How to 3D Print Something at Home & Larger Objects

Learning how to 3D print something does take some knowledge of the process, as well as knowing what software to use to get things running. I decided to write a simple article explaining how to 3D print something at home, as well as large objects and using software like Fusion 360 and TinkerCAD.

To 3D print something at home, simply purchase a 3D printer with some filament and assemble the machine. Once assembled, load up your filament, download a 3D model from a website like Thingiverse, slice the file with a slicer and transfer that file to your 3D printer. You can 3D start 3D printing within an hour.

Keep on reading for more information about how to 3D print something successfully and with different software.

How to 3D Print Something at Home

Let’s have a look at the items we need for printing from home:

  • 3D Printer
  • Filament
  • 3D Model
  • Slicing Software
  • USB/SD Card

Once you’ve assembled your 3D printer, inserted your filament and have a model to 3D print, 3D printing a model is very simple. Whether you’re using a 3D printer for the first time, this should be fairly easy to follow.

Let’s go through the steps of 3D printing from home involving these items.

Downloading or Designing a 3D Model

Depending on what you would like to print, there are different possibilities of going about this first step.

If you would like to print a film prop, for example, there is a high chance that a model for that prop already exists somewhere online.

The format you need the model to be in so you can 3D print is usually a .stl file or .obj, so make sure that the models you are downloading are in that format.

Alternatively, you can download any model in a CAD software compatible format, put it in the respective CAD software and export it as an STL file from there. This gives great flexibility when it comes to the kind of models you can print, as there are many websites for CAD models.

It allows you to make any changes to the model before you 3D print them.

Some good places where you can find STL or CAD models are:

  • Thingiverse – many free community-created practical models
  • MyMiniFactory – contains free models as well as models available for purchase; the files are in a STL format, so they can be put straight into the slicing software.
  • 3D Warehouse – this is a website I used for CAD models which has many free models. The files are directly compatible with SketchUp and models can easily be imported into some other modelling software.
  • Yeggi – this is a large search engine full of 3D printable models which searches all the main archives.

If you would like to print something you designed yourself, there is plenty of software for you to do so, such as Fusion 360, Onshape, TinkerCAD, and Blender. You can export files from these CAD software by going to File > Export > select “STL (stereolithography – .stl) from the list of formats.

I will go into more detail regarding how this is done in various software later in the article.

Processing the Model with a Slicing Software

The slicing software is a software compatible with your 3D printer that allows you to convert an STL file into a GCode file (*.gcode). In essence, GCode is the language that the 3D printer understands.

Thus, the G-CODE file contains all the settings needed for the print to be exactly the way you want it.

The slicing software is used to input all the values necessary to set things such as the size of the print, whether or not you want support, the type of infill etc., and all these settings have an impact on the printing time.

It is important to select your printer from the list the software gives you. This usually gives you standard settings for that specific printer that you can then alter according to your needs.

Here is some popular slicing software for 3D printing:

  • Ultimaker Cura – my personal choice, free and compatible with many printers. It’s definitely the most popular slicer out there, suitable for beginners and advanced users. Gets updated regularly.
  • PrusaSlicer –  compatible with a significant number of 3D printers. Includes filament & resin printing

Check out the video below to see the process of downloading and slicing models with Thingiverse & Cura.

Some 3D printers have proprietary software that can only be used with that specific 3D printer such as MakerBot & CraftWare so keep that in mind.

Transfer GCode File to 3D Printer

This step depends on the kind of printer and slicing software you use. As mentioned before, with some software you can wirelessly connect to the printer and start the print. With others, you will need to use a USB or an SD card.

In my case, the printer came with a USB/SD converter that also had some test prints.

The printer usually comes with instructions as to how to make the transfer.

Watch the video below that explains the transferring process for a Creality 3D printer.

Printing – Load Filament & Calibrate the 3D Printer

This is perhaps the most detailed part. Whereas printing itself is fairly straightforward, there are a number of steps to be taken before actually pressing “print” to ensure a smooth printing. Again, these differ from printer to printer.

However, they can generally be divided into loading and preparing the material and calibrating the built platform/printer bed.

  • Loading and preparing the material

Depending on the material, there are various ways of loading and preparing it. Here is a video showing how to load PLA filament (one of the most common materials used for home printers) by putting the material roll on the spool, preheating the filament and inserting it into the extruder:

  • Calibrating the platform/printer bed

Calibration is particularly important for a printer. Incorrectly calibrating your printer bed could cause many problems that will prevent your print from being done successfully, from the filament not sticking to the platform to the layers not sticking to each other.

