How to get into 3D printing without damaging (too much) things

3d printed geometric shapes

Getty Images / Westend61

There is a big gap between borrowing a 3D printer and owning your own. It’s like the difference between spending a few days babysitting a cat (“oh, it’s so cute, it’s purring!”) and owning a cat (“you can refill that litter box all the time!”) how many times in a day??).

Yes, I have my own 3D printer, a Flashforge Explorer 4.

The 3D printer is a great invention, allowing you to make all sorts of bits and beads from code you’ve downloaded from the internet and some filament.

I feel like I’m alive interstellar travel life.

But it’s important to note that 3D printers are a printer, one of the most awkward, uncooperative, frustrating, frustrating, and possibly evil pieces of consumer technology ever created.

3D printers can make you hate everything and want to take a hammer and smash it into its constituent atoms.

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I’ve felt both the ups and downs and I’m here to help keep you from making the many, many mistakes I’ve made.

And believe me when I say that I made a lot of mistakes, and tried to take shortcuts and speed up the process.

1. Read your 3D printer manual

The manual will contain important setup information. Take your time and do it this way methodically, especially when calibrating the printer’s nozzle to bed height.

Whether you do this for good or bad — will greatly affect the quality of your initial print and the level of joy or frustration you experience.

2. Understand that 3D printing is a combination of art and science

“Combination of art and science” is a phrase I rarely use, but I feel that it fits when it comes to 3D printing.

Over the past few months, I’ve absorbed a ton of information about 3D printing, gobbling up forum posts, websites, and YouTube videos.

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But I still felt completely lost when I first hit print and saw the code transformed into a solid object right in front of my eyes.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t read as much as you can about 3D printing, but there’s nothing like finding something to print, downloading the code, passing it through a cutter (a program that turns the code that makes up a 3D model into a 3D model). code that your 3D printer can understand) and send it to your printer.

This is where learning happens.

3. Start by printing what you download

Visit sites like universe, 3D cult, Printsor many more that you will find by a simple web search and you will find many things to print.

I printed the cover for Flipper Zero's Wi-Fi development board and it looks great

I printed the cover for Flipper Zero’s Wi-Fi development board and it looks great

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Sure, there will be times when you want something custom or custom made, or you may already be familiar with 3D modeling, but you’re better off starting your 3D printing journey by printing those something you can download.

This makes things simpler in the first place.

4. Keep it simple

Speaking of keeping things simple, it’s easy to become an expert overnight, and many people make things too complicated for themselves.

Don’t do this.

Your 3D printer will come with the software the manufacturer recommends you use.

Use it.

Your 3D printer will come with a filament (probably PLA or polylactic acid).

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Use it.

Your printer will come with a printhead.

Use it.

Your printer will suggest settings to use during printing.

Use them.

There comes a time when you’re ready to start experimenting with different fibers — PLA+, PET-G, ABS (beware of that, the smoke that comes out during printing is horrible), TPU, etc — part software and even start making customizations to your printer, but if you’re new to 3D printing, not now.

5. Prepare for bad things

I was quite surprised that the first few prints I did were great. I think I nailed it, not sure what exactly “it” is.

This holder for SD and microSD cards prints great and holds them perfectly

This holder for SD and microSD cards prints great and holds them perfectly

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

But then things started to go wrong.

Wired prints. Prints are broken. The prints were damaged when I tried to remove them from the print bed. The prints are supposed to come together to form a single item that, well, won’t come together. The prints take hours and I only notice the error when it’s done.

Everything will go wrong.

Everything can go wrong

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

And instead of getting bored, see this as real learning. Get your printer’s manual out and read it. Go online and read forums and websites and watch those YouTube videos.

I find 3D printing quite meditative and like how I love watching my robot clean up after me (and how I would use gentle toe taps to encourage it to pick something up). which it misses, as opposed to me just picking it myself), I like the printing process.

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Preparing, printing, tidying up prints, cleaning up.

It is quite relaxing.

6. Accept that your print will not be perfect

Get used to the fact that you may have to tidy up your prints. They will need a bit of trimming, sanding, or even glue.

Ignore the purists who think prints have to be perfect from the printer.

Not perfect so far, but still good enough for what I need

Not perfect so far, but still good enough for what I need

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

You can sort prints by hand instead of repeating prints in hopes of making them perfect.

Have fun, because this will encourage you to print more and learn more!

This 3D print isn’t perfect, but it’s fun

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

7. Get Some Handy 3D Printing Accessories

You don’t need much. Here’s what I recommend to start with:


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