3D PRINT

THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO GET STARTED

Welcome to this guide to understand how to 3d print step by step for beginners. 

In this practical 3d printing step by step guide for beginners, I would like to give you all the fundamental knowledge to understand and use your printer.

Are you ready? Let’s start with filament 3D printing (FDM)

THE COMPONENTS OF THE 3D PRINTER

FDM printers are simple machines, but for a layman they can be difficult to understand, especially in case of some malfunction.
Two main purchasing options:

  • Buy a pre-assembled and calibrated printer
  • Buy a KIT that you will have to assemble and calibrate

In the second case it will be essential to know the components (even if nowadays everything is very simple)

Let’s see them to get an idea!

1) Extruder:

The extruder is the main component of the printer and is the one that allows the filament to be melted and deposited. In Cartesian FDM printers (i.e. those that move on X, Y, Z axes) the extruder has the ability to move on the Y and Z axis, i.e. horizontally and vertically.

2)Printing Table:

The printing surface welcomes the print layers and moves along the X axis (i.e. it moves forward and backwards), in most cases it can be heated, which favors adhesion and prevents deformation of some materials .

3)Handling:

The movements of the printer are produced by motors and pulleys that transmit the motion to rubber belts. The structures, such as the plate and the extruder, are supported by trolleys or bushings that slide on round guides or aluminum profiles.

4)Control Board and Display

The control board is the brain of your printer and can be connected to the PC via USB, from the display you can change all settings, such as printing speed, temperatures, etc.

In most models there is an SD card slot, to make the printer work without using a dedicated PC. You should have your own SD card as usually the one that ships with the printer is very low quality and can give you some issues with your prints.

5)Power Supply:

Allows the printer to be powered usually 120v or 240v.

6)Film Reel:

This is the food that your printer eats, it is the material that will be melted and deposited, the diameter of the most used filament is 1.75 but there are also 3 mm. Let’s talk about the materials a little later.

Well! after this due introduction let’s move on to the juicy things!

HOW DO FDM 3D PRINTERS WORK?

I have already told you some things but let’s see precisely what it takes to be able to 3D print !

We understand that the printer raises the temperature to melt the filament and deposits it in layers, to create what can be a statuette or any object, GOOD.
But to move  the printer needs instructions  and this is where the STL and G-CODE come into play  .

Stl and g-code: what are they?

STL is a file format that pleases numerically controlled machines (which family 3D printers belong to).

But fdm printers are unable to understand a 3D model without explanation, these explanations are called G-CODE .

So going step by step, we need to:

  • A model that we want to 3D print (in STL format)
  • A translation of the drawing in G-CODE so that the printer can understand it
  • Obviously material to be deposited to create the model

GET 3D MODEL

To have a 3D model there are several possibilities:

  • Draw it with 3D modeling software. I will share a few later on.
  • Download it from the internet on sites that sell / offer free downloads
  • Scan an object with a 3D scanner. 

3D MODELING SOFTWARE

The 3D modeling software is definitely the best way to get a 3D model ; this is because it allows us to have greater control over the design and characteristics that our object must have.
Obviously learning how to use a 3D modeling software takes time and effort, but it is the way that I recommend 100%.

Recommend 3d softwares:

  • Tickercad
  • Blender
  • BRL-CAD
  • Design Spark Mechanical

If you want to know more free modeling software that you can use, take a look at this article where I talk about the best 3D printing software .

PLATFORMS TO DOWNLOAD 3D MODELS

A widely used method to obtain 3D models is to use online platforms where you can download projects for free or for a fee.

Generally the paid projects are well done, while for the free ones you have to search harder to find great projects 🙂

Among the best we find:

 

3D SCANS: CREATE 3D MODELS

Even using 3D Scanner is a great way to get a 3D model; in this case the scanner is able to detect the shapes , dimensions and often also the colors of the framed object, subjecting the different portions of the object (intended as the various framing, front, back, side, etc.) the result is a model 3D created by adding the various surveys.

