Beginner’s guide to 3D printing from a non-expert

Photo by Aicha Fatrah on Unsplash

What is 3D printing?

As defined in Wikipedia, 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is the construction of a three-dimensional object from a CAD (Computer-aided design) model or a digital 3D model. The term “3D printing” can refer to a variety of processes in which material is deposited, joined, or solidified under computer control to create a three-dimensional object, with the material being added together (such as plastics, liquids, or powder grains being fused), typically layer by layer.

3D layering
3D pen
Parts of a 3D Printer
The Three Axes
Screen display

What do you need to get started?

All you need is a 3D printer and a filament. But which ones to get.

Assembling ender 3

Setting up your printer

The thing that tripped me the most at the beginning is the bed leveling of the printer. Let me explain, in 3D printer, the print head travels side to side in a straight line on the x-axis, we have two aims when we level the bed, first, we are trying to adjust the angle of the bed not to get it parallel to the ground but rather with parallel with the plane that the printhead travels.

Bed not leveled
Bed leveling using paper
Adding printer to Cura slicer
First attempt
Too far away
Too close
Before and after leveling
Prints with erros

Turn your idea into a 3D model

Well, creating a 3D model is basically designing, if you are not into design or you don’t want to bother yourself with it, then you can simply use free or paid models created by others. Websites like Thingiverse offer endless free designs that you can choose from. Just find the STL file, slice it and print it.

Create a timelapse video

One of the things I enjoy doing is record the print that usually takes hours and resume it in seconds. I’m not a professional video maker but I managed to do it with a simple setting. Just a camera, a light source, and a camera holder. The camera should be able to record time-lapse videos and for a long time.

Questions I had

  • How much time does it take to get the printer started? I was able to assemble it, configure it and run my first print in a couple of hours.
  • Can I stop a print / pause it? YES, this is very important, because I personally cannot leave the printer running while I’m not around. So I find out how to pause and resume the print.
  • Is it too loud? NO, you can hear it but it is not bothering, at least for me, it is just the sound of the fan cooling down electronics
  • Is it dangerous? NO, there will be some fumes from the melted plastic but if you run your printer in a well-ventilated room there is nothing to worry about.
  • Is it fast? NO, it takes up to hours for big prints. You should get an estimation of the time from your slicer before running the print.

References:

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Aicha Fatrah

Aicha Fatrah

Software Engineer | Technical Writer | IT Enthusiast