How to Use a 3D Printer, Follow the Tutorial Here!

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The maker culture, where tech-based DIY spells empower people every day to play with the world around them, has many components.

Whether it's electronics, robotics, metalworking, woodworking, food hacking, sewing, or any number of other activities, manufacturing is, at its core, about creation. However, of all these activities, 3D printing is arguably the most recent development of the maker movement.

Led by a growing number of machines that allow anyone to print almost any physical object they can imagine, it's no surprise that 3D printing is gaining in popularity so quickly.

Unfortunately, as a technology that has had little more than a decade of mainstream accessibility, and far less than mainstream affordability, 3D printing still presents some challenges for potential new owners. 

In this guide, we'll work to eliminate 3D printing proofs, hopefully helping to turn potential new owners who might become frustrated and give up into people who are more likely to switch to happy users. The following is information on How to Use a 3D Printer:

How to Use a 3D Printer, Follow the Tutorial Here!

What is 3D printing?

3D printing is what is known as an additive process, and is usually referred to as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), or sometimes Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF).

Simply put, this means that the FDM printer dissipates a small amount of hot material, which is usually a type of plastic, to build up the object or objects layer by layer. While there are a small number of StereoLithography (SLA) printers that harden a collection of polymer liquid resins by exposing them to focused ultraviolet light, the vast majority of 3D printers are of the FDM type. Since FDM printers are the most common and the easiest to work with, they are what we will focus on here.

Who are 3D printers for?

While certain media coverage might make you think otherwise, 3D printing isn't just for those who call themselves Creators. It's also for hobbyists, crafters, tinkerers, tech geeks, and anyone with a passion for creating. And despite the many practical applications of 3D printing, including solving some real challenges, many people buy 3D printers just for fun.

Whether it's cookie cutters or other household items, school projects, replacement knobs for utensils, storage solutions, hobby items, or holiday decorations, the possibilities are limited only by one's imagination. Age is also not a limiting factor. Kids in particular seem to love printing small figures from their favorite Pokémon, Steven Universe characters, or other popular pop items.

There are usually good paid or free models available for most of these items, but the real fun and value comes when they design their own creations. In fact, as just one example, in the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Edition update and its Paint 3D app, thanks to 3D printing, kids (or whoever) will be able to take their Minecraft creations from the virtual world to the real world.

While some design software is hard for everyone but the most dedicated to figure out, there are plenty of great free programs out there to help anyone design in just a few hours. The nice part about 3D printing is that you can put as little or as much effort into the whole process and you'll still get something of value out of it.

3D printing is also not limited to creating solid objects. Designs with moving parts such as hinges and buttons can be created using even the most basic 3D printers.

Of course, 3D printing doesn't have to be limited by the size of the printer build area either. It is common to print complex or extra large objects into sections, which can later be glued together. Other post processing, such as sanding and painting, helps bring prints, and individual creativity, to life.

3D printer type

There are as many variations of 3D printers as there are price points. Whether it's a $200 self-built model (about £160, AU$260) or a $3,000 semi-pro model (about £2,400, AU$3,900), or anything in between, the variety of features can be confusing and confusing. Let's try to simplify this.

How to Use a 3D Printer? To begin with, there are two main types of FDM printer movement systems: cartesian and delta. Cartesian designs, such as those found in MOD-t and ZMorph, are the most common and use a three-axis motion system, with X for left and right, Y for front and back, and Z for up and down.

3D Printer
3D Printer

Most Cartesian printers, such as the ZMorph, have a print bed that moves only along the Y axis, while others, such as the MOD-t, have a print bed that moves along the X and Y axes. The latter type of design, in which the print bed those that actually move, are generally simpler and easier to work with, but result in slower print speeds and often have smaller print areas.

Delta printers, on the other hand, like the Delta Go 3D Printer ($499, about £400, AU$650), use a similar three-axis motion system, but have a stationary, stationary platen.

In contrast, the delta printer extruder is suspended by three arms and moves in all directions. The advantages of this design are increased speed and usually greater building height (Z axis). The disadvantages of this tower-like design are usually reduced print quality and a smaller build area on the X and Y axes.

While there are several benefits to building a 3D printer from a kit, including lower costs and the ability to become familiar with the machine for when something inevitably requires troubleshooting, the truth is it's not a great option for most users, especially beginners.

If you think the DIY option is for you, then you probably already understand and are ready to tackle the inevitable challenges that the venture represents. For everyone, there are plenty of pre-built options in every price range.

In general, a sub-$500 printer will be easier to use but has more limitations than a printer that costs $500 or more. Some low-cost printers, such as the Da Vinci Mini Maker ($250, about £200, AU$325), feature very low prices with great educational software, but require exclusive PLA printing filaments.

While the use of proprietary filaments can result in more consistent output, costs quickly add up compared to the lower cost, generic PLA filament, negating the initial savings. Sub-$500 printers, such as the MOD-t, while slightly more expensive at first, have similar ease of use, but can take advantage of any PLA filament for greater long-term savings.