I recommend some scanners to start getting an idea:

THE SLICER: TRANSLATING THE 3D MODEL

Super! let’s say you used one of the methods explained above and now you have the model you want to 3D print !

At this point we have to find a way to translate it into a language understandable to fdm printers .
To do this you need a type of software called Slicer . Usually your printer will suggest one. But you can really use anyone.

The slicer processes the 3D model and literally translates it by writing textual instructions called G-CODE .

G-CODE

The G-CODE which is nothing more than a text file that the printer will read.

But the great thing is that we don’t necessarily need to understand the commands, the key thing is that the printer reads them.

The only thing that interests us is to give the right indications to 3D print at its best and this is exactly what you do with a Slicer !

 

WHICH ARE THE BEST SLICERS?

       Among the best slicers we have:

  • Simplify 3D : it is the top, and it is paid at $ 149
  • Slic3r PE : is a free software widely used in the 3D world
  • Cura : a fantastic free software from Ultimaker (Recommended)

Learning to use the slicer is one of the fundamentals to reach a satisfactory level of your prints and above all to reach a failure rate as close as possible to 0.

Yes! because failures in 3D printing are something you have to get used to and from which you absolutely have to learn, at the end of the guide we will talk about the major problems that can occur and how to solve them 🙂

To begin with, I recommend using slicing presets that you can find on the websites of your printer manufacturers or on countless online forums.

The presets are basic settings, they usually work just fine and are divided by material and layer thickness. Follow the 3d printing step by step carefully.

MATERIALS FOR 3D PRINTING

3D printing material

Remember this!

Once the fdm printers are properly calibrated, it is the material that makes the difference.

A well manufactured filament with valid technical characteristics will allow you to have more printing successes and better quality.

Use the correct material for your project and printer features.

For example if you have a 1.75 extruder you will have to take a filament of the same diameter and so on.

Filaments come in vacuum packs and there is a reason for this, in fact most materials have moisture absorption problems.

Materials are a topic to be explored, so I wrote a Guide to 3D Printing Materials , I highly recommend you read it 😉

A quick tip :

To start, I recommend PLA , it is a simple material to 3D print, suitable for first experiences.

 
Simple 4 steps:

Let’s take some space to clarify the procedure we explored in the previous paragraphs and take a look at the topics we will analyze in the next lines!

1.Find the idea

Use one of the programs or sites I mentioned earlier to model or download the file you are interested in

2. Create the G-Code

Import the Slicer file, oriental or in the most efficient way, in order to have the best possible quality using the least amount of filament (we’ll talk about these things later)

3.Load the filament

Open the new package of filament or use a started one, load your yarn into the extruder, heat the printer to the level you want to use for your filament and use the load filament command

If everything has been set up well you will be able to watch your model grow without lifting a finger!

It is always fascinating even after 🙂 years

4.The post-production

To conclude our process we fail to talk about post-production. Let’s see what it is!

THE POST-PRODUCTION OF 3D PRINTING

In 3D printing and even more so in FDM printers, it is often necessary to refine the print on an aesthetic level, in fact the following are visible:

  • The print layers
  • Surface defects of supported parts
  • Stripes in the upper part of the model

This is completely normal, it is part of the technology, in some cases such as for prototypes that you need to do assembly tests etc. you won’t need to post-produce.

If, on the other hand, the aesthetic aspect is relevant for you or for those who commissioned the work, it becomes essential to understand how to correct / improve our printed model! Save this 3d printing step by step guide for further use.

The most used techniques are certainly:

  • Sanding
  • Grouting
  • Resin
  • Painting
  • Metallization

These are topics that I want to explain to you properly, that’s why I wrote a Practical Guide to 3D printing post-production !

 

PRINT TROUBLESHOOTING GUIDE

Ok we have arrived at the big moment of this article!

