3D Printing: Absolute Beginners

Endless Potential

So..you’ve heard of the possibilities of owning your own 3d printer but dont think you’re tech savvy enough or don’t know how or really why to go about it. Or maybe you did what I did and bought one without really knowing what your doing and would like a guide before you blow up your machine :p

Well look no further.

3d printing does everything you probably think it does (I can’t wait for 4d printing) and they’re VERY easy to operate, at this point, they’re designed with the everyday consumer in mind.

For home bodies who want to enhance their living space by making planters, showerheads and shelves etc, for jewelry makers who want a new spin on fashion, for the handyman that wants quick and cheap replacement parts, To the interior designer that wants a physical model to present to a client, to the tinkerer looking to invent the next great thing.

When it comes to 3d printing, there’s something for everybody.

This post is built to give you enough tips and tricks to get you off to a solid start on this highly addictive hobby and as a reference point for beginners who are already wandering down that rabbit hole.

Buying a 3d printer

Possibly the most important(and obvious) step, Think I researched for like a month on what to get as my new forge.

If I was gonna be investing that kind of time and money on a machine, I’d like my first printer to be near perfect with big build volumes, great print quality and speed and the least amount of hassle to operate.

I looked into printers like The Monoprice Mini Delta but the build volume was too small for me.

Same with the Flashforge: Finder though convenient in design (like the size of a microwave), it just wasn’t big enough for me.

The Makerbot Replicator+ looked like the perfect machines to me but it was way too expensive for me at the time and might have been too big for my childishly small room :/

Now all of these machines are awesome in there own right but what I needed was a happy medium Which I had finally found in the robo3d r1 plus.

The r1 plus can print over 15 different material types, was speedy enough at the time and had perfect build volume.(Though they have since came out with the RoboR2 which looks drop dead gorgeous.)

I like Robo3D because because everything’s just so plain and simple. You buy it, you start printing, that’s it!

Not to mention their PLA materials. Beautiful colors which are not only non-toxic, but can even have a pleasant aroma while it’s printing like their waffle smelling Yellow PLA.

Matter Control

What I wanted in my first 3D printer was total self sufficiency when I was looking for a printer, I noticed that you always needed a computer plugged into it somehow to work..and I don’t have a computer to this day 🙂 So with the Matter Control tablet, I have a dedicated means of downloading and manipulating 3d models to print all in one self contained space.

Materials

And now you need materials! There are many materials to mess around with and not all materials are created equal so try out different companies and see what you like the most. I personally recommend Hatchbox and SainSmart for basic PLAs as the overall print quality is excellent and the colors come out looking top notch.

Material Storage

I’ll save you the heartache of experience by telling you about this now. Get something like a Polymaker PolyBox 3D Printer Filament Storage Box to save your material from spoiling and going brittle due to the elements. Trust me.

Getting Familiar

When your all set up, it’s time to print stuff and see what your machine can do!

Now if you’re no 3d modeling expert that’s ok, me neither. I like to download models from Thingiverse to print. Thingiverse is a place where many inventors a tinkerers upload their works to be downloaded and appreciated. You can find damn near any kind of model you’d want to print.

If you ARE planning on learning some 3d modeling, I’d look into OnShape(available for Android and ios). OnShape is a free cloud based serviced that teaches you how to model. You can then save your files and transfer them to your machine for immediate printing.

Next level.

My first 3d print was of a MegaMan e tank on thingiverse. Hell Yea!

3d printed with robo3d's yellow waffle pla.

learning curb

When I got my first 3d printer, I thought I had my very own instant factory. I learned the hard way after mine busted up after day 2 that there was indeed an art to 3d printing in general. Clogged extruders, temperature settings, speed settings, crazy materials etc. There was nothing convenient about it at first. Now don’t worry if we’re using the same machine. These tips and tricks oughtta apply to most printers.

Removing Prints

First thing I learned about was the Print Remover Tool

Great for removing supports as well.

You remove your prints with this but careful not to break your print in the process. Sometimes depending on the print you really have to move with finesse and respect or you’ll end up with an eyesore at the base of your print. For a little more help at the expense of extra time and material, you can turn on rafts:

A simple demonstration of rafts and their uses in 3d printing.

So not only do they make prints easier to remove, but they also protects it from those potential eyesores at the base of your prints and they peel right off! It also helps keep your prints staying in place while they print. Which brings me to what I learned next.

