How to Use a 3D Printer Step by Step (10 Tips You Must Know)

Are you new to 3D printing and still figuring out how to use your 3D printer? Want to maximize your 3D printing machine outputs?

If you say “yes” to any, then this article is for you. I will give an overview for beginners to get started in 3D printing. In addition, I’ll leave tips to help you achieve better printing results and how to make money with your 3D printer. So, let’s get started!

How to Use a 3D Printer

I understand that one’s experience level matters in how he or she start 3D printing. 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 how to do this gradually.

How to Use a 3D Printer Step by Step 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

Once you receive the package, you have to remove your 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. There are a lot of tricks to do this. You can include blue painters tape, hairspray, Polyimide Tape, glue sticks or BuildTak Sheets.

Step 3:  Heat your printer

Heat up your new printer and load your choice of the 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 filament.

Depending on your 3D printer, some 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 factory usually test the machine and it may still contain a strip in the extruder. If there’s a filament, you have to remove it. You can easily do this by pressing the release lever or button.

Once the extruder is empty, load the new filament. If your 3D printer has a loading filament option, you can use it. Otherwise, you have to wait for the extruder to be heated, push the release lever and insert your filament into the filament hole.

Don’t hesitate to do this and don’t be surprised if you see the filament begins to flow from the nozzle as this means that you are now loaded with the filament.

Step 5: Level the bed.

There are two types of printers, those that have a manual bed leveling and auto bed leveling. 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.

The second type is very easy to use. If you’ve got the first one then make sure that the bed level adjusting screws are as tight as they can go in all four corners.

Once your 3D printer bed is leveled, you have to adjust the X height, too. You have to do this to balance filament flow and bed adhesion.

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

Once you’re done with the steps above, you are now ready to make your first 3D print project. At this point, get your file ready using your favorite slicer and save a .gcode file for your 3D printer to recognize it and print it.

7 3D Printer Tips for Home and in the Classroom

Using a 3D printer 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 and you’ve got to know the ins and outs to resolve the issue. So, here are some 3D printer tips for you.

1. Choose a 3D printer 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 Bed and set the nozzle

I already mentioned this above, leveling the bed and setting the nozzle will improve the quality of your 3D print. 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 level the bed? Here are some signs that you should look out for to know that you need to level the bed.

  • Filament height and width varies
  • Gaps between lines of filament vary
  • The filament is sticking to the build surface only in some places

Here are some signs that you have to set your nozzle gap because it’s either too big or too small.

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.

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 3D printer.

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 you are printing it. 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 ABS. This also works for PLA and PETG
  • Blue Painter’s Tape 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

A number of filaments love absorbing water including ABS, nylon and flexible materials. It is very important that you keep them dry, thus the importance of proper storage.

When filaments are damp it expands during extrusion as the water turns to steam and bubbles out of the plastic. The filament pops or crackles through the nozzle, you will see smoke if you look closely to it. Unfortunately, the biggest problem is that it produces a rough finish.

So, store the plastic bins with desiccant between uses. In some cases, it is possible to dry the spool of filament in the oven over a few hours at very low temperatures. 

How to Use a 3D Printer Safely (3 Tips for Safe 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

Filaments can be toxic depending on the material, additives and colorants use. ABS is recognized as toxic while PLA is non-toxic. So, it’s best if you only use the machine in a room with proper air filtration system especially if you are using ABS filaments.

9. Unplug the 3D printer if you do any maintenance

Your 3D printer operates using electricity. If you find the need to check or maintain it, make sure that it’s not plugged in a power source. Better be safe than sorry.

10. Use heat-resistant gloves

The heated bed and nozzle are hot during operation, so there’s a serious burn threat. If you need to touch anything especially when you are printing something, make sure that your hands are covered. So, heat-resistant gloves are highly recommended.

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 it costs to use your 3D printer, I’ll give you a list of the factors that you need to consider.

Filament. Among the things you should consider when using your 3D printer is the filament cost. There are different types of filament on the market. It’s up to you what to choose. Usually, this consists 54.2% of the total print cost.

Electricity usage. Every time you use your 3D printer, you will consume energy. A number worry that this will cost them too much but it actually doesn’t but this might depend on the energy cost in your country.

Using your 3D printer at night might cost you lesser because during this time it is not as in demand and the cost plummet. Electricity usage is about 0.6% of your total print cost.

Software. This 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 is free software that you can use. If you opt for this, it won’t cost you a cent.

Consumable Items. This might surprise you, but yes, there are consumable items that will take up your budget when 3D printing. The consumable items when 3D printing includes 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 frequent you print.

Depreciation. Over time your 3D printer’s value will reduce. So, you’ve got to consider this too in your 3D printing costs because 3D printers aren’t cheap.

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. So, how can you do so?

Accept 3D printing projects

The easiest and most practical way to make your 3D printer profitable is to accept 3D printing projects. There are individuals who want to 3D print an object but don’t want to purchase a machine. So, you can do the job for them and let them pay you for it.

For this, you can join 3D printing communities. There are also a number of websites for commercial 3D printing where you can take 3D printing orders. These platforms offer 3D printing enthusiasts an opportunity in making money through their 3D printing machine.

To make things more convenient for you, I listed a few sites that you can join in for the said purpose. Just register, login and you’ll soon find your first 3D printing customer.

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.

Rapid Prototyping services

Many are using 3D printing technology for prototyping because it offers tons of benefits including:

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.

Many are using 3D printing technology for prototyping because it offers tons of benefits including:

  • Low cost
  • Fast turnaround time
  • Reduces the possibility of mistake in design
  • Allows prototyping more variants of the same design
  • Enables you to create more complex end products

Conclusion

3D printers are not easy to use. It takes time for you to be comfortable with your machine and eventually maximize its functionalities.

The good thing with this machine is that it can help you make money. So, apply the tips above to produce better and quality prints for a potential 3D printing business.

If you are interested to learn more about 3D printing, feel free to check our homepage.

References

3dprinterchat.com/2018/01/step-by-step-guide-first-3d-printer/

all3dp.com/2/3d-print-quality-12-tips-on-how-to-improve-it/

3dprintingforbeginners.com/3d-printing-tips/

www.matterhackers.com/articles/the-top-ten-tips-for-getting-started-with-3d-printing

3dprinthq.com/cost-running-desktop-3d-printer/