In the next few paragraphs I will explain how to correct and subsequently avoid most of the printing problems that could occur in your projects.

It might be a little early at the moment (you may not have a printer yet), but you can always come back to this article as needed and find out how to fix the problem!

NO MATERIAL COMES OUT OF THE EXTRUDER

You have launched your first print, the extruder moves on the plate but does not deposit material, these could be the causes:

UNLOADED FILAMENT:

  • You have not inserted the filament into the extruder and / or you have not loaded the filament into the hotend (with the load filament command from the printer)
  • INSUFFICIENT EXTRUDER TEMPERATURE: The temperature entered is not sufficient to melt the filament and it cannot escape from the nozzle
  • THE FILAMENT IS BLOCKED IN THE GEAR: If you hear a clicking sound coming from your extruder, the filament may be broken or blocked during loading, proceed with the unloading from the printer display or open the extruder inspection area and remove the residues manually
  • NOZZLE TOO CLOSE TO THE PLATE: If you have set the Z-adjustment (i.e. the extruder descent lift command) with a value that makes it too close to the print bed, the filament may not have enough space to exit the nozzle, increase the value) eg. -0.3 to -0.25) until resolved.
  • NOZZLE CLOGGED: It may happen that the nozzle clogs with agglomerates of material (especially if the latter is of poor quality), or with dirt and dust entrained by the filament. Often a needle is supplied with your printer to help reopen the nozzle hole, if you don’t have one, get one with a slightly smaller diameter than the nozzle, so as not to enlarge it in the operation. (if you have a 0.4 nozzle, try a 0.3 needle). the alternative is to disassemble the nozzle with a suitable wrench so that you can better inspect the inside!

THE MATERIAL DETACHES FROM THE TOP

The mother of all misfortunes with your printer! Know that this is one of the most frequent and debilitating problems for your prints.

In fact, if the material does not adhere strongly to the print bed, it is practically impossible to print anything.

THE FIRST RULE IS ALWAYS: ADJUST THE PRINTER PLATE AND CLEAN THE BED GENTLY AFTER EVERY PRINT.

Let’s see what are the main causes of this problem:

THE PRINTING TABLE IS NOT LEVELED:

  • If your printing surface is not level, the nozzle, which travels at a constant height throughout the layer, will deposit the material at different heights along its path, in some areas of the surface it may not even meet the supporting surface and print in a vacuum.
    To solve the problem, check the height of your plate with the mechanical adjustment, adjust the screws by raising the plate and looking for the perfect level until the problem is solved, you will have to make some attempts, watch this video to calibrate the printer with a simple sheet of paper .
    After a good calibration of the plate, if your printer model foresees the correction of the unevenness with the internal software, you can adjust the small unevenness of your deck by telling the nozzle to lower or rise in certain areas of the plate.
    For example, if you notice that the print isn’t sticking to the left side of the plate, you can tell the printer to lower the nozzle when it gets to that area.
  • LOW PLATE TEMPERATURE: To improve adhesion you can raise the temperature of the plate, the value depends on the material you are printing, for example for PLA it starts from 50 ° C, you can raise it to up to 60-65 ° C. For ABS it starts from 90, you can go up to 100-110 if your printer allows it.
    The heated plate allows to keep the material warm and therefore more sticky, and also prevents the first layers from cooling too quickly, creating arches due to the retraction of the material too quickly.
  • BRIMS and RAFTS: If the previous solutions do not completely solve the problem you can help the membership by selecting the creation of a BRIM or a RAFT from your slicer. It’s an outline before it actually starts your print.
    You can see the Brim as a pedestal that develops around the first layer , the first printing layer will still be printed on the heated plate, but it will have a greater area in contact with the plate which allows for more stability.The Raft instead you can see it as a platform that acts as a foundation for your first layer , in fact your print will be positioned above the raft which is sized to have greater possibilities of adhesion.

