Do you know how to use 3D printers? Can you manage to operate one without issues?
If you are new to 3D printing and still figuring out how to utilize 3D printers to maximize your output, then this page is for you!
I will help you get started in 3D printing by providing you a step-by-step tutorial. In addition, I’ll leave tips to help you achieve better printing results with your 3D printing machine. So, let’s get started!
How to 3D Print
I understand that one’s experience level matters in how he or she start 3D printing. So, this section aims to help beginners learn how to use a 3d printer at home or in the classroom.
To give an overview of the entire process, I’ll show you the basics of 3D printing and how to do 3D printing gradually.
Step by Step Instruction for Beginners
For beginners who are confused about how to proceed with their first 3D printing after receiving their 3D printers, this section is for you.
Step 1: Unbox
Remove the printer from the box. Ensure that you have removed all the packaging materials including the tape and zip ties.
Step 2: Prepare the built plate.
Ensure that your print sticks to the bed. You can use blue painters tape, hairspray, Polyimide Tape, glue sticks or BuildTak Sheets to achieve that.
Step 3: Heat your printer
Heat up your new printer and load your choice of filament. For first time users, PLA is highly recommended because it’s easier to use.
You have to familiarize your material because there are filaments that need special heat requirements for adhesion to the bed and maintaining an overall great print.
Step 4: Loading/Unloading plastic filament.
Depending on the model of the 3D printers, some will give you the option to load and unload a filament in the controller menu. Just be sure that the extruder is not loaded with filament because the factory usually tests the machine and it may still contain a strip in the extruder. If there’s a plastic filament, you have to remove it. You can easily do this by pressing the release lever or button.
Once you see a flow of filaments from the nozzle, then you are good to go!
Step 5: Level the bed.
Bed leveling is a tricky process and it can be time-consuming and frustrating. If the build plate is not leveled, it could result in inaccurate prints. So, you’ve got to do this right.
After that, you have to set the value in software so that the printer knows what the gap is between the nozzle and the build plate.
Step 6: You’re now ready
At this point, get your file ready using your favorite slicer and save a g code file.
7 3D Printer Tips for Home and in the Classroom
Using 3D printers is not as easy as you think. Yes, there are plug and play 3D printers that work straight out of the box, but you’ve got to be wise when it comes to choosing a 3D printing machine because, at one point, you are likely to encounter a problem.
So, here are some tips for you.
1. Choose a brand that has good support
There are cheap 3D printers online, but if you are to choose one, you have to consider the manufacturer and the support available. It’s best if you get one from a local supplier for more accessible support.
In this way, if you encounter any problem, you can easily approach them and have it fixed. No need to ship it and wait for weeks to get it fixed.
2. Level the print bed and set the nozzle
Leveling the bed and setting the nozzle will improve the quality of your 3D print. To make this easier, you can use a sheet of paper to determine the distance between the nozzle and the bed.
When the nozzle is clean and inappropriate distance from the bed, the paper will have minimal resistance when pulled free. It will also go back underneath the nozzle without force.
How to know if you need to set the nozzle gap:
Nozzle too high
- Filament doesn’t stick to the build surface
- Filament comes out like spaghetti
Nozzle too low
- The first layer is barely visible or too thin
- The nozzle plows trough filament already on the build plate
- Filament gathers on the nozzle
- No filament extrudes on the build plate
3. Check the nozzle temperature
Be careful with the nozzle temperature because if it’s too hot, it could leave strings of filament between separate parts. When building tall pieces, a high temperature melts the earlier layers that may result in malformation.
To avoid this mistake, include a one-centimeter cube built on the opposite side of the build plate. This removes the hot nozzle from the print and allows enough time for cooling.
4. Equip yourself with the right tools
It’s important that you have all the tools needed to set up the machine and to keep yourself safe. So, equip yourself with these materials.
Index card. This comes handy when setting the bed level and adjusting the nozzle gap.
Screwdriver or hex key. You will need this to adjust the screws on the bed.
Flush cutters. This very helpful for removing the support material and makes a nice, clean-cut when trimming filament before loading.
Heat-resistant gloves. This will keep you safe when you are working around a hot nozzle. This is very important for students who are 3D printing in classrooms.
Clean cotton cloth and a brass brush. You will use this for cleaning the nozzle.
Calipers. This is absolutely necessary when trying to model parts that have to fit in specific places or when you just need an idea of how big a model actually is.
Razorblade or spatula. This is very helpful when scraping residue from the surface of the build plate.
Dish soap and clean, dry cotton cloth. This is useful for removing dust and grime.
Isopropyl alcohol. This is effective in cleaning a build surface that is permanently mounted to the machine.
5. Find the sweet spot of your 3D printer’s temperature
Adjusting the bed to the right temperature is crucial in producing the best results because it helps with print adhesion. As the machine prints the model, each layer shrinks as it cools and the eds of the print pull away from the build plate.
