3D printing your aquarium parts
For those of you serious DIY folks, you may be interested in how you can make your own plastic aquarium parts by printing them on a 3D printer. Just this year, costs for the 3D printers have dropped to under $500 USD for a pre-built one, and under $200 USD for a kit. 3D printing of your plastic parts works well when:
1. You are good with computers.
2. You like trying new designs or colors.
3. The part is small, or can be put together with small parts.
4. The part does not require great strength.
3. There is no easier/cheaper way to get the parts.
Some aquarium parts, such as simple boxes or tubes, are not suited to 3D printing because they can be more easily made with simple plastic or acrylic shapes. But some parts are so complex that there is no other way to make them except to print them on a 3D printer. I'll be using 3D printers to make the next version of algae scrubbers because of the built-in air tubing, magnet compartments, holes, and bubble pathways that make it impossible for the part to be made (in one piece) any other way.
Some things I've learned that pertain especially to 3D-printed aquarium parts:
1. Only use ABS plastic, not PLA or PVA. The ABS plastic is the same type of plastic used in kid's LEGO toys and is very strong. PLA or PVA plastic, however, will slowly dissolve when underwater or when subjected to high temps.
2. Only use FDM (also called FF) printers. These are the types of printers which use coils of plastic filament. These are also the cheapest printers. Other types of printers such as SLA (liquid) use a photo-cured plastic that will get brittle under aquarium lights, and "powder-printers" make parts which are not water tight.
3. The 3D printed parts will not be "glossy smooth". They will instead be more like carbon fiber, with a texture (or lines) running in one direction through the whole part.
I'm too new at 3D printing to be able to recommend a particular printer, but I'm sure each reef or aquarium club has someone who has a 3D printer, and this is usually a great place to start.