How to use 3D printer – a remarkable detailed step-by-step guide in 2023 (with tips and common mistakes)

This article will answer questions such as:

  • Is using a 3D printer easy?
  • Do you need a special computer to use a 3D printer?
  • How to use a 3D Printer?
  • What Is 3D Printing, And How Exactly Does It Work?

Therefore, this article may be of interest to people far from the topic who want to understand it a little and to beginners and not only to comprehend familiar aspects and learn something new.

How to use 3D printer

Basics of 3D printing, how to use 3D printer in modern conditions

3D printing new technologies, which seemed expensive and inaccessible just a few years ago, are getting closer to us every day. Now there are a large number of 3D printer models on the market that are easy to manage and affordable.

3D printer comes in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and types, but, they are all computer-controlled additive manufacturing machines.

Paper printers apply ink in a single layer to create an image, and 3D printers apply or fix material layer by layer to create a three-dimensional object.

What is 3D printing?

There are several categories of 3D printers as machines. 3D printers add material bit by bit, shaping their work, instead of machine cutting or drilling parts from a block of raw materials to form a particular shape (subtractive manufacturing). This makes them machines for additive manufacturing.

Thus, 3D printers can be defined as machines controlled by computers that add material to create the shape you tell it to create.

The need for 3D printing and computer-aided design

in the manufacturing process

3D printing is widely used in the manufacturing process of architectural models of buildings, structures, entire micro districts, and cottage villages with all the infrastructure: roads, trees, and street lighting. Professional 3D printers are gradually reclaiming their position in the field of small-scale production.

To produce exclusive products

This printing technology is often used to produce exclusive products, such as art, action figures for players in Internet role-playing games, prototypes, and concepts of future consumer products or their structural parts. Such models are used both for experimental purposes and for presentations of new products.

The use of 3D printers for functional testing is one of the modern methods of innovative development and additive manufacturing process. In most cases, it is required to test a new mechanism assembly, but it is too long, expensive, and very problematic to manufacture individual components in one copy.

3D printers come to the rescue with varying degrees of model detail.

In medicine

The use of 3D printers in medicine can save human lives. Such printers can recreate a replica of the human skeleton to practice techniques to ensure a successful operation. Increasingly, 3D printers are used in prosthetics and dentistry, as 3D printing makes it possible to obtain prostheses and crowns much faster than classical production technology.

In education

The use of 3D printing technology in education allows you to get visual aids that are great for classrooms of any educational institution, from kindergartens to universities.

Modern 3D printers are great for classrooms because they are more reliable, do not emit harmful products during printing, do not have special disposal requirements, do not contain cutting and shaving materials, and do not have lasers.

In the field of clothing production

Printers with 3D printing technology are gradually mastering the field of clothing production, and first of all, the production of models for high fashion. 3D printers have learned how to print women’s and men’s shoes.

In the manufacture of jewelry

 In the manufacture of jewelry, the most time-consuming procedure is creating prototypes, which requires an enormous amount of time. With the advent of 3D printers, jewelers have the opportunity to quickly grow wax models of jewelry, previously developed in a special program.

3D printing makes it possible to produce trial layouts of packaging, vials, and bottles of the original form.

Prototypes can be colored, with the inclusion of all design elements, labels, barcodes, and brand names. Finished packaging models can be demonstrated to the customer before launching into mass production.

In creating of toys and souvenirs

The use of 3D printing to create unique toys and souvenirs is no longer surprising to anyone. Now it’s easy to get a ready-made full-color prototype before launching a product into mass production. Analysis of the prototype allows you to study the texture and material properties
of the future product, its shape, size, and color.

Using 3D printers and digital light processing, it is possible to create three-dimensional color maps that accurately depict the terrain or indicate the levels of occurrence of various rocks.

3D printers can be very inexpensive, so they make it easy for anyone with one to make anything.