 

COBWEB OF THREADS

The web that is created in the movements between one part of the model and another is due to different reasons, let’s see them:

  • FILAMENT WITHDRAWAL:
    • The retraction is carried out by the filament pushing gear and allows the filament to be withdrawn when it is necessary for it not to come out of the nozzle.
      To improve displacement cleanliness you can increase the retraction speed or retraction distance which is the amount of filament retracted
  • TOO HIGH TEMPERATURE:
    • the stringing phenomenon, that is the spider web is often due to a too high temperature of the extruder, this excess temperature makes the filament too liquid and not very viscous, consequently less controllable by retraction. (remember that PLA prints well from 195 to 200)
  • INCREASES THE SPEED OF TRANSIT:
    • a decrease in cobwebs can also be obtained by increasing the transit speed, thus giving less time to the material to fall uncontrollably in areas where it is not necessary to 3D print.

WARPING: PRINT DEFORMATIONS

It can happen, especially for large prints or with materials susceptible to this phenomenon such as ABS, that the print deforms by arching and often this leads to a detachment from the print bed with consequent failure. Let’s see how to solve:

  • USE A HEATED TABLE:
    • it is essential to avoid material shrinkage problems and to keep the bottom surface well adherent to the surface.
  • DEACTIVATE THE COOLING FAN:
    • for materials such as ABS it can be helpful to deactivate the fan that cools the piece, this allows the material to cool more slowly and not suffer retraction stress that tends to make it arch.
  • CLOSE THE PRINT ENVIRONMENT:
    • closing the printing environment in order to keep the temperature constant is certainly useful to avoid shrinkage phenomena.
  • USE BRIM AND RAFTS:
    • As already mentioned these two printing supplements help to keep the first print layers well anchored to the plate

HOW TO CHOOSE A PRINTER?

We are almost at the end of this guide, I hope you found it useful, in any case you can always comment on the blog and ask any question you cross your mind!

I want to leave you with a tip! I know that it is always very difficult to decide which printer to buy, especially if it is the first!

I do not deny that I too had a lot of doubts and I did exhausting research before taking the first one.

LET’S START WITH THE FUNDAMENTAL FEATURES OF FDM PRINTERS

Firstly, the main characteristics that you really must not give up:

  • Print Area:
    • I suggest you evaluate printers with a printing area that is at least 200mm x 200mm x 200mm, with an area of ​​this type you have no real limits of creativity, as much larger objects can also be printed by parts.
  • HEATED PLATE:
    • Absolutely necessary if you want to print materials other than PLA, but also with PLA it helps! Check that the bed of your printer can reach 100 ° C, you will need it to print the ABS
  • EXTRUDER 1.75 NOZZLE DIAMETER 0.4:
    • Most desktop printers have a 1.75 extruder and 0.4 nozzle, it is the most versatile combo and allows you to have good details without extending printing time too much.
  • RESOLUTION:
    • The minimum Layer should be 0.1 mm, in order to have a wide choice of printing! With a 0.1 layer you can make aesthetically flawless prints up to a 0.3 layer for quick prototype prints
  • SOLID STRUCTURE:
    • A well-designed structure guarantees a better print quality, in fact it is important that the vibrations and inertias deriving from the printing movements are well supported
  • SELF-LEVELING SENSOR:
    • The self-leveling sensor helps you compensate for unevenness in your plate and automatically guarantees higher print quality.
  • END-FILAMENT SENSOR:
    • another interesting accessory that allows you to be calm even with prints lasting several days. In fact, it may happen that the spool of filament ends up at its most beautiful, perhaps after 2 days of printing. This sensor pauses the printer when it senses that the filament has run out, and saves your prints!

To date there are so many printers that have these characteristics, the entry-level market segment has improved a lot and you can buy really well-functioning printers at very low prices.

IncConclusion!

This guide is over too, I hope the information you have found is useful to you and I’m sure it will! Read all our other guides written specifically to help you delve into the light aspects of 3D printing 🙂