3D printing is cool. We mean seriously, truly, cool. No other technology has affected so many industries with quite the same fervour and potential. To date, 3D printing has aided major breakthroughs in the medical, manufacturing and motoring industries, not to mention revolutionising the arts and crafts arena.
With this in mind, more people than ever are embarking on their first 3D printing venture. As with any skill, there are techniques and approaches that are seen as standard. Sometimes, these techniques are discovered, but if you’re lucky, you’ll be introduced to them by somebody with a little more experience in the craft.
To help you on your journey to expertise, we’ve compiled our list of top tips to help.
Do Your Research
There is a huge range of 3D printers out there and some will have capabilities that others don’t. Then there’s the printing material to think about. Do you know what filament is compatible with your machine and whether it will have the desired finish once it's done? Trust us, think about what you want and then do some research. Then you're much less likely to run into any frustrating issues.
Read The Instructions
When you first get your 3D printer, it might be tempting to ignore the instructions in your excitement as you try to set it up as quickly as possible. We urge you to maintain your excitement but also to read the instructions. Setting up a 3D printer incorrectly and then wrongly blaming the apparatus is a common issue we experience.
Whilst some 3D printers arrive with no assembly necessary, others can require self-assembly. On a similar note, it is highly advised to make sure you calibrate your printer correctly if you rush over this part you can end up with poor results. In short, do read everything that comes with your printer and if you are still unsure, read some more online. There’s a great community of people out there ready to help.
Calibration is crucial if you want your prints to be precise and an accurate representation of your design.
What Is Calibration?
It’s basically ‘tuning’ your printer. This includes ensuring the extruder is accurate (both physically and in relation to your software), ensuring the bed is level and that the general functions of your printer are stable and precise. Without correctly calibrating your printer, you risk warping, sticking on the print bed and general blob-like prints.
Calibration can be a simple fine-tuning exercise, or it can be a little more comprehensive. As it varies slightly for each printer (and software you use), we recommend finding a guide online that you can refer back to each time you need to tune up your printer.
One of our favourite guides is this one from Reprap.
Get A Digital Calliper To Check Your Print Accuracy
Digital callipers go hand-in-hand with calibration of your 3D printer. They’ll allow you to check the precision of your prints, as well as the set-up of your printer. Invest in a pair, you’ll need them sooner or later.
It can be easy to get carried away when you get your 3D printer – you’ll have seen some of the incredible 3D prints already out there and be eager to create something equally as ambitious.
Whilst we can appreciate that you want your first creation to be glorious, we do advise to start small and simple. Yes, small and simple wins the race. If you begin with very basic shapes like a cube and simply get to know how your machine works and how various materials behave, you can then confidently embark on the more complex projects you have in mind.
Join Communities & Online Forums
Because there are a limitless amount of things you can create with 3D printers, it’s not uncommon to feel a little paralysed by the choice. For the times where you just can’t decide what to start printing, an online community is invaluable to your inspiration.
If you’re stuck with a technical issue or your creative streak is hitting a wall, a forum is one of the best places to seek help. Here are our favourites:
Don’t Neglect The Software
While your 3D printing machine is the heart of the activity, its operation feeds off software on your computer. CAD (computer-aided design) software varies, so it’s best to do some research as to which will be best for you and your equipment.
Print Safely & Responsibly
3D printing technology is constantly being improved upon and many high-quality printers are now safe to use in a classroom setting. That said, we highly recommend you are aware of the potential hazards a 3D printer has if you aren’t aware of them.
Most printers will have several moving parts that get very hot so handling must be done with care. Heated filament can emit toxic fumes that aren’t healthy for you to breathe in, so remember to always print in a well-ventilated area, rather than an enclosed room.
As with most things, 3D printers are only as dangerous as the people using them so always make sure you are fully aware of how to safely operate one.
Start With Simple Filaments
There are numerous filaments to print with, from plastic-like to wood-like, all with unique characteristics. However, some are easier to print with than others - varying melting temperatures and different needs (like whether bed needs to be heated) can be a little overwhelming, to begin with.
Learning how to print with filaments one-by-one will be much more manageable than jumping right into the advanced ones straight away.
And that concludes our list of 3D printing tips for beginners. 3D printing is an awesome hobby so be wise and mindful to make the most of it. Read a lot, ask a lot and then practice! With so many models, materials and potential, it’s fairly inevitable that you’ll have a few failures along the way to printing success. Take note, move on and be inspired. And make sure to stock up on our exclusive, premium range of 3D printer filament.