 

Rapid Prototyping

3D printing can be used to make custom parts and rapid prototyping relatively quickly and cheaply.

 Complex geometry in 3D printing

3D printers can create many parts with complex geometries, including natural shapes such as prosthetic limbs or animal models, or more complex shapes such as scale replicas of buildings.

Individual content of traditional printing

3D designs can be easily modified on a computer and then reprinted. The ability to create personalized content is valuable for both small-scale producers and manufacturers, as it allows them to create projects for specific people.

How does 3D printing work?

The sequence of actions can also be reduced to a single algorithm – with a greater or lesser degree of conventionality. First, you need to create a digital 3D image using specialized 3D modeling CAD software (CAD – computer-aided design).

Then the object on the computer is “cut” into horizontal layers in the “slicer” program (G-code generator) designed for this purpose and converted into information that the printer recognizes. Next, the equipment recreates the model using the multiple materials in it. Depending on the technologies used, the method of applying them differs.

The general “layered” principle is implemented in radically different ways – plastic is heated, metal powder is combined with a binder, and so on. However, all 3D hardware can be described by its key characteristic – print resolution. This is the minimum layer height that the device can create, measured in microns.

The smaller it is, the more detailed models are printed by equipment. 

Melting Modeling (FDM)

The main technologies used to create products in an additive process:

FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) 3D printing technology is widely used in the world in industrial production and the manufacture of small batches of goods. The principle of operation lies in the layer-by-layer fusing of thermoplastic material, by the geometry of the CAD model loaded into the program.

Production with FDM technology allows you to print on the printer any complex parts of small and large dimensions (parts, the dimensions of which exceed the dimensions of the working area of ​​the printer, can be modeled in parts, and then assembled into a single whole, for example, glued).

Stereolithography (SLA)

SLA (Stereolithography) – laser stereolithography is a 3D printing process based on the layer-by-layer curing of a liquid material under the action of a laser beam.

Laser technology allows you to create the most accurate prints with high resolution. It is also worth noting that SLA printing is much faster than FDM or SLS printing.

Selective laser sintering (SLS)

This technique requires powders that are finely dispersed, thermoplastic, with good viscosity and quickly hardening, for example:

  • polymers;
  • wax;
  • nylon;
  • ceramics;
  • metal powders. 

Layers of powder are stacked on the printing platform and the particles of each layer are laser cured. 

Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)

The LOM process (LOM – Laminated Object Manufacturing) also includes a laser that cuts out sectional contours from CAD data, layer by layer in 3D printing. CAD – data is fed into the LOM – machine control system, where, using special software, cross-sections of the part are created.

The laser beam cuts out the contour of the section in the top layer, and then cuts the areas of excess material for subsequent removal. The new adding material layer is connected to the previous one by rolling with a thermal roller and a new cross-section is created, which is then also cut out.

These printers have very low production costs because the raw materials are just reams of paper or plastic.

3D design for 3D printing

A powerful 3D modeling environment is in demand in the gaming and film industry, industrial production, and interior design. It allows you to create realistic models and volumetric animations of any level of detail, build the most complex scenes with thousands of objects, simulate various environments and particles, and apply textures and other materials.

To do this, the object must be designed on a computer using 3D design software.

Step-by-Step Guide in 3D printing

First power on

Before using the printer for the first 3D print, it is best to read the instructions. Each printer may have its usage and settings. Some 3D printers can calibrate automatically, without user intervention, and some need to be configured manually.

You may also be interested: How to paint PLA on one’s own

Table calibration

The result of the entire operation of the printer depends on the calibration of the table. It is very disappointing to see that the model, after many hours of printing, came off the surface of the table and deformed or “moved out”. To prevent this from happening, it is necessary to correctly set the working plane and the gap between the table and the nozzle.

Table plane alignment

First, you need to level the plane of the table. To complete this, using the adjusting bolts, it is necessary to set the same distance between the table and the nozzle. Anything can be used as a probe, but it is better to take the probe recommended by the manufacturer (usually 0.1 mm).

