Let’s face it. The pace at which 3D printing technology is developing is simply phenomenal. As far as 3D printing has come, it still has a considerable distance to go. It’s a completely different story that that distance is going to be covered in almost twice as fast as in the past. Luckily, the most difficult parts of the 3D printing technology have already been taken care of i.e. commercial feasibility. This means that 3D printing technology is already available to large manufacturers.
Typically, new technologies become commercially feasible before they become viable for the common consumer. Consumer feasibility is basically how easy the technology is for the common man to use. In other words, the common man needs to learn quite a few things before he can use 3D printers with the ease that he has been using 2D printers. This is precisely why 3D printing tips for beginners are important.
So, the first reason why it is important for beginners to read various 3D printing tips is the still complex nature of 3D printing. The other reason is actually the speed with which this technology is developing. In fact, the evolutionary speed of 3D printing technology is like a double edged sword because it results in the goal posts being pushed wide quite constantly. Therefore, by following 3D printing tips, you’ll essentially be ensuring that you stay abreast of the technology.
3D Printing Tips #1: Go Through a Learning Phase of Six Months
We’ve said it before in our 3D printing guide but we’ll reiterate this anyway for your benefit here. You need to put in effort before 3D printing becomes beneficial for your personal use. Depending upon your general acumen and specific 3D printing aptitude, you’ll need to put in anything between two months and eight months into learning about 3D printing. For your information, on an average people take six months.
Just learning 3D printing superficially will not be enough either. You’ll need to really delve into it so that you know the basics of the technology, how your specific machine works, and the nature of various types of filaments. More poignantly, you’ll need to look at theory and practice both.
You should ideally start out by 3D printing multiple simple and small shapes like a 20mm cubes. Doing something like this will not only give you a test run but also allow you to verify that your 3D printer is calibrated properly. This sets us up nicely for our next point.
3D Printing Tips #2: Calibrating the 3D Printer Is an Absolute Must
You cannot even print The Blob to the right dimensions if you don’t have your 3D printer calibrated properly. The calibration of the 3D printer is important because it has a direct bearing on its accuracy. Without proper calibration, you might see layers being out of sync or even weird shapes.
This will be especially true in the case of objects with overhangs. Overhangs are particularly susceptible to poor calibrations because they need maximum accuracy from the 3D printer. For instance, most beginners know that calibrating the printer bed is important but very few actually consider overhangs sufficiently.
A tool that will make calibrating your 3D printer easier is a digital calliper. Digital callipers aren’t that hard to find with most online and even local stores having them in their inventories.
Once you get a digital calliper, you should use it to measure the sides of your 20mm cubes. Measure carefully since even a minor deviation can turn out to be problematic with more complex objects.
3D Printing Tips #3: Break Down Objects into Smaller Chunks
Most 3D printing beginners have this tendency to view their printers as the earlier form of the hi-tech Star Trek Replicators. Don’t worry, we understand. We understand that there’s nothing you want more than to tell your 3D printer, “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”
However, 3D printing technology hasn’t reached that stage yet. In fact, most complex objects are beyond 3D printers of today unless you break those objects down to smaller components. This is the third of our 3D printing tips.
You need to break down complex objects into smaller chunks or components to reduce the chances of unaligned layers or droopy overhangs. Failure to do this will mean that even a simple mistake from your 3D printer will ruin your entire creation.
3D Printing Tips #4: Put Some Time into Learning CAD So As To Create Your Own 3D Models
If you’re looking into 3D printing tips, then you already know that 3D printing depends on 3D models made on Computer Aided Design (CAD) software programmes. When you decided to get into 3D printing, you probably did so with the understanding that thousands of 3D printing models are available online.
Most people begin by downloading and using other’s 3D printing models from the internet. While this is a good starting point, you can’t keep doing this too long. Sooner or later, you yourself will get tired of other people’s 3D printing models. You’ll start seeing areas where you want to make changes.