Also, when the bed temperature is too high, the model may develop the so-called “elephant foot.” When you observe this, you should slightly reduce the bed temperature for the next print.
6. Bed Adhesive
The print should stick to the bed while 3D printing. If you have trouble with this, here are some recommendations depending on what filament you are using.
- PVA glue for PLA, Nylon, and TPU
- Aquanet Hairspray for PLA and ABS. This also works for PET and PETG
- Blue Painter’s Tape is highly recommended for PLA and PETG
- Kapton Tape is a great all-purpose bed adhesive and works perfectly well when paired with hairspray
- PEI holds onto prints when it’s hot and releases it when it’s cool. However, PETG and TPU/TPE stick too well, so you have to use a glue stick to act as a release agent between the PEI and print.
- BuildTak is versatile and it works really well for almost all materials especially on a Flexplate that has a good grip and an easy release.
7. Store your filament properly
Most filaments absorb water including ABS, nylon and flexible materials. It is very important that you keep them dry, thus the importance of proper storage.
So, store the plastic bins with desiccant between uses. Similarly, you can dry the spool of filament by placing it in the oven over a few hours at very low temperatures.
Tips for Safe 3D Printing
3D printers are safe to use, but you should still take precautions. Here are some tips for a safer 3D printing experience.
8. Use the printer in a well-ventilated room
Where can I use the additive manufacturing printer? Filaments can be toxic depending on the material, additives and colorants use. ABS is toxic while PLA is not. So, it’s best if you only use the machine in a room with proper ventilation especially if you are using ABS filaments.
9. Unplug during maintenance
Your 3D printer operates using electricity. For this reason, make sure to unplug it during maintenance.
10. Use heat-resistant gloves
The heated bed and nozzle are hot during operation, so you are at risk of getting burnt. If you need to touch anything while the machine is working, make sure that your hands are covered, hence the need for heat-resistant gloves.
How Much Does It Cost to Use a 3D Printer
3D printing is fun but it can be costly depending on what you print and what material you use. To help you understand how much 3D printing may cost you, here’s a breakdown.
Filament. Among the things, you should consider during 3D printing is the filament cost. This usually makes up 54.2% of the total print cost.
Electricity usage. Every time you use your three dimensional printer, you will consume energy. This depends on the energy cost in your country.
Using it at night might cost you lesser because during this time it is not as in demand and the cost plummets. Electricity usage is about 0.6% of your total print cost.
Software. You will need slicing software and computer aided design (CAD) software in the printing process for your CAD file to deliver 3D printed parts. The software is very helpful in creating 3D models. Whatever 3D model you need, the task will be easier with CAD software.
They may or may not contribute to your 3D printing cost. If you purchase a super expensive CAD package, it will definitely cost you much. The good news is, there are free software that won’t cost you a cent.
Consumable Items. Consumables include blue tape, Teflon grease, modeling knife blades and products used for finishing, dry brushing, sanding, polishing, and painting.
This varies depending on the brand you purchase. In general, it’s difficult to calculate this but this will probably take 1.53% of your total print costs.
Repairs and Upgrades. In due time, your 3D printer might need a repair or upgrade. This varies depending on the cost of your printer, how you use it and how often you print.
Depreciation. Over time your printer’s value will reduce. You can calculate depreciation using the assumption that your 3D printer will be used for 5 years (even if it might last longer). Next, consider how often you use it.
How to Use a 3D Printer to Make Money
3D printers are a good investment because you can manufacture items and make money from it. Yes, you can use it by offering 3D printing services. So, how can you do so?
Accept 3D printing projects
The easiest and most practical way to make it profitable is to accept 3D printing projects. There are individuals who want 3D printed items or 3D models but don’t want to purchase a machine. So, offer to do the job and let them pay for your service.
You can join 3D printing communities to find potential clients. Moreover, there are many websites for commercial 3D printing where you can take 3D printing orders.
To make things more convenient for you, here are some sites that offer those services.
Create and sell items
If you are into business, you can use your 3D printer to create customized art and crafts. You can 3D print jewelry, accessories, phone cases, office supplies and more. Just be creative when it comes to offering 3D printed items or 3D models.
Rapid Prototyping services
Rapid prototyping is in demand in architecture, design, engineering and construction industries. Those professionals can ask for your service to produce a scale prototype of their design for a conceptual presentation or to test the viability of the end product. So, 3D printers are profitable for this type of service because they are used to create prototypes.
3D printers are not easy to use. Thus, it may take time for you to be comfortable with your machine and maximize its functionalities for the additive manufacturing process. You may also spend on software to design and slice a 3D model because they are necessary for the printing process.
The good thing about 3D printers is that they can help you make money because they can be used to create 3D printed objects. Printing 3D objects is easy once you are familiar with your machine. So, apply the tips above to produce better and quality prints for a potential 3D printing business that will cater to those who need 3D printing services.
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