What I wish I'd known about 3d Printing

By on 4/25/2018

A friend sent me a message recently, that they were getting their first 3d printer, and they asked me if I had any advice that I wished I had known when I was starting out. What followed was a mostly stream-of-consciousness list, but I figured I'd share this in case it helped anyone else out.

  1. First thing’s first, find the community. My printer has a facebook group and wiki with tons of information, and people that are helpful for when you have questions. Whatever printer you get will likely have the same … find that.
  2. Learn about the material properties. Every type of filament has to be set up differently, and reacts differently to different conditions. Even different brands of filament, even if they’re the same kind of plastic, could have different temperatures that they work best at. I’ve mainly worked with PLA, and that seems to be the least finicky.
  3. Read the instructions, and use whatever slicer they recommend, with whatever settings they recommend. Eventually you’ll know enough that you can take those settings and use a different slicer that you might prefer, but starting off, there are so many options, and it’s impossible to know what you don’t know … so just follow instructions and save yourself a lot of headache.
  4. if you’re using PLA, put blue painters masking tape on the bed … makes taking the prints off super easy. I’ve found that the wide blue tape from 3M is the easiest. Otherwise, you’re stuck trying to pry the print off the bed which can be tricky.
  5. Read and follow the instructions about leveling the bed. Don’t skip this step, do it. Then look up some youtube videos, and do it again. Then look up another youtube video, and do it again … become a bed leveling master. It’s critical to getting good prints.
  6. Find and print a ton of stuff right off the bat from https://www.thingiverse.com/. The idea is that you’ll learn what your printer is and isn’t good at (I learned it’s really difficult to print D&D minis … those tiny arms are a nightmare). It will also give you an excuse to play with and learn about the slicer settings for overhangs, retraction, play with different nozzle temperatures, support material, rafts.
  7. Get familiar with the feeding mechanism that feed the filament to the nozzle. Learn to take it apart and put it back together again. Swap out filament colors between prints. this can all be a PITA, but it pays to become proficient at troubleshooting filament feeding issues
  8. And lastly, when you inevitably want to make something yourself, unless you already know and have a CAD program, check out https://www.tinkercad.com/ … lots of youtube tuts, online, no software install necessary. Easy.

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