Ready-to-use 3D printing tips for beginners


You have unboxed your new 3D printer, assembled it, and installed any included software on your computer. Maybe you’ve even printed a sample model from the manufacturer, just to make sure everything works.

However, even if you have one of the best 3d printers, it takes more than optimism to make the most of it. Below, we’ve listed six tips for 3D printer fans who are just getting started with a new FDM printer.

1. Level your print bed.

Level the print bed

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

First of all, when we talk about “leveling the bed” understand that what we really mean is planing of the printing surface. The 3D printers were glued to the walls or turned over and are still working fine. Being at table level has nothing to do with their ability to print.

When you level the bed on a 3D printer, you make sure that the nozzle is at the same height over the entire print surface. This allows the printer to lay a perfect first coat and the basis for a good impression.

If your printer doesn’t come with a probe to automatically level the bed for you, fear not. It really isn’t that difficult.

First, heat the nozzle and the bed as if you were preparing a print. Metal expands slightly when hot, so never calibrate a cold machine. Allow the printer to warm up for a few minutes.

Then set up your printer at home. This brings it to position 0,0,0.

Check your printer’s controls for something called Bed Leveling, Level Corners, or Bed Tramming. This option will move the printer around all four corners of the bed as you adjust the springs below.

If you don’t have that option either (the base Ender 3s don’t come with leveling aids installed), that’s fine. Look for the ‘disable stepper motors’ option, which disables the stepper motors and allows you to push the printhead by hand.

Slide the printhead (or let the printer do it) to the first corner, centered more or less on the adjustment knob under the bed. Slide a piece of plain paper under the nozzle. Raise or lower the nozzle until it barely touches the paper.

Do this for the four corners and the center. Then start again. Leveling the bed is indeed a balancing act and adjusting one corner can upset the opposite corner.

2. Clean your print bed and make it sticky.

Isopropyl alcohol 91 percent

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Your printing surface may be perfectly flat and level, but the plastic will not stick to it if it is not clean. This is a rough reality, but traces of oil from the skin on your hands can interfere with the adhesion of the first layer. On top of that, a lot of PLA is made with gooey additives for extra shine and shine. These secret ingredients can leave a slippery residue on your print bed.

91% isopropyl alcohol from the first aid aisle is the perfect cleaning agent. Wipe down the print surface with alcohol and a paper towel after each print to keep it perfectly clean.

If you still have trouble getting that first coat to stick, you can use a small stick of glue. Spread an even layer of washable glue stick – the purple type is best – over your hot print surface. The glue layer gives it a bit more grip to hold your prints together.

3. Use rafts to increase your success rate.

3D printed object with raft

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

There are people who would rather stick a fork in the eye than admit to having used a raft. Rafts are exactly what they sound like – a thick first layer that your model sits on. These grip aids in a way defy uneven and dirty beds and virtually guarantee a successful impression.

Rafts can be found under Build Plate Adhesion in Cura and under Support Material in PrusaSlicer. Other slicers have their raft options in other menus.

I always use a raft to print tiny objects like eyes or buttons for small models.

So why not use the rafts all the time? The downside to rafts is that they create a rough background on your print while wasting some time and material. Believe me, they are still worth it for new beginners.

4. Keep your nozzle clean and purchase replacement parts.

3d printer printing

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

Your new printer may come with two nozzles, one installed on the hotend and one spare. Most FDM 3D printers rely on brass nozzles which wear out with use, especially if you are using a filament with flakes or abrasive fibers.

If your printer uses them, the first thing you want to buy is more nozzles. For as little as 25 cents a piece, brass nozzles are the cheapest part of your printer. And the most critical.

Closed printers such as the Flashforge Adventurer 3 Lite and Voxel Aries use their own proprietary hot ends which are much more expensive and likely last much longer than the brass nozzles in popular open-cast printers such as the Creality Ender 3 Pro.

As the nozzle wears down, the opening widens and overrides your carefully calculated print calibrations. Worse, pieces of overcooked gravel and plastic can clog the inside of your hotend.

You may spot a deteriorating nozzle when you have small gaps in the print or too much string. Run a 100mm filament through your hotend – if it makes crazy curls instead of pouring straight out, your nozzle is dirty and you can replace it.

Also keep the outside of your nozzle clean. Stray filament strands will collect on a hot nozzle and later drip onto your print. Clean the outside of the nozzle while it is hot by scraping it with a wooden stick or brass brush.

5. Keep your filament cool and tight.

Filament

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

PLA is the most popular filament for 3D printing because it is the easiest to use and it comes in a wide variety of colors. It doesn’t absorb moisture easily, so you don’t have to worry about keeping it sealed in airtight containers.

That doesn’t mean you can throw it on the floor like your old 90s CD collection. The biggest problem with the filament is dust and tangles. This is why good reel management is the key to successful printing.

You can prevent dust and grains from clogging your printer by using a dusting sponge. Simply attach a small piece of sponge with a binding clip to the filament before it enters the extruder. Add a drop of olive oil to the sponge to lubricate the hotend and prevent stringing.

Fancy something more elegant? Print this Universal Filament Filter from Creative Tools, the same people who made the 3D bench.

The tangles in your coil are even worse. If your spool develops a knot, the filament will stop feeding the printer and cause a failure. Avoid tangles by never letting the spool unwind. This means keeping a hand on the coiled filament at all times and keeping it neatly coiled by gluing the filament in place.

I use duct tape because it’s easier to remove and doesn’t leave a sticky residue behind.

6. Find and download free files.

Thingiverse

(Image credit: Tom’s Hardware)

The final piece of the 3D printing puzzle is finding the right models to print. Unless you are an artist and are familiar with CAD, you need files ready to go. Lucky for you, there are literally millions of free files to download.

The most popular file repositories are Thingiverse, Thangs and Prusa Printers. These three websites allow you to download STL files for free.

  • Thingiverse is the most famous and popular file storage site, especially among students. For this reason, beware of files without photos – they may have been uploaded by a 5th grader and never tested.
  • Thangs is the newest and growing files website. Looking for a trendy print that is all around Tic Tok? It’s probably on Thangs.
  • Prusa Printers is the headquarters of Prusa’s manufacturing, but they also sell filaments and store free files that any brand of machine can use. They recently launched a reward program where you earn free filament by uploading files and submitting photos of your finished prints.


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