I’m glad you are here! You will learn everything you need to know to start 3D printing. When I first started 3D printing I almost gave up. I almost gave up multiple times and all the times were when my prints failed.
I understand that learning how to 3D print can seem like a challenge. 3D printing is not that difficult. If I can learn to 3D print so can you! Keep reading! You need to know what equipment you will need, what software to download, and what you want to print!
What is 3D Printing?
3D printing is an addative process that creates a 3D object from a 3D digital model by using a 3D printer to lay down material in layers. Filament is wrapped in a reeled thru the extruder and melted by the hot end to create the layers. After a layer is compled the nozzle with the hot end moves up to add an additional layer. This process is repeated until the phyical design is complete. Check out the video simulation below that shows how 3D printing works.
Basic flow from 3D model to printed physical object
Start with a 3D Model file >> Export 3D Model file>> Import the 3D Model file to 3D printing software >> Slice the 3D Model file to create a Print file>> Export Print file >> Import Print file to printer >> Select file on printer interface and print>> 3D Printed object
Ask yourself these Questions before you buy a 3D printer
Do you want to 3D print?
A 3D printer is not only a fairly significant financial investment. It will take time and commitment to learn how to 3D print successfully.
What is your Budget?
A decent beginner 3D printer will cost around $100USD- $300USD. A spool of filament will cost approximately $25. The extra tools and gadgets needed can run anywhere from $25-$200, depending on upgrades and needs.
Do you have the time and patience to 3D print?
Unfortunately, 3D printing is not something that is as simple as taking the printer out of the box and pressing print. As amazing and as far as 3D printers have come, they are still machines that require tuning and patience. Problems with 3D printers are the number one reason why people give up on their 3D printing craft. It is time-consuming to troubleshoot 3D printing errors. Imagine finding a design you want to print and going through all the necessary steps to start the print on the 3D printer. The 3D print states it will take 28 hours to print. You start printing and at hour 12 the print shifts and you have an unusable print. These things happen when you use a 3D printer and it can be very frustrating. If you have the patience for this type of maintenance and 3D troubleshooting, you are golden!
What do you want to 3D print?
An important question indeed. Do you want to print unique and custom items? Do you want to print items not available? With the cost of the machine and the filament, it is sometimes cheaper and easier to buy the item already assembled.
Why do you want to 3D print?
This ties into the “what” question. You have something in mind that you want to print. Why do you want to 3D print these items? You can easily find a local printer to print this item for you. Are you are a hobbyist? Do you want to start a 3D printing business? Can you see that 3D printing is an ideal solution for your ideas?
Examples of why you want to 3D print:
- I want to 3D print my 3D designs as prototypes. Other production means are too expensive.
- My kids are interested in learning how to 3D print.
- I am interested in learning how to 3D print.
- I consider myself a maker and want to learn 3D printing.
Now that you have decided 3D printing is for you, let’s get started!
Here is a master list of things you need to start 3D printing:
- 3D Printer
- Design Software – Basic and Free 3D Software
- A design to print
- 3D Printing Software – This is also referenced as a Slicer.
- Filament (Buy my favorite here)
- Wire Cutters
- Hair Spray
Buying the right 3D Printer
You decided on a printer. That’s great! There are so many great resources to find your perfect printer. I am going to assume you chose an Ender 3D Printer.
Computer and Software
On your computer download a 3D Printing Software or what is reffered to as a Slicing program. I used Cura, but there are a few other options.
The slicer takes the 3D file (STL) and converts it to a printer file (GCODE). The G-CODE file is the file the printer needs to print. This G-CODE will have all the printing parametres that you specified such as layer height, layer width, infill density and about 100+ other details.
You don’t need a 3D design software if you plan on buying your 3D files or downloading free files, but TinkerCad is a free software and it is very easy to use. It’s a basic 3D software, but very user friendly. It has limitations, but it is the best place to start for a beginner.
You will also need Caliphers. This is important for taking accurate measurements and will be crutcial for making your own designs. Wire Cutters are need to cut the filament and Hair Spray is needed to help the print adhere to the bed.
Assemble your 3D printer yourself
Take time to open the instructions and assemble your 3D printer. You could have someone assemble it for you, but do not choose that path! It is so important that you learn how to use your printer and one of the best ways to learn is to assembl it. If you know how your 3D printed is put together you will know how to take it aprt. I mentioned one iof the hardest part of 3D printing is troubleshooting. THis means at times you will have to take the printer apart to fix it or replace parts. You can now start 3D printing.
Download and Prepare a Test Print
My favorite test print. If you have an Ender 3 you can use the GCODE in the files. Check out my post on How to easily level a 3D Printer Bed. Now that your testing for a level bed is correct you can calibrate your printer by printing a calibration cube.
Start 3D printing your designs
I realized that I glossed over the trouble shooting phase of 3D printing, because that alone is a large post and entire websites have been designed for trouble shooting. I highly suggest googling your printer and the issue you are having to get specific results. There are great Reddit threads dedicated to trouble shooting your prints. I hope this post gave you everything you needed to start on your 3D printing journey. Let me know if ther eare any specific topics you woudl like for me to cover in future articles.