- Cost of 3D printing
- Is 3d printing difficult for beginner
- Print on glass… or any good bed
- Bed leveling & The perfect first layer
- Materials matter
- Slicing Matters
- Print profiles
- Rafts, Brims & Skirts
- Understanding support
- Keep an eye on things
3D Printing is a rapidly growing industry that attracts many enthusiasts and with 3d printers becoming more affordable today than ever before. More and more people are getting into this new 3d printing adventure but many beginners do not realize what it actually takes to get into and then continue the new hobby.
Unlike the “printing” that we use to print paper, 3d printing is much more involved and requires more than just a click of a “Print” button. I want to share with you my experience of what I wish I knew before I got started in 3D printing.
#1. Cost of 3D Printing
As for everyone about everything, cost plays a great role when making decisions to make a new purchase and with 3D printers buying more expensive 3d printer does not necessarily mean buying a better 3d printer. We talk more about this in another post that you can check out HERE.
How much does a 3d printer cost?
3d printers’ typical price range for a beginner is starting at under $200 – $1000 for an average desktop 3d printer that is very much capable. Most beginners start out with a budget friendly Creality brand at around $200. 3D printers price can run up to over several thousand or even tens of thousands of dollars for more industrial 3d printers.
Different Types of 3D Printers
There are different types of 3d printers that need to be taken into consideration. The most popular among beginners of 3d printing is the FDM plastic printers. Then there are also resin SLA printers and metal 3d printers are starting to show on market. More details on different types of 3d printers can be found HERE.
After you have found the 3d printer of your choice and made a decision on the purchase. Keep in mind that the cost of the printer is not the only expense you are gonna make to keep on printing. You may have spent around $200 on a budget 3d printer but after setting it up you will be ready to start printing and for that you will need printing material.
Cost of Filament for FDM 3D Printers
Filament is a hidden cost of 3d printing that many beginners are unaware of. There are many filament material types as well as brands and each one carries its own price tag. Price on filament varies from cheap PLA 1 Kg from under $10 to more expensive PETG of over $100. The Vast majority of filament fall right around $25 a spool of 1Kg.
3D Printer Upgrades
After setting up and tinkering with a new 3d printer you will get more comfortable using it and have a better understanding of how things work. You would want to put more life and personality to your 3d printer leading a way for 3d printer upgrades.
Opportunities are endless when looking to upgrade and personalize your 3d printer. It can go anywhere from downloading from online sources and 3d printing fixtures for your printer to upgrading internal electronic components and software and it all comes at cost. More often than not the cost associated with these upgrades are overlooked.
#2. Is 3D Printing Difficult for Beginner
Short answer is YES. While most 3d printers come ready to print within minutes of setting up with no experience in 3d printing needed. 3D printing can be difficult even if you are not a beginner. But don’t let it stop you from getting into an exciting journey of 3d printing. Thankfully, we have internet and with the popularity of 3d printers there are many groups and communities with many talented like minded people who are willing to help you along the way.
Things to consider before getting started with 3d printing.
- Be aware of different software
- Different types of slicing software
- 3D printer Slicer software is what converts the 3d model into a gcode that 3d printers can recognize and execute by following commands of that gcode.
- There are both free and paid versions of slicer software you can download. With Cura being the most popular and free slicer among 3d printer users.
- Different types of filament behave differently when printed
- This will require adjusting settings in slicer which can later be saved as a profile under a specific name for future use. This file type is known as fff and while the profiles are slicer specific the setting on many of them are the same. Check out our library tab above for free profiles and 3d models.
- Not every 3d print will turn out perfect. Some tuning may need to be done along the way.
- Be aware that 3d printing is a slow process and takes a lot of time but as technology evolves 3d printers are becoming much better in quality, more user friendly, and of course faster.
#3. 3D Printing Surface Matters
Every 3d printer comes with a printing surface but not all 3d printing surfaces are the same and the quality of 3d printed models can be drastically improved by having the right type of 3d printing surface.
There are many 3d printing surfaces available but here we will cover only a few.
