Perhaps one of the most exciting technologies to emerge in recent years is that of 3D printing, the ability to print full three-dimensional objects from a computer-based design. The technology obviously has huge potential for manufacturing in the future, but right now is limited to smaller, slower processes that are nonetheless still impossibly cool to behold.
The best thing is that we have already reached a stage where with the right machine and some 3D printer filament, people can now do 3D printing at home. If you’re interested in setting up your own 3D printing studio at home, then below is some advice on how to get started.
Start By Getting to Know The Printer Parts
Before you even buy your own machine, it’s good to take time online to read up on and understand the main components, how it works and which models are on the market and the advantages they offer. For instance, you should know that the filament is the raw material that is used to create the 3D object, not unlike the ink or toner in your regular printer. It comes out of the extruder where it is printed onto a print bed or build platform. There are also cooling fans, digital displays and other parts you’ll want to get familiar with.
Next, Understand How the 3D Printer Does Its Job
Some people stare in awe at 3D printers just wondering how it is that they do what they do. In short, the beginning of the process involves a lot of heating up as the machine prepares to melt the filament and heat up the extruder nozzles. Once everything is at the right temperature, the extruder nozzles follow a predetermined pattern, depositing molten filament which cools and hardens quickly after legging the nozzle (that’s also thanks to the cooling fan). One layer at a time, the machine moves along the Z-axis, adding filament over and over until the full shape is complete.
Learn About Modelling Software
If you want something to print, you first have to generate a model, something you can do using 3D modelling software such as Autodesk Fusion 360, Blender or ZBrush. Some software out there is free, but if you want more professional functions and capabilities then you’ll likely have to pay a subscription (though they may give you a free trial, like ZBrush does).
A simple option is Tinkercad for those with little to no experience. It will help you learn the basics of CAD to a point where later you can graduate to a more sophisticated model if you want. Once you’ve designed your model, it is then translated into instructions for your 3D printer to follow.
Preparing the Printer
The preparations for 3D printing have two main steps, the first being loading up the filament, and the second being levelling the bed. For the first step, the extruder is heated to 175 degrees Celsius or above to ensure that it will melt the filament into a molten form. Once heated, the filament is loaded into the extruder.
Levelling the printing bed can be done automatically or manually. The bed has to be level and at the right height for the nozzle to lay out the first layer of filament properly. If the first layer of filament fails, the rest of the printing job will also be a failure.
Know Your Filaments
Finally, get to know the materials that you’ll be loading into the printer. 3D printer filament is usually either 1.75 or 3mm in diameter, with spool sizes between 500g and 3kg. The most common filament types are PLA, ABS and PETG, but people also like using special filaments like TPU, nylon and polycarbonate (PC).