" data-action="modal-open" data-modal-ajax="/en/product-overlay/120027/limit/0/">Print Removal Knife</span>
Source: Amazon

What it is: Sometimes, prints just won’t budge. You’ve tried pushing. You’ve tried pulling. You’ve tried shaking your printer upside-down (don’t do that). It’s time to sharpen your 3D printing toolbox with a print removal knife (or knives). Chances are you already have a putty or paint knife that works just fine. But if not, 3D print removal knives are readily available for between $5 and $20 USD. Otherwise, simply print a handle for a blade to easily remove prints. Thingiverse has some great ideas.

Product image of Print Removal Knives

Print Removal Knives

3D Printing Tools 2. Operation & Maintenance: Screwdrivers and Hex Keys

Image of: 2. Operation & Maintenance: <span class="link" data-action="modal-open" data-modal-ajax="/en/product-overlay/120036/limit/0/">Screwdrivers</span> and <span class="link" data-action="modal-open" data-modal-ajax="/en/product-overlay/120040/limit/0/">Hex Keys</span>
Source: Amazon

What it is: The description for screwdrivers and hex keys (or Allen Wrenches) is pretty self-explanatory. Screw and bolts come loose, these tools help tighten them up. If you’ve owned a 3D printer for any amount of time, you know that the usefulness of these tools cannot be overstated.

Note: Make sure to use metric or imperial tools depending on your printer’s hardware. Stripped screws are no fun!

Product image of Screwdrivers

Screwdriver

3D Printing Tools 3. Operation & Maintenance: Masking Tape

Image of: 3. Operation & Maintenance: Masking Tape
Source: TapeManBlue

What it is: Especially if you’re not printing on glass or a smooth printing surface, build plate adhesion can be difficult. Here’s the solution: Simply lay strips of masking tape (or blue painter’s tape) on your build platform, and print away! Be sure to use wide masking tape. This will cut down on the time it takes to cover your bed and create a smoother surface for your print. This is a definite must-have for your 3D printing toolbox.

Product image of Painter’s Tape

Painter's Tape

3D Printing Tools 4. Operation & Maintenance: Adhesive

Image of: 4. Operation & Maintenance: Adhesive
Source: Ultimaker

What it is: Having problems with build plate adhesion? Use adhesive! Now, glue sticks and adhesive sprays are produced specifically for 3D printing. However, typical glue sticks or hairspray work fine!

Product image of Glue Sticks

Glue Stick

3D Printing Tools 5. Operation & Maintenance: Pliers and Wrenches

Image of: 5. Operation & Maintenance: <span class="link" data-action="modal-open" data-modal-ajax="/en/product-overlay/120054/limit/0/">Pliers</span> and <span class="link" data-action="modal-open" data-modal-ajax="/en/product-overlay/120053/limit/0/">Wrenches</span>
Source: Ultimaker

What it is: Pliers and wrenches are necessary editions to any maker’s toolbox. Whether tightening nuts, removing the printhead, or cleaning nozzles, pliers and wrenches make the job a lot easier. Pliers can also double as wire or filament cutters. They can even help you clean prints by removing strings or support structures.

3D Printing Tools 6. Post-Processing: Digital Caliper

Image of: 6. Post-Processing: <span class="link" data-action="modal-open" data-modal-ajax="/en/product-overlay/120059/limit/0/">Digital Caliper</span>
Source: Amazon

What it is: Sometimes a plastic ruler just won’t cut it. It’s time to pull out the caliper. Most calipers measure with an accuracy of up to at least 10 microns! With such accuracy, you can measure test prints for printer calibration and ensure your prototypes are precise. A digital caliper is a must-have tool for any 3D modeler.

3D Printing Tools 7. Post-Processing: Utility Knife

An X-Acto Knife kit.
An X-Acto Knife kit. Source: Amazon

What it is: A utility knife, commonly an X-Acto Knife, is an essential tool for post-processing prints. Strings? No problem! Annoyingly protruding brim? No problem! Stubborn support structures? Zero. Problems. With an assortment of blades, you can even clean tight or rounded corners that would be otherwise impossible to improve.

Product image of Utility Knives

Utility Knives

3D Printing Tools 8. Post-Processing: Sandpaper

Image of: 8. Post-Processing: <span class="link" data-action="modal-open" data-modal-ajax="/en/product-overlay/120065/limit/0/">Sandpaper</span>
Source: 3DWithUs

What it is: According to Merriam-Webster, sandpaper is a “paper covered on one side with abrasive material (such as sand) glued fast and used for smoothing and polishing.” And that is exactly what it does for 3D prints. It’s helpful to have an assortment of sandpaper grits to gradually smooth prints to perfection.

Note: Sandpaper does discolor prints, so be sure to paint them or get used to the awkward white.

3D Printing Tools Non-Essential Tools

A DIY photo booth.
A DIY photo booth. Source: Thingiverse

The previous list provides you with the best, must-have tools for your 3D printing toolbox, but here are some additional tools that will make your 3D printing experience even better.

Operation & Maintenance:

  • WD40: Does this tool need an introduction? WD40 is great for oiling linear rods for smooth printing.
  • Kapton tape: If masking tape isn’t creating a smooth enough surface for your prints, you might want to consider Kapton tape. Be warned — it is a hassle to apply to and remove from the build plate. This heat resistant tape can also help you insulate wires around the heat bed or hot end.
  • Smoke detector: In the extremely unfortunate case of a fire from your 3D printer, it’s wise to have installed a smoke detector. You may never have to fight a 3D printer fire, but it’s best to be prepared.
  • Desiccant: Filament is notorious for absorbing moisture and decreasing print quality. A ready supply of desiccant can help keep your (sealed) filament dry.
  • Nozzle unclogging kit: Clogged nozzles are the bane of every maker. Thankfully, with a nozzle unclogging kit, you can say goodbye to that instigator of frustration.

Post-Processing:

  • Heat gun: A heat gun is extremely helpful for removing pesky hairs from a print. (Be sure not to melt the print in the process!)
  • Super glue: Super glue is liquid gold. If you need to bond two 3D prints, look no further for a better adhesive. It’s handy to have both thin and thick super glue for different bond strengths.
  • Paints: Especially after sanding, prints experience ugly discoloration. With a few paints, producing beautiful prints is not a problem. Spray paints work well, but an airbrush kit might make the end product even more appealing.
  • Camera: After working hard to make a beautiful model, it would be a shame to not share the outcome. Even with your phone’s camera and a printed photo booth, you can easily share great photos of your work.

License: The text of "3D Printing Tools – 8 Must-Haves (And More) for Your Toolbox" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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