Beginners Guide To 3D Printing

How To Get Started With 3D Printing

Last Updated on 27 April, 2021 21:25 by highreviews

How To Get Started With 3D Printing

Although 3D printing has been around for many years, it is only fairly recently that 3D printers have become more affordable and an accessible choice for the home user. The advent of affordable 3D printers has always made them a cost-effective solution for many businesses.

In the commercial sector, they are often used to create replacement components, while they can also be used to produce entirely unique products. For the everyday user, 3D printers can revolutionise home crafting activities and hobbies. They can also be used to produce products for home business enterprise.

If you are new to 3D printing, you need to familiarise yourself with some basic principles before selecting a suitable printer and materials. Below, our guide on How To Get Started with 3D Printing will explain some of the most important points you need to know before beginning your journey into 3D printing.

What is 3D Printing?

Printing in 3D involves a process called additive manufacturing. Used correctly, this printing process will allow you to produce complex individual components, as well as larger products by printing in multiple layers. If you intend to print more complex items that require a layering approach, you will definitely need to invest in suitable 3D modelling software. Commercial applications for 3D printing include the production of engine parts and machinery components.

The medical sector also makes use of 3D printing to produce objects like prosthetic limbs. If you are looking to make use of 3D printing at home, your planned projects are likely going to be much smaller in scope. Most beginners tend to start with small objects like toys and decorative objects when first turning their hand to 3D printing.

The Origins of 3D Printing

While 3D printers are only now becoming affordable enough for the average consumer, 3D printing as a concept has been around since the 1980s. Back then, 3D printing was largely referred to as stereolithography and radio prototyping.

The first readily available 3D printer, the SLA-1, was released by 3D Systems in 1987. Although this machine was geared towards the commercial market, the parent company is still going strong and is one of the most prolific producers of 3D printing systems and software.

The 3D Printing Process

The first step involved in 3D printing is the creation of a digital model. You can create a model from scratch if you have sufficient experience, although you will need to use a reliable 3D scanner and advanced modelling software in order to do so.

Alternatively, you can download a ready-made digital model to use. Once you have created or sourced a digital model, so-called slicing software is used to separate this model into many individual layers. When these layers have been created, you can upload the corresponding file to your 3D printer. Once this is taken care of, your 3D printer can get to work and begin producing your desired object.

Essential Software for 3D Printing

Although printing hardware is important, modelling software is arguably more crucial when it comes to producing 3D objects. Thankfully, there are many modelling software options available, although price varies considerably. However, the beginner will likely find many modelling software packages too advanced to effectively utilise. If you have little or no experience with 3D printing, it is best to go for a user-friendly modelling software package like FreeCAD.

Slicing software is something else you will need to consider. Once you have created a 3D model design, it is the slicing software that creates the many horizontal layers required to sufficiently render your object for printing. The beginner will probably benefit from user-friendly slicing software like 3D Printer OS or Cura.

If you have minimal design experience, you should probably avoid trying to create your own 3D models from scratch. A good alternative to modelling software is a scanner app. A good 3D scanner app will allow you to create quality 3D models of just about any object. However, you will have to keep your ambitions small in scale, with most apps only suitable for scanning smaller objects like utensils, cups and homeware.

Although a 3D scanner app takes most of the hard work out of creating a digital model, you will probably have to carry out some minor editing before your model file is ready to be uploaded to your printer. If you think a 3D scanner app is the best modelling option for you, consider downloading Scandy Pro or Qlone.

3D Printing Hardware

Once you have considered your software options, you can start thinking about selecting a 3D printer. Before you purchase a machine, think about the scope of your 3D printing plans. Do you need something purely for personal use to create decorative pieces for the home or complement your hobby activities? An inexpensive and compact 3D printer should be more than enough for your needs.

Planning on using a 3D printer to produce larger objects or create a large inventory of items you can sell? A more advanced 3D printer will be required to meet the requirements of business use. If you want the ability to print in full colour, you will also need to consider your options. 3D printings with colour printing capabilities tend to be more expensive than basic hardware. You should also think about material compatibility.

If a 3D printer can only be used with expensive printing material and you need to produce many individual objects or components, it is not a very cost-effective investment. Our article on what to look out for when buying the Best Budget 3D Printer has some further guidance to help you select suitable 3D printing hardware.

Final Thoughts

Although 3D printing seems quite complicated, it is actually fairly accessible. Provided you brush up on some software basics and familiarise yourself with the printing process, creating stunning 3D objects at home is very achievable.

However, those with little or no experience with 3D printing should avoid complicated modelling software when starting out. If you want to ease yourself into the world of 3D printing, keep it simple with scanning software or a scanner app. Alternatively, you can download ready-made 3D model designs to send directly to your printer.