For a printer that costs more than $500, you can usually expect higher performance and more flexibility. Many of these printers have interactive touch screens and larger, heated print beds that allow the use of a wider variety of printing materials.

Some printers even offer several functions other than 3D printing, including 3D scanning to help replicate existing objects, or, via interchangeable toolheads, features such as laser cutting and engraving. 

The ZMorph 2.0 SX is one of those printers that offers a touchscreen interface, heated print bed, and interchangeable toolheads for different types of workflows apart from 3D printing. Other printer choice considerations include how you want to send print jobs to the printer and whether or not the print area is covered. 

In terms of printing, some machines connect via USB and need to be tethered to a computer, others can work with files saved to an SD card, while others can work via a wired LAN or Wi-Fi connection. As for our reference printer, the MOD-t supports USB and Wi-Fi, while the ZMorph supports USB, SD card, and wired LAN-based network connections.

How to Use a 3D Printer? Since 3D printing involves high temperatures, safety must be a consideration. Enclosed beds, such as those on the MOD-t, are generally more calm and better able to regulate their temperature.

Printers like ZMorph, which recommends removing the cover when printing PLA and putting the lid down when printing with other materials such as ABS, offer greater flexibility and accessibility, but with more of its parts, including a heated print bed, exposed to curious hands.

Other printers forgo all kinds of cover options altogether, including the aforementioned Delta Go, although designs like the tower and smaller footprint have greater placement flexibility than more traditional designs.

Finally, when it comes to print beds, or plate making, it can also vary a lot. Printers like the MOD-t use a reusable print bed that lifts and flexes to help remove objects. Printers like ZMorph, on the other hand, use a more traditional print bed that remains, so a metal spatula is required to remove objects.

3D printing basics

Prior to printing the object, the filament must be loaded and the print bed closed and leveled, as applicable. In general, once the filament is loaded and the print bed is prepared and leveled, there should be little additional work between prints unless you want or need to replace the filament, or the print bed requires additional maintenance.

For most printers, loading the filament is a guided, mostly automated process that is handled either from the onboard controls, as in the ZMorph, or from the desktop or other software, as in the MOD-t. Bed preparation and leveling, however, is a bit more involved.

Software and get the model to print

The most important piece of software for your 3D printer is the so-called slicer. The slicer translates the geometry of the 3D model into something your 3D printer can interpret and print.

Many printers recommend using one or more free slicers. Some printers, such as MOD-t and ZMorph come with their own slicing software, although they can also use the same free slicer, which can sometimes provide better control.

Preview the model in Slic3r. A good slicer will not only fix problems with the 3D model, but will also provide the necessary support. The green color indicates the Slic3r removable support added to the dog model to produce a successful 3D print.

Popular free slicer programs include CraftWare, Cura, and Slic3r. Other slicers, such as KISSlicer, offer paid options with more features such as multi-head printing, while others, such as advanced Simplify3D, only offer paid options. The only major consideration when choosing a slicer is if it has specific settings for your printer, so feel free to experiment to find a favorite.

Thingiverse offers a wide variety of user-generated 3D models. Many models, like this 'Mini Monster Truck with Suspension', are meant to be printed in pieces, so some files will need to be downloaded.

To get the model actually placed in the slicer, you'll need to download it from an online repository, or build your own. Popular repositories include MyMiniFactory, Pinshape, Thingiverse, and YouMagine, with several 3D printer manufacturers, such as New Matter and ZMorph, hosting their own. Many of these 3D models are free or recommend donation, while some premium models require a fee.

Ongoing lessons on Tinkercad. While the creative possibilities are somewhat limited, it's a great way to learn the basics of creating your own 3D models.

Print ready!

How to Use a 3D Printer and Decide on the right 3D printer, or even if owning a 3D printer is the right choice for you, is a difficult proposition. The more sophisticated and less printer-oriented you are, the more problems you may face, although even friendly printers are not immune to their challenges.

Of course, if you don't mind making the effort, some communities, interested in discussion forums and social media, can be of great help. That's why it's important to research not only how good technical support and printer warranty you want, but also how active and helpful the community is.

3D Printer

An example of ZMorph's advanced Voxelizer cutting software and a printer equipped with a Dual Pro toolhead come together to create unique two-material objects with image mapping. With enough time, experience, and the right tools, the creative possibilities are endless.

As it stands, 3D printing is only now leaving what was the equivalent of the personal computer revolution of the late 1970s. Those early personal computers were mostly for engineering-minded DIY enthusiasts and early adopters before slowly moving on to more user-friendly designs and concepts in the early 1980s and beyond.

While 3D printing has made dramatic strides in cost, features, and usability in recent years, it's still not as simple and easy as it might be, or it will eventually become. However, if you have an interest and are willing to put in the work to tackle some of the challenges, 3D printing can be a practical and rewarding creative pursuit. Hopefully the information on How to Use a 3D Printer above can add insight to Erzedka's friend..

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