A key question with 3D printing is, just how hard or easy is it to print something in 3D? Do you need a ton of experience to get started? I decided to put together a quick article to try and help answer this important question.
With the right information, 3D printing is a very simple process. 3D printer manufacturers realise that ease of set-up is a big factor when it comes to 3D printing beginners, so most have specifically made it easy to function from start to finish. Set up can take minutes.
This does sound extremely easy, but for beginners there can be a few barriers that you have to overcome to get a smooth printing process. I will explain these and hopefully lessen your worries about 3D printing.
5 Steps to Easy 3D Printing
- Get a beginner-friendly 3D printer – this should have auto features, easy navigation panels, be compatible with most software. Ideally a pre-assembled 3D printer
- Add your filament of choice – sometimes comes with your 3D printer, or bought separately. I’d recommend using PLA filament as this is the most common, and easy to use type.
- Pick your 3D printer slicing software and select your 3D printer to auto-fill settings – keep in mind some 3D printers have brand specific software such as MakerBot
- Choose a 3D CAD file of your liking to print – this is the actual design you want to print and the most common place would be thingiverse
- Start printing!
Why Does 3D Printing Seem So Hard?
When you look at a 3D printer in action, there seems to be so many things that come into play which makes it look difficult to get up and running. 3D printers aren’t some magical machines that take a rocket scientist to get working.
When you know how things work, it actually isn’t as bad as it seems. As time goes on 3D printers have become a lot easier to set up.
Many 3D printers actually now come pre-assembled so it really is ready to use out of the box.
An example of this is the XYZprinting da Vinci Nano. You’ll just simply have put the filament in, get your 3D print design, and get the printer started. Another 3D printer which doesn’t require assembly is the Monoprice Select Mini and is very beginner friendly.
The easy part is the actual set-up and getting things up and running. Not only are they easy to use, but as time goes on the increase in supply of 3D printers means that prices are decreasing rapidly, many being under $200.
The most common 3D printer filament that people use, and say is easy to handle is definitely PLA. Most consumer 3D printers will be PLA-friendly so this is one I would recommend for people without much experience.
I would always advise people to take some time to learn the basics of 3D printer technology, then slowly expand your knowledge by actually printing designs.
What’s the Hard Part About 3D Printing?
3D printing can be made very easy, or very hard depending on what your goals are, how technical you want to get and your experience with DIY. As I’ve mentioned, setting up your 3D printer and starting the print process can be very easy, but once you start designing your own prints and make unique adjustments this is where things can get difficult.
To get specific prints, it does take a unique understanding of how designs must be put together.
Designing prints can be a complicated process because you have to design your print in a way that it’s supported throughout the print, or it just won’t hold up. Once you have that knowledge, it should be much easier to get designing and many programs have guides which tell you if your design is well-supported.
Having a high enough infill setting that your print won’t fall apart in the middle of the print is another important factor, so be aware of these things.
Luckily there are Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software out there that caters to different levels of expertise. This ranges from simply putting shapes together in a program, to putting together small complex shapes to do anything from create a favourite action figure, to replacing a spare part on an appliance.
You can avoid this by taking a shortcut by just using designs from people who already have designs which are proven to work.
Thingiverse is a collective source of 3D print designs (STL files) which is available to everyone. A great thing you can do is look at a design from someone else and make adjustments in your own unique way, if you have the experience.
Like most things, with practice 3D printing will become very easy to do. There are things you can do which do get more complex, but the main process isn’t very hard to get started.
What If I Run Into Some Issues?
The main reason people run into issues is because they’ve jumped into things without doing research. If you bought a 3D printer kit from someone’s recommendation, a lot of the time they can be difficult to put together.
They may also not have features which really help out beginners such as auto-levelling the nozzle to the print bed to ensure precise printing, or have compatibility with beginner-friendly software. This is why it’s important to know the basic stuff before you jump into 3D printing.
There are many troubleshooting issues that people have when it comes to 3D printing, as people get further into the field. This can range from the quality of your filament where it can break, filament material not sticking to the print bed, first layers being messy, prints leaning etc.
If you do run into some issues, the 3D printing community is an extremely helpful one and many questions you have, most likely have already been answered on the many forums that are out there.
In most cases putting together a 3D printer isn’t too hard if necessary. An example of a simple 3D printer is the Creality3D CR-10, which comes in three parts and takes only 10 minutes to put together. Once your 3D printer is put together, most settings can be auto-filled when selecting your specific 3D printer within your software, so this is a pretty simple step.
After sorting out issues a few times, you should become confident in preventing those issues, and being able to quickly solve them in the future.
3D printers are being used in education at many levels, so if children can do it, I’m pretty sure you can too! There is some technical know-how but once things are up and running you should be printing away.
Mistakes will be made from time to time, but they are all learning experiences. Many times, it takes a few setting adjustments and prints should come out pretty smooth.
There are many levels of knowledge that you’ll need to get to a good level of 3D printing, but this mostly comes with practical experience, and just generally learning about the field. The first few times may seem difficult, but it should get easier as time goes on.
As time goes on, I can only imagine that 3D printer manufacturers and software developers will keep on aiming to make things simpler. This along with the development in technology and research leads me to think that it will not only become more cost efficient, but easier to create useful and complex designs.