If you’re into technology and enjoy finding fun new toys to try, you may not know some of the 3d printing basics, but you’ve definitely heard about the technology empowering 3D printing. Chances are you’ve probably even wondered about the possibilities of what having a 3D printer of your very own could bring. The increased availability of these 3D printers and the reduction in the cost to own one as the technology becomes more ubiquitous can make it even more enticing to explore. But even if you are a huge tech fan, it can be tough to know where to start with these 3D printers and the options that are out there. There are some variations and some keywords to keep in mind, and it’s also important to know where to find designs, or learn how to create them on your own. With that in mind here are some basics to get you started designing, and conceptualizing your own printer today with this 3D printing basics guide.
3D Printing Basics – Guidelines for Getting Started With 3D Technology
Know What You Are Looking For
There are two types of consumer-level 3D printers out there, both with merits of their own, and both at highly different price tags. Understanding the difference is important as you start out. The first type of printer is the more common and much more affordable option. It’s known as the Fused Filament Fabrication (or sometimes as fused deposition modeling) machine. It works by fusing layers of plastic filament slowly together to create an overall design. These 3d printers can be found for less than $1,000 and the materials used to print designs are usually fairly cheap as well. It’s a very budget friendly option for someone wanting to own a 3D printer in their own home.
The other option is more pricey. It’s known as a Stereolithography (or SLA) machine, and it works quite a bit differently than the previously mentioned FFF machine. SLA machines work by shining UV lasers into a basin of resin. The resin is designed to be activated and hardened by the UV lights and builds the design layer by layer this way instead of by fusing filaments in layers. This machine gives you a better thickness and stronger finished design, but it does come at a cost. SLA machines are going to start at around $3,000 and the materials to print also come at a higher price tag. If you’re looking for high quality this is your go-to for sure, but it is not the budget-friendly option by any means. If you aren’t going to be printing things that require highly smooth finishes and intricate design work, then an FFF machine is still probably your best bet for at home 3D printing.
This is where the fun starts. The whole point of owning a 3D printer is that you get to print fun things, right? So finding designs is where it all starts. Luckily there are tons of sites out there that have thousands of free designs to print. If you can dream it up, there’s probably a design out there for it. There are designs for something as simple as a soap dish, to things as complex as almost impossibly solvable puzzle cubes. Spend some time searching websites like Thingiverse, Yeggi, or GrabCAD. You can search by project, or just browse to see what others have come up with. It’s easy to spend hours getting lost in the possibilities of what you can print.
This is the fun part, so enjoy it. See what’s out there and go crazy. It’s why you bought your printer in the first place. A lot of the available designs will even let you customize parts of what you’re printing. You can adjust things like size, weight, or resolution (thickness) to your specific needs.
Before you can actually print something you’ll have to buy the materials needed. If you’re buying filament you actually have quite a few amazing options out there. Today’s filaments have advanced quite a bit from the days of just plain colored plastic. You can get glow in the dark filament, or even options that are infused with bits of wood, or chalk. If you want to produce something that looks like concrete, you could use some chalk infused filament and then file down any sharp edges on your final product.
Honestly, if you spend enough time refining what you print, no one may even know you printed it at all. It could look like the real deal, and be your own secret. Or you could tell people because printing something awesome looking yourself is something you’ll want to brag about. You can find filaments online at sites like Amazon, but for more specialized filaments like the infused options, you may have to look at a site like MatterHackers. Amazon may have some good options for general printing, but specialized sites that focus on 3D printing materials are your best bet when it comes to high-quality filament with a lot of options.
Trying Out Your Own Designs
You may already be familiar with how to use CAD software, which means you can jump right in and create your own designs with ease. If you’re unfamiliar with CAD don’t worry, you definitely aren’t left out of the process of creating a design that’s entirely your own. There are plenty of sites that offer free tutorials on using CAD, and some of them even get pretty detailed. You can look at a site like Tinkercad and learn about everything from placing to combining objects. If you get overwhelmed on your first try, that’s okay. Keep at it, and remember that the tutorials can be rewatched as often as you need to use them. Designing on CAD is its own art form, so you do have to put in some practice time to get it down. Don’t give up, you can definitely do this. And remember, while you’re learning to use CAD you can still have all the fun of printing designs you’ve found on the sites we already talked about.
3D printing may have been something out of reach on a consumer level when the tech first came out, but that is no longer the case. As you can see, getting started isn’t nearly as complicated as the idea itself may sound. Keep in mind the 3d printing basics discussed here, and remember that technology like this is something you should be enjoying. If something seems too complicated, there are plenty of other 3D printing fans out there who can help you out. The designs you can find online and the tutorials are all there and waiting to be used. Once you get the 3d printing basics down the only thing you’ll be limited by is your own imagination, so go to town. Enjoy!