So, you bought your first 3D printer, congratulations! But now you might be wondering what to do with it. Most sources online make it seem like they are easy to use, but in reality, they take a lot of setup and maintenance to keep them working properly. But I will do my best to walk you through some of the steps to aid you on your 3D printing journey!
Step 1: First, before anything else, you need to set up your 3D printer. I know this sounds obvious, but it is indeed necessary. Each 3D printer is different, so follow the respective instructions given to you by the manufacturer.
Step 2: One thing that you also need to buy for your 3D printer, is filament. If you do not already know, filament is the long plastic wire-like material that you insert into the 3D printer. Filament is to a 3D printer like ink is to a normal printer. There are a few types of filament that have their own strengths and weaknesses, some of the most common filaments are PLA, and ABS. PLA currently is the most popular filament for 3D printing enthusiasts, it is also one of the easiest plastics to print which is another upside to it. it prints at a reasonably low temperature, at least for a 3D printer, and does not require a heated bed. The worst part of PLA is that it cannot survive outside in the heat for long, so if you plan to print anything that will be outside, go with ABS. ABS is a reasonably strong filament that can survive outside in the elements. The problem with it is that you need a heated bed and in some cases, a heated enclosure. The bed is the base plate that the first layer sticks to, without the heated bed, the ABS plastic will warp off of the plate and ruin the print. The heated enclosure is used only for large ABS parts. It keeps the whole 3D print at a constant temperature. This is because sometimes, when the ABS cools, the layers of the print will warp and come apart and your print will be ruined.
Step 3: One of the most crucial steps in 3D printing is bed leveling, this can make or break a print. If the nozzle is too close to the printing bed, then the extruder, which is the part that forces the filament through the hot end, can start clicking and will not extrude properly, causing the print to fail. When the nozzle is too far away from the printing bed, the print will not stick and again, it will fail. the instructions given to you from the manufacture will most likely have bed leveling instructions, but if not, there are many guides online that tell you the proper way to level your respective printing bed.
Step 4: After you set up your 3D printer, you may want to print something, but you do not have any files to print. One of the best websites that provide files that you can use is Thingiverse. This website has thousands of 3D models that are free to use. They can range from intricately designed statues, all the way to useful household items.
Step 5: Next, you need to slice your 3D model of choice. What is slicing you might ask? Slicing basically just puts the 3D models into a language that the 3D printer can read. It basically tells the printer where to move when and what settings to use. In most slicing software, you can change the model’s size, orientation, how many you want to print, and more. You can also change the settings you want your 3D printer to use, like how hot you want the nozzle to be and how fast you want it to print. My slicer of choice would be Cura because it is simple to use as a beginner, and it is free.
Step 6: Now that you have your 3D model sliced, you can start trying to print it. You should never just hit print and walk away from your printer expecting it to work. One thing to look out for is to make sure that the first layer of your print turns out well. If the first layer starts peeling up or something doesn’t look right, stop the print, and check what might have gone wrong. If you are having issues, check your bed level, as that is the most common cause of print failure. If the print is still coming off of the build plate, you can try to use painter’s tape, Hair spray, or a glue stick. When using painter’s tape or a glue stick, make sure that they are applied directly on the build plate, after you apply them, it would be a good idea to re-level the bed to compensate for the added height. I would stay away from hairspray because that can be dangerous unless you know what you are doing.
Now that you have a fully working 3D printer on your hands, you now can let your imagination run wild, printing whatever you want, whenever you want! So, to get started, visit websites like thingiverse.com to find a few sample projects to practice with. You’ll be surprised how addicting printing can be!