- Magnetic flexible 3d printing surface
- Glass or mirror
Most 3d printers today come with either one of the above described printing surfaces and there are benefits in each.
Magnetic flexible 3d printing surface is great as it is fairly cheap and is easy to remove part from when they are done printing. Also, there are no worries about securing the printing surface to the build plate as it is magnetic. To remove models simply remove the magnetic flexible surface with a 3d printed model still on it. Then bend the printing surface and peel off the model. The downside however is that the 3d printed models come off too easy and sometimes do not stick to the surface and corners lift up or model warps. More information on that can be found on our other post Here.
Another thing to watch out for is the flexible magnetic sheet is not very durable and can get damaged by the hot end nozzle if the height is not adjusted properly and if the 3d printed model stick to surface too well it can be challenging to remove it from sheet resulting is a torn surface that will make printing future models difficult.
Glass or Mirror is a perfect printing surface as it heats up evenly and retains heat better than the thin magnetic removable sheet and the surface finish of the 3d printed object coming off is very smooth and glossy almost like glass. The downside is that it could be more difficult sometimes to remove the parts from the glass surface as it is not flexible and material sticks better to it.
#4. Bed Leveling and Perfect First Layer
With that said, it brings us to the most important part of 3d printing, bed leveling and perfect first layer. The success of any 3d printed model depends on the perfect first layer as it is the foundation of the entire 3d printed model structure.
What is bed leveling on a 3d printer?
Bed leveling is a distance of the hot end nozzle away from the bed on any portion of the bed. On a perfectly leveled bed the distance between the hot end nozzle and the bed would be equal in the center of the bed and all four corners of the bed.
All 3d printers have some sort of bed leveling feature. Some have automatic bed leveling features and for some you can install an upgrade to have an automatic leveling sensor. Regardless of the type of leveling feature your 3d printed may have automatic or manual it is absolutely crucial to have the bed perfectly leveled before starting the printing process.
How do you level the bed on a 3d printer?
- First you want to bring the nozzle down in the middle of a bed for a starting point.
- Get a piece of paper and slide it between the bed and the nozzle.
- Adjust your bed up while moving the piece of paper back and forth until you feel slight resistance on the paper. Be careful not to crash the nozzle into the bed.
- Then, repeat this process around all four corners of the bed.
Here is a helpful video that I have found.
After the bed is perfectly leveled you are now ready to start printing but the first layer still may not be the most desirable results.
How to get a perfect first layer 3d printing?
The printing surface may be perfectly leveled to the hot end and still be too close or too far from the hot end. This little detail may ruin your 3d print right from the start. So how do you know the difference? I found this video that does a great job explaining the distance between hot end to the bed and how to identify the difference.
#5. 3D Printing Material Matters
When I first started 3d printing I went through a lot of filament pretty quickly trying to learn the ropes and figure things out. One major thing that I wish I knew before I started 3d printing is that not all material is the same.
While this may seem obvious, printing a typical PLA is a whole lot different than printing ABS or PETG or TPU. This was something that I was expecting. What I did not expect was when printing the same type of material for example PLA but switching brands makes a difference as well. So, a tip for a beginner is find a brand and stick to it and if you wish to change brand be prepared to make some adjustments to your printing profile. More on that later.
#6. Slicing Matters
What is slicing in 3d printing?
When the term “slicing” your 3D model is used it means taking your 3d model design and slicing it into many individual horizontal layers. The slicing software then generates the tool path usually referred to as (. gcode) that the 3d printer will use for printing. Most slicing software will have a print preview of the toolpath to help you prevent print failures.
Slicing Software and pricing:
- We will start with the most popular choice Cura and it is available for free or if you want the enterprise version its $300 per year subscription.
- Then we have a Simplify3d at $150 one time charge. This is our preferred choice of slice.
- And we also have a list of free slicers
Every 3d printer and every slicer software is different and it all comes into play of the quality results of the finished product. Every slicer generates its own gcode that determines how the printer is going to print it and not every slicer will be a perfect match to your particular 3d printer. We suggest you start off with the free versions and try those out first before spending money on something that may not suit you well.
