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SantaMonica 08-06-2013 09:27 PM

3D printing your aquarium parts
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.

Happy printing!

pop 08-07-2013 06:07 AM

Hello SantaMonica:

I like innovative concepts and this is certainly one. Does one have to use software like computer aide design (cad) or other engineer software to achieve the 3-D image for the printing?

Is abs plastic safe to use in aquariums I know that abs is not approved for use with potable water. Is this a drawback in its use?


SantaMonica 08-07-2013 06:17 AM

Google Sketchup is a good place to start. Then add-in the "STL export" option, and this will give you the file that the printer needs.

ABS I think is what many aquarium parts like powerheads are made from.

SantaMonica 08-20-2013 10:17 PM

Summary of 3D printing links:

Endless things to print:

General forum for all printers:!fo...stricksreviews

Massive forum for lots of printer kits and DIY:
RepRap Forums

Current lowest-cost assembled printer to print aquarium-safe ABS plastic:
The BuccaneerŽ - The 3D Printer that Everyone can use! by Pirate3D Inc :: Kicktraq

Current most popular U.S. based assembled printer:

Low cost Chinese clone of Makerbot:
Flashforge 3D printer

Another low cost Chinese clone of Makerbot:
3D printer

SantaMonica 08-29-2013 01:38 PM

pop 08-30-2013 05:46 AM

Hello Santa Monica:
I have to say that I admire a person with grit. I have been reading a lot on the net about 3D printing and all the trouble one can get into using this technology. Fortunately for some these technologies is exciting and like most technology we want to use it, but unfortunately most if not all objects are legally protected.

YOU SHOULD ADD A DISCLAIMER about copyright and patent laws to your postings. In Hudson NY several companies have been sued out of business over copyright infringement and on the net there are daily new stories about infringement actions regarding the use of 3D printing reproducing protected objects.

Good luck with your adventure

SantaMonica 08-30-2013 11:51 AM

Ah good point for other folks who may try to print and sell things. For me, of course, I will just be printing my own designs, but others will probably start by printing models they find online. It's "ok" to print anything at Thingiverse, of course.

I think someone should start making models of corals and rocks, and putting them on the 3D sites where people can pay to print them (such as

SantaMonicaHelp 09-05-2013 07:21 PM

Anybody good at modeling, and would like to make a coral model for printing?

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