3D Printing Guides: Five things to know before you’re getting started!

Let’s be realistic! Here’s the things most sales dudes aren’t going to tell you.

Some images by EOS GmbH

Hi everyone, i’m Tom, and today i want to talk about what i think are the five most important things to know about 3D printing # before you get into 3D printing. Just so you know what you’re getting yourself into.

So let’s get to it! First of all, you can’t print everything. The way 3D printers are often sold, especially on Kickstarter, is with a tag of something like “make anything you can imagine”, and they’ll show you pictures of detailed assemblies or parts with embedded electronics or multi-color prints or some other “wow” factor object. The thing it, though, with the printers you can buy for a couple hundred bucks, you’ll only be printing with plastics, in a single color, with only a single material type per print. You are also limited by what kind of geometry you can print – and that means you’ll have to deal with a limited build space, parts that don’t always have the tightest tolerances and for super-fine details, well, you can’t print them at all. There are printers out there that do use different processes, which allow you to make multi-material parts, print in metal or with a super-high resolution, but with six-figure price tags, those are probably too expensive for anyone who isn’t a company that’s running them 24/7 for paid work. So don’t let those different technologies get mixed up.

But i’m not saying that filament-based printers are useless, far from it. With the right models, you can do amazing things with them, which brings me to my next point:

Learn about modeling. And i’m not talking about walking up and down a catwalk, i mean actually learning to use the software to design the parts you want to print yourself. Of course, you might think, well, there’s these huge content libraries out there where i can just search and download ready-made designs, and while they are great for trinkets and decoration and that kind of stuff, you usually won’t find the exact parts you want if you’re repairing or creating things with your 3D printer. You know, if you only keep printing off parts that you find online, just to be printing stuff, that’s going to get boring really quickly, as you’re basically using the 3D printer as toy, because right now, it’s not really a tool that will replace going out and buying stuff any time soon. On the other hand, if you use it as a tool to transfer your ideas from the virtual into the physical space, be it for artistic purposes, for education or for engineering, prototyping and making things, then you’re really making good use of a 3D printer. So my advice here: Grab one of the free tools – Free CAD, Blender, Sculptris, OpenScad, or even one of the 123D online tools, and figure out how to create the things you eventually want to print before committing to buying a 3D printer. You can even download e.g. Ultimaker’s Cura and dry-run your parts through the slicing process, which is the very last step before starting a print, and get a feeling for how different desings would be printed.

Next up, a word on 3D printer selection: Most of the stuff that is being sold as “new” or “exclusive” on certain printers usually isn’t. It’s either that someone has already tried it and found out that it doesn’t work as intended, pirate 3d

or it’s simply not new or exclusive. In the hobbyist 3D printer space, things usually aren’t exclusive, because it’s all driven by a community of countless individuals and not by a few companies that take up the entire market. There’s an enormous amount of sharing and collaborating going on under the RepRap flag as open source content, and that’s really the only reason why 3D printing is as big as it is today. And no, Makerbot did not invent 3D printing. That’s why it’s not called “Makerbotting”!

On the topic of Makerbots: 3D printing can be pretty frustrating at times. Even more so if you also have to deal with the “Smart” extruder on the newer Makerbots, but in general, none of today’s 3D printers are devices that are totally service-free and 100% reliable. Not even the professional grade printers manage to pull # that off. And i mean, not even your 2D inkjet printer manages to pull it off. Some printers obviously fare better than others in that regard, but all of them still require a bit of knowledge about what to do when things don’t go as planned. There’s an enormous amount of resources and knowledge available now, much more than what was out there even just two years ago, but it’s still up to you to learn and apply those things. Which i think can be quite interesting on its own, / i like to learn about how things work, but even if you don’t care about the learning aspect, you still might have to make a fix or two every now and then. Common areas of headaches are print bed adhesion, clogged hotends and poor print quality overall or poor design in the parts you’re printing. None of which are impossible to solve.

And lastly, and i absolutely don’t want to paint a grim picture of 3D printing, 3D printing can be extremely addictive and satisfying and time-consuming once you really get sucked in. I mean, even after five years of 3D printing, # I still get absolutely fascinated when, with two clicks of my mouse, a design that was just a virtual model ten minutes ago is getting built as a physical part in front of my eyes. That’s something that’s never going to get old – just watching the machine do its thing and thinking about what enormous amount of technology is working together here is pretty mind-boggling. And while it takes a while to figure out what a 3D printing is good for and what it’s not so good for, once you do have that figured out, it becomes an extremely versatile and enabling tool that you can use to create things. / I mean, there is really no other technology for making these kind of parts that is so flexible # and # cheap at the same time / as a filament-based 3D printer. I use mine all the time for repairs, for adapting things to exactly what i want them to do, for prototyping and creating stuff and for pretty much everything else where a plastic part will do the job.


So that’s it for today, i hope i made a few things a bit clearer for those of you who are just about getting started. If you liked the video leave a thumbs up, if didn’t like, leave a thumbs down and tell me in the comments what i can do better next time

Also, free free to share it with people you think might this video useful. And as always, take care everyone, see you next time!


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