Adhesives

The perfect adhesive for your 3d prints.

Your gonna wanna apply an even later of adhesive on your printing area to keep it all in place and I cannot recommend Elmer’s all purpose glue stick enough. What happens if you don’t use adhesion you ask..? Lotta frustration, wasted time and material :/

so don’t forget to apply and remove regularly to get the most out of your time, effort and materials.

Supports

Then I learned about support materials. Sigh.. support materials…so the 3d printer creates supports all by itself if it’s set on,however you don’t always need them, they look kinda like scaffolds. Depending on the rotation and necessity of the actual print this material can be a hassle to remove without violently stabbing away the print. I learned the hard way to rotate the models to have the least amount of pains in the ass.

Sacrifice!

Sometimes you want a small, precise blade to remove your print or to shave off some odds and ends when your up to the finishing touches of your print.

My switchblade almost went all the way through the base of my index finger(wasn’t clean either). Till I discovered exacto knives. Just minor lacerations now usually. So be Careful!!

Different materials n’ bad prints

Then I had to learn about bad prints and the more exotic materials which have special settings.

Then how temperature and adhesion affects the quality and completion of your print.

I got a heavy dose of this when I started messing around with materials like the taulman T-glase material. Which has a very specific temperature print speed infill etc. To get it where it could and should be. I get a very glossy pearl type feel out of it its gorgeous and I even think there’s other things you can do to get even more interesting effect out of it.

Just the Tip

This was an annoying one. Have you ever printed out something like a blade tip or something tall and skinny standing straight up? Then you probably noticed that irritating problem when the rest of your print is picture perfect but that one f***n part looks stupid!

Like this!:

The problem with printing small tips.

Ok! All is not lost. I forget which adafruit post it was(think it was the 3d printed squall leonhart gunblade) but one solution they suggested was to print TWO of them. That way those smaller tips have time to cool off and they won’t be so messed up. Long live adafruit…Forever!

The Solution to the small tips problem in 3d printing.

And it works as intended…It’s a good thing.

ANOTHER tip that I’m learning as I’m optimizing my little techniques is to SLOW DOWN the print speed. In this way you generally have less imperfections at the cost of time. It’s also VERY handy when it comes to those more glassy like materials like T-GLASE or aluminum PLA in optimizing the overall print quality.

Mechanical problems

Then I finally learned about minor mechanical disfunctions that can be hard to spot and can have very major effects on your mental stress level.

Chewed up filament

It’s hard to see in this picture but that dent you see in the center if that filament is what happens when the extruder gears grind your material because either: your extruder’s clogged or: the screws on the back of the filament holder are loose and are causing the gears not to bite properly

..which can cause a clog if you weren’t lucky enough to have one already.

Clogged extruder

So there’s a few things you can do to get yourself nice and clogged. Filament holder not biting properly, extruder not hot enough to melt the previous materials leftovers, your spool sucks etc. In any case, I know if 3 ways to unclog the extruder:

First you heat up your extruder no matter how you decide to do this.

1-Get yourself a nozzle cleaning kit which usually comes with needles and and tweezers.

I use Reptor.

You take a needle and insert it into the hotend without burning yourself.

Clean it out and use the tweezers at the filament holder to remove any broken off pieces.

2-take a VERY thin screwdriver and firmly yet carefully push out any material through the heated hot end.

3-you can unscrew the front of the hot end holder plate to slide out the holder and remove the hot end itself to manually remove the clogged material.

However I don’t recommend this method as it’s harder than it looks and easier to get burned or worse: accidently break a wire. So use this as a last resort.

Printing on the air

My favorite :/

So the auto leveling is off which means the z-axis bars are uneven.

So you would manually turn the z-axis rods to lower both sides until you get to the hotbed itself and listen for a click. You would then move the extruder from left to right and see how well it glides across the hot bed which will allow you to better identify and adjust the uneven axis…

Happy Printing

Well That just about covers the more painful basics of 3d printing. I hope this post informs you and saves you time.(and stress :p)

Until next time.

Don’t forget to comment and share

Cheers! 🙂

12 thoughts on “3D Printing: Absolute Beginners

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    1. Will do. And thanks so much. I’m actually a solo amateur that recently found out that I REALLY have a knack for this kinda thing. If ya want something done right, you gotta do it yourself. 😉 So comment to your heart’s desire help is always good.

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