3D printers need certain materials and parts to work properly, but people wonder what exactly they need. This article will get into what you need for 3D printers, both filament and resin machines.
What Do You Need for a 3D Printer?
You will need:
- 3D printer
- Downloadable STL file or CAD software
- Slicer software
The important thing to note, 3D printers come in the form of assembled kits or need manual assembly right out of the box. Most companies offer different items included in the package such as:
- Toolkit (screwdriver; spatula, wrench, Allen keys, and wire cutters)
- Standby nozzle and Nozzle dredge needle
- Test filament
- USB stick/SD card etc,
Most of the things you need already come in the box.
Let’s go through each of the things you’ll need for 3D printing.
The first thing you’ll need for 3D printing is a 3D printer. There are a few options that are great for beginners, the Creality Ender 3 being one of the most popular 3D printers. It’s on the cheaper side of 3D printers for around $200 but it can still get the job done very well.
You can also look at the more modern versions of the Ender 3 such as the:
Some other filament 3D printers are the:
These go for higher prices but they have some great upgrades that improve the operation and ease of use.
The things you want to keep in mind when choosing a 3D printer is what kind of 3D prints you will be making. If you know you want to make larger 3D prints that might be used in costumes or decorations, then it’s a good idea to get a 3D printer with a larger build volume.
These will usually be more expensive, but it makes sense to buy them now rather than buy a medium size 3D printer and need a larger one later.
Another factor that’s important is whether you want a 3D printer for smaller, higher quality items. If that’s the case, you’ll want to get yourself a resin 3D printer which is different from the usual filament 3D printer.
These have a layer resolution of up to 0.01mm (10 microns), which is much better than filament 3D printers at 0.05mm (50 microns).
Some great resin 3D printers are:
A computer or laptop is another item that you’ll need for 3D printing. In order to process the files onto the USB stick that you insert into the 3D printer, you want to use a computer or laptop to do this.
A standard computer with basic specs should be enough to handle 3D printing tasks, though a modern one helps to process files faster, especially larger files.
Most 3D printer files are small and mostly below 15MB so most computers or laptops can handle them easily.
The main program you’ll use to process these files are called slicers. A computer system with 4GB-6GB of RAM, Intel quad-core, clock speeds of 2.2-3.3GHz, and a proper graphics card such as a GTX 650 should be good enough to handle these files at a decent speed.
- 8 GB RAM or higher
- Ideally SSD compatible
- Graphics Card: 1 GB memory or higher
- AMD or Intel with a quad-core processor and at least 2.2 GHz
- Windows 64-bit: Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7
For more information about this, check out my article Best Computers & Laptops for 3D Printing.
USB Stick/SD Card
A USB drive or SD card is a key part of the process with 3D printing. Your 3D printer will come with an SD card (MicroSD or normal) and a USB card reader. Your 3D printer will have an SD card slot that reads 3D printer files.
You’ll user your computer or laptop to process the file, then save that file to an SD card. It’s better to use an SD card rather than having a direct connection to your computer to your 3D printer because if something happens to your PC while you print, you can lose hours of printing.
You can always buy another USB if you want more space but this isn’t usually necessary for most 3D printer hobbyists.
Downloadable STL file or CAD Software
Another thing you need is the STL file or G-Code file itself. This is what tells your 3D printer what design to actually 3D print, processed through a slicer software which I’ll go through in the next section.
You can choose to either download an STL file from an online file repository, or design the STL file yourself using CAD (Computer Aided Design) software.
Here are some popular STL online file repositories:
Check out the video below for more information about this.
Here are some popular CAD software for creating your own STL 3D printer files:
Check out the video below to see how to design STL files in TinkerCAD.
The slicer software is what you need to process the STL files into G-Code files or files that your 3D printer can actually read.
You simply import an STL file and adjust a number of settings to your desire such as layer height, nozzle and bed temperature, infill, support, cooling fan levels, speed, and much more.
There are several slicer software out there that you can download depending on your preferences. Most people prefer to use Cura for their filament 3D printers, and Lychee Slicer for resin 3D printers since you need the right type of slicer for your machine.
PrusaSlicer is a good mix between the two because it can process both filament and resin 3D printers files in one software.
Some other slicers include:
Check out this video from Teaching Tech to know all about slicer software.
Filament – 3D Printing Material
You’ll also need the actual 3D printing material, also known as filament. It’s a plastic spool which usually comes in a 1.75mm diameter that feeds through your 3D printer and melts through the nozzle to create each layer.