You’ll even start getting creative ideas of your own. This is why most 3D printing experts advise beginners to start learning some kind of CAD software programme from the very beginning. Because there are so many 3D printing models available online, you don’t even have to dive into this full force. You can take your time. Anything between 30 minutes to an hour on a regular basis is more than enough for you to start learning the ropes of CAD designing.
3D Printing Tips #5: Leave Margins When Creating Moving 3D Objects
One of the simplest yet most often ignored 3D printing tips pertaining to CAD is the 0.25mm rule. This rule is most relevant for designers who are trying to create moving objects. So, this may not be relevant to you from the very beginning but you should keep it in mind in case you’re an ambitious 3D printer.
The 0.25mm rule basically states that if you’re going to have objects that have to fit inside other objects, then you need to leave a margin of about 0.25mm between those two objects. For instance, if you to put a pipe of 10mm diameter inside a solid block then you must leave a hole with a diameter of 10.25mm for the fitting to be clean.
3D Printing Tips #6: 3D Model to Physical Object Transition May Result In Anomalies
Most people have experience with 2D printing. Do you remember how an image looks really good on your screen but when you print it, it turns out to be either dull or skewed in some way. The discrepancy that occurs between the digital to physical in 2D printing is also a problem in 3D printing.
As a matter of fact, you should expect anomalies between digital to physical transition in 3D printing. Initially, it will be an anomaly i.e. difficult to explain but you should know that if you really delve into it, you’ll soon be able to spot the cause for the problem.
If you don’t expect such transient problems, then you may get frustrated with 3D printing. More importantly, if you expect such problems, then you may be able to prevent them from appearing in the first place. Therefore, understanding this simple fact about 3D printing is one of the more critical 3D printing tips anyone can give you.
3D Printing Tips #7: Try Multiple Types of 3D Printing Filaments
In the earlier years of 3D printing, there were only two types of consumables that enthusiasts could use. These were Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and Polyactic Acid (PLA). While these two are still the most common types of filaments used by 3D printers across the world, there are many new options available that you can experiment with.
3D printing filaments vary most of all in look and feel. However, some filaments even have special behaviour such as glowing in the dark or even changing colour at different intensities of light and temperature. Furthermore, there are filaments designed to look like other materials such as copper, wood, brick, and even steel.
Trying out different filaments will also give you more exposure to various aspects of the 3D printing process. For example, depending upon the filament you choose, you may find that it takes more time to be layered, more time to cool, more post processing or any number of other behavioural differences. We have a separate post focusing purely on 3D printing filaments.
3D Printing Tips #8: Troubleshooting Involves Looking At the Problem from Multiple Angles
3D printing isn’t like 2D printing as it is today. Everything in 3D printing is not well segmented. The components aren’t all that simple to deal with and problems can arise from any nook and cranny of the 3D printer. In fact, finding the cause of a particular problem can be quite difficult in 3D printers.
The problems you can face with your 3D printer are innumerable. The first layer laid down by your 3D printer could be off the centre or of a different size than you suggested and the problem may not be connected to calibration of your print heads. Similarly, the filament you’re using may warp in a certain direction while cooling because you didn’t consider the chemistry aspect of the filament.
Furthermore, you 3D printer could just have multiple quirks and whims that you’ll only become cognisant of by using it more often. This is why you need to be incredibly patient when troubleshooting your 3D printer and approach the problem from as many different angles as possible.
3D Printing Tips #9: Use 3D Printing Forums to Your Advantage
3D printing is a community based hobby primarily because it is so complicated. However, an even greater reason why communities are important in 3D printing is that you will feel the need to share your creations with others when you do actually get to that point of expertise.
Before you get to that stage though, you’ll need all the help and advice you can get. Even if you follow all the 3D printing tips here, you’ll still need these communities for more specific issues and purposes.
Therefore, if we had to choose only one of all these 3D printing tips for you, we’ll pick this one and tell you to make sure that you join a decent 3D printing forum.