Getting started with 3D printing can be intimidating, but it doesn't have to be. With the right resources and knowledge, you can become a 3D printing hobbyist or small business user in no time. Here are some tips to start 3D printing.
Step 1: Get a Digital 3D Model.
When you start 3D printing, your first step should always be getting a digital 3D model. Whether you create one from scratch using 3D design software, download one from an online repository such as Thingiverse, or use a template at models.makewithtech.com and customize, the possibilities are seemingly endless. While it may seem intimidating at first, luckily, there is an abundance of online tutorials and videos from trusted sources, such as MakeWithTech's YouTube channel, to help guide you through the process. With practice and creativity, anything can be brought to life!
Step 2: Slice It.
Slicer software is the key to unlocking the full potential of a 3D model. It's the essential step in turning your design into something that can be beautifully printed. Slicing software takes your 3D model and breaks it down into layers so your printer can understand and interpret each layer for printing purposes. Cura and Prusa Slicer are popular slicing options, and there are plentiful resources online if you need help getting started using them. With this vital step complete, a whole world of possibilities becomes available for 3D printing – so embrace the challenge and put your models to the test.
Step 3: Choose Your Printer.
With so many types of 3d printers on the market today, it can be challenging to decide which is right for you & start 3d printing confidently. FDM and resin printers are the most common, though industrial-grade 3d printers are also available. FDM 3d printers extrude plastic or composite materials like a hot glue gun would, while SLA, DLP, and MSLA utilize light sources to cure a single layer of resin at a time. Evaluating your requirements and budget before choosing a 3d printer is essential.
For first-time 3D printing users, using a 3d printer filament (FDM) based printer is often the best place to start. FDM filament printers are easier and faster to set up and use than those based on resins. This is because FDM printers' filaments require minimal post-processing compared to resin-based 3D printers. A dedicated curing process is necessary due to the type of plastic used for printing. Moreover, resin-based 3D printers require special handling when it comes to cleaning and disposal of materials due to their messiness, whereas keeping FDM filament-based 3D printers clean is simple. While resin-based 3D printers can produce outstanding detail quickly, they are not the most optimal choice for a novice user.
Many entry-level FDM (fused deposition modeling) 3D printers can now be found for as little as $250, making it feasible for anyone to explore the world of 3D printing without putting too heavy a strain on their budget. In addition, higher-quality FDM 3d printers remain relatively inexpensive - with many models coming in at under $1000. So, if you want to start 3D printing without breaking the bank, you have plenty of options.
Step 4: Set Up Your Printer.
Once you've chosen your printer, it's time to set it up! Using a 3d printer will vary depending on your type of printer, so read the instructions carefully before starting 3d printing. I often find the manufacturer's instructions in the box are outdated and incomplete. I recommend you head to the manufacturer's website or Youtube for updated assembly instructions.
For a successful print, you must ensure the print surface is level. On an FMD 3d printer, the nozzle must be a consistent distance from the print surface. Even with higher-end FDM printers that include auto bed leveling, you need to calibrate the bed. Make sure you learn how to level the bed of your new printer before you attempt your first print.
Once the bed is level and your filament is loaded, you can manufacture fun and functional objects at your home or office.
Step 5: Start Printing for Fun and Profit.
Now that everything is set up and ready to go, it's time to start 3d printing! Make sure to read any safety instructions the manufacturer provides before beginning any prints, and always wear protective gear when working with hot materials or corrosive resins. Once everything is in place, hit print and watch as your creation comes alive!