When getting started with your 3D printing journey, you will inevitably learn so much along the way as I did but there are several things I really wish I had known ahead of time. I am going to share with you my top 5 beginner tips / suggestions.
When I first received my printer I immediately got it up and running and started an ambitious print. At the time, this seemed perfectly reasonable – buy a new piece of tech and it should just work, right? Well not quite, and so I think here is a good starting point for tip #1.
Due to the complexity of 3D printing and the sheer amount of variables that need to work together to get decent results you really need to expect that the printer will not be plug-n-play. I wish I had spent the initial weeks starting off learning calibration and troubleshooting which would end up serving me well throughout my time with this new hobby of mine. Being in the right mindset about this going into it might be the difference between you persevering or giving up on it.
Since there is so much to learn about your machine, the technology and how best to use it it’s perhaps obvious that you should dedicate some time to learning about it. I have never been super diligent with instructions or manuals and so I didn’t seriously consider that I should spend as much time that was actually required to learn how to effectively 3D print.
User Forums for Lulzbot 3D Printers
Over time I would spend a lot of time on my printer forums reading, watching YouTube videos or reading articles in order to advance my knowledge. My suggestion here is doing this as early as possible and regularly spend time learning as you go, it will really help with early issues and troubleshooting tips from your community that will save you much frustration.
This is going to be a journey, so starting small and slow is the way to go. Printing small and simple parts gives you time to get an idea of how the machine works and if you run into issues it is a lot quicker and easier to test changes on smaller and easier parts.
When you do start troubleshooting you will want to change 1 variable at a time so you can gauge what is actually happening if you change too many at a time you won’t be able to track the positive or negative changes in the print.
A word of caution on early upgrades… When I started early on I was reading the forums and there were several posts about suggested upgrades and I was quick to take the suggestion and make the upgrade to my machine but I didn’t realize that without a good handle on the stock machine, troubleshooting, or calibration that the upgrade would only make things worse. Had I waited I would have been in a lot better shape to make use out of the upgrade instead of diving in too soon and struggling for months after.
One last sub-tip for this section would be to start with a single material type from the same manufacturer to dial your printer in. Once you have mastered the material you can start with experimenting with others. PLA filament with good reviews is a great starting point for beginners.
Something I started doing a couple months after getting my first 3D printer was to take notes on failed prints, slicer settings etc. I found that at times I was re-learning the same things and taking notes was a useful way to avoid that from happening.
I would also extend this tip to include slicer profiles – once you have settings dialed in, you should save a few different profiles for the typical style prints you will do. It will become very intuitive and natural eventually, but in the beginning printing confidently with vetted slicer profiles is really helpful.
Simplify3D Custom Slicer Profile
Finally, I recommend keeping track of material or brand specific settings. This can be as simple as temperature settings or primary attributes. From time to time I would use a sharpie to write temperatures on the spool labels so I wouldn’t have to guess at the recommended ranges.
Being able to turn digital files into physical objects is the magic of 3D printing but what’s even better? Taking your own ideas and turning them into a reality within a matter of hours. One of the most satisfying experiences with 3D printing for me so far has been refining my design skills and creating some pretty cool products I wanted to make. Although I did, in fact, start doing this early on, its one of the best things I recommend you dabble with as soon as you are comfortable adding yet another thing on your plate to learn.
My Teardrop Lamp designed in Fusion 360
MyMiniFactory has a great page about design software:
Hope you found these set of tips helpful. If you aren’t a beginner and have some of your own favorite tips, I’d love to hear about them too.