Gap calibration between table and nozzle

If a feeler gauge was used to align the work plane, which matches the required gap between the table and the nozzle, then the extruder does not need to be calibrated separately. If the printer has 2 extruders, then only the second extruder needs to be calibrated.

After changing the nozzle, thermal barrier, table surface, or moving the printer – it is necessary to check the gap calibration between the work surface and the nozzle, and sometimes the plane of the table.

Filament loading

After setting up the print platform, you can load the filament (plastic).

In some 3D printers, the plastic loading process is automated and starts from the menu.

After loading the filament, you need to push the plastic rod a little until the remnants of the old plastic come out of the nozzle.

Setting print options

To get a neat and accurate model of the insufficiently good mechanics of a 3D printer, it is important to properly prepare the model using a special slicer program.

Table and nozzle temperature

Perhaps the two most important parameters are the temperature of the nozzle and the working surface. These settings may affect other slicer settings.

Printed Tests

To configure some slicer parameters, it is convenient to use special tests, rather than setting the settings at random. Some of the tests can be printed every time you change the spool of filament. For example, plastic from the same manufacturer, but with a different dye, may have slightly different temperature settings.

Bridge print test

Some overhanging elements can be printed without supports, the slicer even has special settings for 3D printing such as “bridges”.

Surface overhang

A small test that allows you to understand how the plastic will behave when printing overhanging elements. With this test, you can configure support settings in the slicer.

Test All-in-one

There are printed tests – all in one, but it can be difficult for a beginner to figure out which settings need to be adjusted. Therefore, to begin with, it is better to print simple tests, and with experience, you can use universal ones.

Common Mistakes

The first coat does not stick well

This is usually due to incorrect print surface calibration or poor adhesion of the first layer.

First, you need to check the correct gap between the table and the nozzle.

If necessary, calibrate the plane of the printed surface and the gap between the working surface and the nozzle.

To increase adhesion, you can use special adhesives that are applied to the printed surface. Check the correct temperature of the extruder, table, and thickness of the first layer in the slicer settings. The higher the temperature of the extruder, the better the adhesion.

The first layer is usually thicker than the subsequent ones because the thicker layer of plastic adheres better to the work surface.

The printer does not extrude plastic

If the printer stops extruding plastic and the feed mechanism starts to click, then most likely the problem is a clogged nozzle. The nozzle can be burned or cleaned, but in 3D printing nozzles are consumables and it is better to replace them immediately.

Plastic bubbles in 3d printing

If the plastic bubbles when exiting the nozzle, then it must be dried. Some engineering plastics, such as nylon, need to be dried before each print.

The model is printed with errors

The slicer cannot always process the model correctly if it has errors. For example, inverted normals, internal walls, or the model is not closed. Such models need to be “cured” before printing.

Some slicers can fix simple errors on their own, but if the slicer is powerless, you can use special programs designed to work with STL files. For example, Autodesk Netfabb allows you to fix model flaws with the click of a couple of buttons.

Conclusion

Even though a 3D printer is essentially a CNC (computer numerical control) machine, manufacturers are trying to make it as easy as possible to work with it. Many additional options allow the novice user not to delve into the nuances of setting up and calibrating the printer but to start printing right out of the box.

Most slicers are also simplified as much as possible for a more comfortable experience.

Commodities with 3D printing. Universal profiles appear, in which the user only needs to specify the type of plastic and send the file for printing. And later, you can use the advanced settings menu for finer control of print settings.

Perhaps shortly a 3D printer will become as essential an attribute of our everyday life as a refrigerator, microwave oven, or TV. We will be surprised to remember those times when people could not print clothes, dishes, shoes, and other useful items at home, and bought them all in the store.

Friends, 3D printing is a game changer. If you have questions about using 3D printing, write your experience with 3D printers in the comments.

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