Here are some types of filament:
The most popular and easy to use is PLA. This is a corn-based plastic that is beginner-friendly, non-toxic, and fairly inexpensive. It requires low temperatures to print as well. So very easy to handle. You can get yourself a spool of the Hatchbox’s PLA Filament from Amazon.
There is a version that makes PLA stronger, that is PLA+. It is known to be mechanically stronger and more durable version of PLA, while still being easy to 3D print.
I’d recommend going for something like eSun PLA PRO (PLA+) 3D Printer Filament from Amazon.
ABS is another filament type that’s known to be stronger than PLA, as well as having a higher temperature resistance. It’s similarly priced to PLA but does require a higher temperature to 3D print. ABS can produce quite toxic fumes so you want to 3D print it in a well-ventilated area.
You can get yourself some Hatchbox ABS 1KG 1.75mm Filament from Amazon.
I’d actually recommend using PETG over ABS because it doesn’t have those same toxic fumes and still have a great level of durability and strength. A good brand of PETG is Overture PETG Filament on Amazon also.
The video below goes through a bunch of different filaments you can get for 3D printing.
There are some accessories you’ll need for 3D printing. Some are necessary for the maintenance of your 3D printer, while some are used for post-processing of the model to make them look good.
Here are some accessories used in 3D printing:
- Spatula for print removal
- Toolkit – Allen keys, screwdriver etc.
- Glue, tape, hairspray for adhesion
- Oil or grease for maintenance
- Sandpaper, needle file for post-processing
- Cleaning tools – pliers, tweezers, flush cutters
- Digital calipers for precise measuring
- Isopropyl alcohol for cleaning
You can actually get full sets of 3D printer accessories like the 45-Piece 3D Printer Tools Kit from Amazon which includes:
- Art Knife Set: 14 blades & handle
- Deburr Tool: 6 blades & handle
- Nozzle Cleaning Kit: 2 tweezers, 10 cleaning needles
- Wire Brush: 3 pcs
- Removal Spatula: 2 pcs
- Digital Caliper
- Flush Cutter
- Tube Cutter
- Needle File
- Glue Stick
- Cutting Mat
- Storage Bag
This is a great video from Make With Tech to learn the basics about 3D printing.
What Do You Need for Resin 3D Printing?
- Resin 3D Printer
- Computer & USB Stick
- Resin Slicer Software
- STL File or CAD Software
- FEP Film
- Nitrile Gloves
- Wash and Cure Machine
- Isopropyl Alcohol or Cleaning Liquid
- Silicone Funnel with Filters
- Paper Towels
- Miscellaneous Tools
The initial process of setting up for resin 3D printing is a bit different than normal FDM 3D printing. The difference here is almost all resin 3D printers come pre-assembled.
So, there is no need to manually assemble any of these. Also, there are items that are included inside the package itself like:
- Metal & plastic spatulas
- USB stick
- Slicer software
- Resin filters
Resin 3D Printer
For resin 3D printing, you’ll, of course, need a resin 3D printer itself. I’d recommend going for something like the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro if you want a reliable and competitively priced machine.
Other popular resin 3D printers are:
You’ll want to choose a resin 3D printer based on build volume and maximum resolution/layer height. If you want to 3D print larger models at a high quality, the Anycubic Photon Mono X and Elegoo Saturn 2 are good choices.
For a 3D printer with a medium build volume at a decent price, you can go with the Elegoo Mars 2 Pro and Creality Halot-One Plus from Amazon.
Resin is the main material that resin 3D printers use. It’s a liquid photopolymer that hardens when exposed to a certain wavelength of light. You can get resins in different colors and properties such as tough resin or flexible resin.
A few popular choices of resins are:
Nevertheless, there are different types of resins. You have to choose your resin depending on the type of model you want to print. There are extra tough resins, resins that are good for painting, and sanding as well.
Computer & USB
Just like in FDM 3D printing, you’ll need to have a computer to upload files to the USB stick to insert into your resin 3D printer. Similarly, your resin 3D printer should come with a USB stick.
Resin Slicer Software
Though some slicers work with both FDM and resin printers, there are slicers that are specifically for resin printing. Their performance is tailor-made for resin printing.
Here are some of the most popular resin slicers:
- Lychee Slicer – my top choice for resin printing with plenty of great features and easy to use. It has a great automated system that can auto arrange, orient, support, etc.
