A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO 3D PRINTING
3D printing industry has come a long way since the 80’s. Back then it was a niched technology primarily used for prototyping, but today 3D printing is becoming more and more available to the general public, as it’s practical applications grow rapidly.
Nowadays, the 3D printing market is worth billions of dollars, and it’s potential is huge.
If you’re new to 3D printing, you probably have a lot of questions, that we’ll try to answer in this article. Keep on reading or jump into the section you’re most interested in.
So what is 3D printing?
3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that allows to create three-dimensional objects.
A 3D printer is used to depose special materials layer by layer, so they are melted together creating a real physical object according to its digital model. This is quite a slow process, but it sure is mesmerizing to watch.
Why you need a 3D printer?
As mentioned above, 3D printing has various applications. You can print household items, intricate vases, little storage boxes, stationery, toys, your favorite TV characters because everyone needs a little Baby Yoda or Baby Groot!
The most popular advantages of having a 3D printer:
1. It is a great hobby
3D printing is super fun, so if you enjoy creating things than you should give it a try.
The Internet provides a great many resources for 3D print enthusiasts – tutorials, tips, model designs, etc. The good thing is, that you don’t even have to be a designer or a professional sculptor to create the digital models yourself, you can just download the STL file (the file format used in 3D printing), upload it to your 3D software, and print it!
If your current hobby is RC racing, drones, cars, painting DnD miniatures or you are collecting figurines- 3d printing complements those hobbies!
Some of the STL files are free, some are paid, but they are affordable, and you can definitely find the ones to your liking. Of course, you can go further, and learn to design your own unique models.
2. You can print gaming miniatures
If you are into tabletop gaming, you can print your own terrain, tiles, dice, miniatures, and other gaming accessories. And if you have the skills, you can design your own one-of-a-kind miniatures to print and play.
For example, DIY minis are very popular among DnD fans, who can find lots of intricate creature and monster designs provided by talented artists.
3. You can fix things around the house
Things break constantly and finding the right replacement can be very time and energy-consuming. Not to mention the fact, that small plastic parts aren’t always available at a store.
A great way out is to make your own replacement. You can take accurate measurements, create a basic digital model, and print a perfect replacement part in a matter of hours! Handy, right?
How expensive is 3D printing?
These days 3D printing technology is becoming more common, and less expensive. You can buy an affordable desktop 3D printer and filament, and use it in your own home, without spending a ton of money.
The basic things you will need to invest in are the 3D printer itself and printing materials.
Most entry-level 3D printers can be found for approximately $200-500.With an entry-level printer, and a little extra tweaking and patience, you can achieve high-quality prints.
The main price differences between the entry-level and higher-end printers are in their build quality and the ease of use. High-end printers are plug and play, meaning there’s no extra tweaking required. These printers typically come preinstalled with an automatic bed leveling, better hot end that will allow you to print using more advanced filaments.
Besides the printer, you will need to buy the material of your choice, depending on the type of your printer. FDM printers use thermoplastic filaments, for example, Poly Lactic Acid (PLA) is a popular choice for an FDM printer. PLA is made from cornstarch and sugarcane, it’s safe to use in your household and it’s well suited for prototyping.
The cost of PLA filament varies depending on the manufacturer but usually, the price is from $15 to $60 per 1kg spool. How much can you print with 1kg of PLA filament? A lot! With daily printing, 1kg roll can last up to a month.
SLA printers use resin, the price usually starts at $40-$60 per liter for standard resin.
Additional costs can include many different things, depending on what exactly you’re printing, and how much money you’re willing to spend on your hobby. For example, you might need a stationery knife to remove the supports, sandpaper to give your print a smooth finish, glue to connect parts of your prints together, acrylic paint to paint your awesome miniatures, etc. And as with any machine, parts of it should be renewed timely.
What to consider choosing a 3D printer?
Before you spend your money on a 3D printer, you should consider the following:
1. What do you want to print and for what purpose?
This is the very first and probably the most important question – what do you want to print?
If you want to print objects that will be used in your household and print precision is not a priority, an FDM printer will serve your needs better. It’s beginner-friendly and has many filament options to choose from, such as PLA, ABS, ASA, or PETG.
For example, if you want to print small objects with fine details like miniatures or molds, you should look into resin printers. They provide high-resolution prints, that have a smooth surface finish.
You can read more about resin printing technology here.
2. Price. How much money are you willing to spend?
You can expect to have good quality prints with an entry-level printer, but you will probably need to tweak and upgrade it to print well with durable plastics like ABS, TPU, or Nylon. A budget printer allows you to test the waters, and see if you actually enjoy 3D printing, without spending too much money.
Mid-range printers are usually equipped with a heating chamber and might have better overall components that will ensure a smooth printing process.
High-end printers are more suited for professional usage. You will get professional quality for the corresponding price.
3. Heated bed. Should you consider getting this option?
Not all printers have a heated bed, but it’s very beneficial. It helps improve bed adhesion – maintain even heating and reduce the warping of the first layer of your print. This allows to achieve high-quality print.
If you are planning to use only PLA filament, that is least prone to warping, a heated bed is not a must. Other materials, especially ABS, a heated bed is crucial.
4. Who is the manufacturer?
There is a great many different 3D printer manufacturers all over the world, so it’s important to evaluate, how reliable the manufacturer is, how easily you will be able to order spare parts for your machine.
5. What is the user base?
The more popular your chosen printer is around the web, the more tutorials, help, and modifications you will be able to find and apply.
We hope you have found this article useful.
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