Getting Started in 3D Printing – What You Need to Know

Starting a 3D printing project can be, to put it mildly, confusing. Newcomers often struggle to know where to start because there are so many new topics to learn (you bought this eBook for that reason, right?). Before you truly take the plunge and enter the realm of 3D printing, there are many questions that need to be addressed.

The main goal of this chapter is to answer the most common questions that newcomers like you have when trying to understand how 3D printing works.

A 3D Printer: Do You Really Need One? - Getting Started in 3D Printing - What You Need to Know - A 3D Printer - Do You Really Need One

For a reasonable price, now, desktop 3D printers are available.

The first and most important topic to be addressed is whether or not you actually need to purchase a 3D printer. Online tools abound that can print models for you and send them to you.

So, if you sometimes need something printed, it would be best to just send a blueprint of the object to one of these services. This would save you a lot of trouble.

Which Printer Should You Purchase If You Do? - Getting Started in 3D Printing - What You Need to Know - Which Printer Should You Purchase If You Do

Let’s face it: owning a 3D printer is one of the most thrilling purchases you will ever make, so you’ll undoubtedly want to do it! You will have to decide whether to purchase a machine that has already been put together or to build one yourself. Both routes have advantages and drawbacks of their own. The latter choice can appeal to you more if you have a good amount of technical knowledge and DIY aptitude. You may save money by building your own 3D printer, but it’s not for the timid.

One thing to keep in mind while building your own 3D printer from a kit is that, if something goes wrong with it later, you’ll already have the skills to take it apart and put it back together.

The best and most advised line of action would be to get a desktop 3D printer initially, though, as this is a beginner’s guide. Although the price of 3D printers has drastically decreased over the past several years, you should still plan to pay between $1000 and $1500 to buy a good desktop 3D printer.

We offer a frequently updated list of 3D printers for sale on 3D Insider. When looking for your first 3D printer, this is where you should start.

You may always get in touch with the 3D Insider team at, and we’d be happy to assist you with selecting your very first 3D printer.

Just so you know, we began with a Solidoodle 3 3D printer. Check out this print we made in action:

The amazing thing about 3D printing is that while printer costs are dropping, the variety and caliber of these same printers are rising.

We strongly advise you to contact us at 3dprinterplans @ (remove the spaces) before you buy your own 3D printer so we can guide you in making the best decision.

Where Can You Find Blueprints for 3D Models?

You have two choices for the actual design plans of the objects: either purchase ready-to-use copies online or create your own.

On a website called Thingiverse, you may find a wide variety of models. Even though the well-known Replicator printer manufacturers, Makerbot, own this website, it still has a respectable collection of plans created by regular users.

Continue to the question below if you insist on creating your own models (this is the best part!).

How Can You Create Your Own 3D Print Models? - Getting Started in 3D Printing - What You Need to Know - How Can You Create Your Own 3D Print Models

Software for computer-aided design (CAD) was once created by engineers for other engineers. CAD software used to be very complicated (it still is, to some extent, but it is now more manageable) and anyone without the necessary skills couldn’t use it properly.

The learning curve for CAD software is rather steep.

The most recent CAD software is now designed with general users in mind. The best thing about modern CAD software is that it is easier to learn and use than it was in the past. Even so, the learning curve is still quite steep, and you will need to spend a lot of time and effort to fully understand all the principles of CAD design for 3D printing.

Check out Autodesk’s 123D Design and Inventor Fusion to master the fundamentals of CAD design software. These two programs are both free with certain licenses. The free versions of these software programs can be used to create printable models.

The free/limited/student versions of CAD software typically do not permit you to sell your printed things or the data you create, so keep that in mind. You should always conduct your own research and look into the software’s license before downloading it.

If you want to run a 3D printing business, you need to buy a license for commercial software.

Later on in this guide, we shall cover software in greater detail.

Can Real Everyday Objects just be Scanned and 3D Printed? - Getting Started in 3D Printing - What You Need to Know - Can Real Everyday Objects just be Scanned and 3D Printed

Many individuals are interested in the ability to “easily scan and print” goods. It is feasible, and a few businesses, such as Go!SCAN 3D, produce specialized 3D scanning apparatus. But the scanned models often need to be changed a lot before they can be used to print things.

Although this concept is brilliant, it will take some time to develop; for the time being, it is still preferable to prepare the files “by hand” and print them from there.

How Should You Print Models You’ve Downloaded?

It’s likely that any model designs you acquired from places like Thingiverse were already in STL format. This file format is almost ready to be printed. So stay tuned to learn how to create something seriously fantastic from that STL file.

The design files must be “sliced” in order for the printer to manage them. This means that they must be converted into an explicit layer-by-layer description of the item, complete with temperature, speed, and wall thickness controls. The finished document is a G-Code file, which the printer can understand.

There are many slicing programs available on the market, including some that are free, like ReplicatorG, Cura, and KISSlicer. Soon, we’ll go into greater detail on software slicing.

What Steps Should You Take to Print Your Own Models? - Getting Started in 3D Printing - What You Need to Know - What Steps Should You Take to Print Your Own Models

Slicing software is an essential tool needed to produce a finished, printable file.

If you created your model with computer-aided design software, the program will be able to export it as an STL file. To convert it into a G-Code file, all you would need to do is utilize a slicing application.

The procedure of obtaining the G code file, on the other hand, necessitates a number of steps if you utilize a 3D application such as Photoshop, Sketchup, or any other 3D design program that isn’t specifically made for CAD.

Checking whether or not the 3D model is actually printable should be one of the first things done. Most of the time, you will only need to make small changes, like filling in gaps and fixing broken vertices.

Before the file can be sliced for the printer, it must first be turned into an STL.

Model patching and STL file generation can both be done with the help of a free, open-source program called Meshlab. You might also want to look into the paid software called NetFabb, which can also produce the G Code files.

Where Can I Buy this Filament Stuff? - Getting Started in 3D Printing - What You Need to Know - Where Can I Buy this Filament Stuff

There are two varieties of the printing material (also known as filament) needed for the 3D printer: PLA and ABS.

Polylactic acid, or PLA, is a type of polyester manufactured from a number of natural materials such as sugar, corn starch, or sugar cane. It melts at temperatures lower than ABS and is biodegradable.

Oil-based polymers include Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, or ABS. It is frequently used to make children’s toys since it is incredibly sturdy and tough.

They are available from a variety of vendors in loose or reel form. We advise you to buy your filament from Amazon, where a kilogram of 3.0mm ABS filament reel costs about $30. By shopping around, you can find the greatest offer and the most affordable delivery for your location by shopping around.

Conclusion to How to Get Started in 3D Printing

As you can see, if you use free CAD software and tools, you can purchase a 3D printer and the materials necessary to use it for less than $2,000. However, price isn’t everything. The learning curve for 3D printing is steep, so before you buy anything, you should do a self-evaluation to see if you have the drive and skills to learn how to use it.

Enjoy yourself while learning the hardware (and software) at your own pace.

And while you’re at it, check out out Introduction to 3D Printing – A Complete Guide to learn more about 3D printing!

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