3D printing your aquarium parts

Discussion in 'DIY' started by Iris, Aug 25, 2013.

  1. Iris

    Iris Guest

    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.

    We are 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.

    Summary of 3D printing links:

    Endless things to print:


    General forum for all printers:


    Massive forum for lots of printer kits and DIY:


    Current lowest-cost assembled printer to print aquarium-safe ABS plastic:


    Current most popular U.S. based assembled printer:


    Low cost Chinese clone of Makerbot:


    Another low cost Chinese clone of Makerbot:


    Easiest free 3D modeling program to start with:


    (needs the "Export STL" plugin from http://www.armanicreations.com/download/export_stl_file.rb )

    Happy printing!
    denzil and neuro like this.
  2. grizfyrfyter

    grizfyrfyter Reef Geek 3D Printed

    First thing that comes to mind is pump impellers....
  3. denzil

    denzil Webmaster

    I think strength is necessary for an impeller to keep its form.
  4. Excellent summary of lessons learned and resources that could help someone get started with 3D printing - thank you!
  5. Tenny

    Tenny Supporting Member

    Very good summary. What kind of things are you printing for your aquarium? Which printer did you go with?

    I printed some hose clamps yesterday, but my printer isn't as precise as I want and it didn't do a good enough job for me to use them. I have a Printrbot Plus V2, but I need to spend more time in getting it to print precise.

    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:28447 <-- Super bulky, I made too much support so I had to drill it out after.
    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:125536 <--Changed that one for a smaller tube (1/2" ID, but it was unusable when I made it...)
  6. Iris

    Iris Guest

  7. Iris

    Iris Guest

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

    Iris Guest

    Wow just saw the hose clamps :)

    BTW I think the UP! is now at Radio Shack.

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