We have had great success using Simplify3d on ender 3 pro and it is very beginner friendly.
#7. 3D Print Slicing Profile
What is a slicing profile?
A 3d print slicing profile is a file (.fff) that stores a group of settings that are used to determine the (.gcode) such as speed and temperatures. Profiles can be modified and saved as with another name for different filament materials types. Slicing softwares like Simplify3d allows you to store up to 100 profiles. Free Simplify3d profiles available at our library tab.
The benefit of using slicer profiles is that you don’t have to go back and adjust all the settings every time you print or change to different material. Just select a new profile and print. Another benefit is that you can make a backup of a settings in a profile for something that works but you want to make some adjustments and not lose the setting you had that work ok.
#8. Rafts, Brims & Skirts-
What is Raft?
A Raft in 3d printing is a several layers of material that is printed underneath a 3d printed model that forms a detachable base. A 3D printed model will be printed on top of this raft, instead of directly on the build plate. Rafts are often used to prevent part warping and corners peeling as it usually has a better adhesion to build plate.
What is Brim?
A 3D printing brim is a layer of material that extends along the print bed from the edges of a 3D printed model. Brims help to improve bed adhesion and to prevent warping. Brim is extremely helpful when printing a tall and skinny model brim will help to stabilize it on the build plate to prevent it from collapsing. It is easy to remove, wastes less material than raft and doesn’t affect the bottom layer finish of the print.
What is Skirt?
A skirt in 3d printing is a number of lines that outline your to be printed 3d model but does not touch the model. The skirt is extruded on the print bed before starting to print your model. Skirts serve a useful purpose because they help prime your extruder and establish a smooth flow of filament. It also allows you to identify if the build plate is properly leveled which may prevent failure of 3d print.
All of these settings can be turned on and off or modified in a slicer settings normally in the “additional” tab.
#9. Understanding Supports
What are 3d printing supports?
A support material in 3d printing is a break away or dissolvable extra material that is printed on or by the 3d printed model that supports the model. For example if the model is a T shape then the overhang portion of the T will not be able to print successfully therefore it will require a support material. It is ideal to design 3d printed parts in a way to avoid using supports if at all possible.
Do you need to use supports in your 3d prints?
Supports are not always needed to be used and should be avoided when possible as it is extra material used that is disposed of when the product is finished printing. It makes printing time longer and waste more printing material. Support materials do not always break away from the model easily and sometimes may require some cleaning up or sanding after to achieve desired results.
Most slicer softwares will allow you to disable all supports in general and let you add a specified area of where you may want to add support material. This may save on print time and filament use if executed correctly. This video that I found does a great job explaining this.
Can supports be avoided?
Yes, for the most part the support materials can and should be avoided. When designing a model for 3d printing it’s important to keep in mind that a 3d printer has its limitations and design model in a way to avoid a need for support. You can download a guide from thingiverse that you can print and it will show you capabilities of your 3d printer which will guide you with your model design. For example use chamfers and gussets to avoid overhang.
#10. Keep an eye on things
When you are first getting started with a new 3d printer I believe it is important to keep an eye on things. Do not leave your 3d printer printing for a long period of time unattended. I know this is impossible as I myself have done print that was over 30 hrs long. Things can get out of hand very quickly resulting in a failed print and a lot of wasted material to be cleaned up.
Most 3d printers now have a pause feature that you can use if you must leave the machine for a long period of time and do not wish to have your model destroyed. I would highly recommend that you utilize this feature at least until you find out the capabilities of your machine to feel compatible leaving it running unattended. Most of my print I do now I set the printer to run overnight.
Whatever your intentions are with 3d printing just remember to treat it as a hobby at least in the beginning stages of it. It is very much fun and exciting but can be frustrating sometimes. Nevertheless there are many communities that will help you along the way. Facebook groups, forums, and our blog is always there for you.
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Happy 3d printing!