- PrusaSlicer – This is one of the few slicers that works with both FDM and resin 3D printers. It works very well with unique features and is popular among 3D printer hobbyists.
- ChiTuBox – Another great choice for resin 3D printing, it works smooth and has constant updates that improve over time.
STL File or CAD Software
Similar to FDM 3D printing, you’ll need an STL file to put into the slicer so you can process files to 3D print. You can use similar places like Thingiverse, MyMiniFactory and Printables to find some popular STL files to create.
You can also use a CAD software to design your own 3D prints as previously mentioned, though this usually takes a decent amount of experience to create something of high quality.
The FEP film is basically a transparent film that is found at the bottom of your resin printer’s vat. This film mainly helps UV light to pass through without any hindrance to cure resin while printing. This in turn helps the entire process to go faster without compromising the model’s strength and accuracy.
This is a very important part of resin 3D printing and with time and use, it tends to degrade. So, it needs replacements from time to time.
You can get something like the Mefine 5 Pcs FEP Film from Amazon, suitable for many resin 3D printers of medium size.
A pair of nitrile gloves is a must-have in resin 3D printing. Any kind of uncured resin is sure to cause irritability if it touches your skin. So, touching it barehanded should never be done.
You can purchase these Medpride Nitrile Gloves from Amazon right away to protect yourself. Nitrile gloves are disposable and can protect you from all sorts of chemical burns as well.
Get a Wash & Cure Station
Resin 3D printing involves many processes. The last and vital process is post-processing. This is where you clean, wash and cure your resin model. This process tends to be a bit messy and thus a proper wash and cure station can make things easy and efficient for you.
The Anycubic Wash and Cure Station is a great workstation if you need something professional. A 2-in-1 station that offers washing modes, convenience, compatibility, UV light hood, and much more. This can make your process seamless!
It should take around 2-8 minutes to cure your resin using this professional setup.
Check out my article on How Long Does It Take to Cure Resin 3D Prints?
Although you can also go the DIY route and save some money. You can make your own curing station. There are many YouTube videos that can help you build your own. Here is one that can be pretty useful. These are effective and cheap as well.
You can also use sun rays as it is also a natural source of UV light. This one takes a lot longer to cure models, especially for locations where you don’t get a lot of sun.
Bottle Of IPA or Cleaning Liquid
IPA or Isopropyl Alcohol is a popular solution for washing and cleaning resin 3D prints. This solution is very safe to use and effective for tools as well.
This is especially very effective for cleaning the print bed and also for cleaning uncured resin.
You can go for the MG Chemicals – 99.9% Isopropyl Alcohol from Amazon.
You can also go with some other cleaning liquids. I wrote an article about How to Clean Resin 3D Prints Without Isopropyl Alcohol.
Silicone Funnel with Filters
With the help of a silicone funnel with add-in filters, you can completely clear your resin vat by transferring all the contents from the vat into a separate container. The filters are waterproof, durable, and solvent resistant.
Also, the filters eliminate the chances for any hardened resin residue to go inside the container while pouring the content. You never want to pour your resin from the resin vat directly back in the bottle because it can contain some small bits of hardened resin that contaminates the whole resin bottle.
You can go for this JANYUN 75 Pcs Resin Filter with Funnel from Amazon.
Cleaning is a very important factor in resin 3D printing and paper towels are one of the most efficient ways to clean up resin. Don’t go for normal drug store paper towels though. They are usually much lower quality and not so absorbent.
Go for something like the Bounty Paper Towels from Amazon. They are highly absorbent and perfect for resin 3D printing purposes, and general day-to-day use.
Resin 3D printing also needs some assistance from certain tools. These are optional and help in printing and post-processing of 3D printed models.
- Safety Goggles: Though optional, just like nitrile gloves, you can also invest in safety goggles when you are dealing with chemicals that are irritable in nature. Better to be safe than sorry!
- Respirator Mask: Just like keeping your eyes and hands safe, you might also need masks to save you from resin fumes. It is also highly advisable to use resin 3D printers in a well-ventilated area.
- Sandpaper for post-processing the model and smoothening it out.
- Knife and cutters for post-processing the model
- Resin Bottles: you might want to keep some of your old resin bottles to store different resins, or to help with mixing resins.
- A toothbrush to clean uncured resin more thoroughly on models.
This is a great video for resin printing beginners from Slice Print Roleplay.