Instructions on how to properly calibrate your printer usually come with the printer itself. However, you typically need to manually adjust nozzle distance from the bed so that it is equal in every part of the platform.

A good video that details how to do so is this one for a Creality Ender 3 printer.

Finally, you can print your model. If the filament cooled, once you press “print” the “Preheat PLA” process will start again and the printing will begin once this process is done. Printing can take a long time, so it is essential to be patient.

A very useful thing to do is to keep an eye on the print until the first layer is done, since most issues with printing are due to a poor first layer. Make sure the layer looks good and it sticks to the printer bed which significantly improves chances of success.

How to 3D Print Something Big

To 3D print something big, you can either purchase yourself a large 3D printer like the Creality Ender 5 Plus with a build volume of 350 x 350 x 400mm, or split up a 3D model into parts that can be reassembled with glue or snap-fitting joints. Many designers split their 3D models into parts for you.

One solution for 3D printing something big is to find a large 3D printer to work with. Depending on the size you need, you can buy a large-scale printer, although this might end up being quite expensive.

Some popular large-scale 3D printers are:

If you would like to use your own small-scale printer, the best solution is to split the model into smaller parts that can be printed individually and then assembled.

You will need to split the model using your CAD software and then export each piece individually or use a dedicated software such as Meshmixer.

With some online models, it is possible to split the STL files in certain software (Meshmixer can also do this), if the original file is a modelled as a multipart STL, or you can even use extensions for slicing software to split the model there.

Check out my article How to Split & Cut STL Models For 3D Printing. It explains how you can split models in different software like Fusion 360, Meshmixer, Blender & even Cura.

This video shows you how to do it in Meshmixer.

3D printing services can also help with this task and split the model for printing, as can independent designers who will allow you to download the ready-made parts for printing.

Depending on the type of assembly, make sure the way you split it allows for easy gluing, or else make sure to insert and model joints if you prefer a mechanical-type assembly.

Some people choose to use a dedicated 3D printing service to get something 3D printed for them such as CraftcloudXometry or Hubs, but for large objects it would be very expensive and impractical. You could potentially find a local 3D printing service, which might be cheaper.

How to 3D Print Something from Software

Let’s go through some common 3D modelling software and how to 3D print models designed in them.

How to 3D Print Something From Fusion 360

Fusion 360 is a paid product design and manufacturing software developed by Autodesk. It has a free version for personal use with a reduced number of features, and it also has a free trial for the paid version.

It is cloud-based, which means that its performance does not depend on your computer performance, and it can be used by anyone, regardless of their laptop or computer model.

It enables you to create models for 3D prints, modify models created in other software (including meshes), and edit existing STL data. Subsequently, the models can be exported as STL files to be put into the slicing software.

Here is a guide on how to do that.

How to 3D Print Something From TinkerCAD

TinkerCAD is free web-based program also designed by Autodesk. It is a beginner-friendly software used primarily for producing 3D models for printing.

TinkerCAD also offers a printing service in partnership with 3D printing providers, which can be accessed directly from the program’s interface, as well as the possibility to export and download your model as and STL file which you can put in a slicing program.

Check out TinkerCAD’s guide on how to 3D print.

How to 3D Print Something From Onshape

Onshape is a software used in different domains, which allows for collaboration on one model due to its cloud-based computing. It is a professional product that has free versions for students and educators.

Onshape has a number of features that allow you to make sure the models will print the way you want them to, as well as an “Export” function that you can use to export to STL.

Check out Onshape’s guide on successful 3D printing.

How to 3D Print Something From Blender

Blender is one of the most popular modelling software on the market. It is free and it is used in a wide range of creative fields, such as animation, visual effects, computer games or modelling for 3D printing.

There are a great number of tutorials available online that illustrate its many features, and it also comes with a 3D printing toolkit to help ensure that your model will not cause any problems when printing before exporting.

How to 3D Print Something From Solidworks

Solidworks is a Windows CAD and CAE software that uses solid modelling. It has different categories which influence the price, and it has a couple of options for free trials and demos.

As with the other software, it has an STL exporting option, and it also has a number of incorporated features that allow you to check if your model is ready for printing.

How to 3D Print Something From SketchUp

SketchUp is another very popular 3D modelling software used in a variety of fields. Developed by Trimble, it has a free web-based version, as well as a number of paid versions.

It also has extensive advice on how to make your model ready for printing, and STL import and export option and a dedicated free 3D model library, 3D Warehouse, which I mentioned earlier in the article.

Check out these tips from SketchUp to make sure your model will print properly.

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