Getting the most from your 3D printer.
Getting started with a home 3D printer might not be quite as “out the box” as you would hope, but achieving great results from your printer needn't be a struggle.
At times, 3D printers can be as frustrating as they are fun. Fail to take the time to properly set up and calibrate your machine, and you may find yourself needing to print some new hair before anything else! It's like the old saying goes “Fail to prepare and you are preparing to fail”.
Thankfully, it's simple and easy for anyone to get great results from their 3D printer, so long as you follow some simple rules. Below are our top 5 tips for better 3D prints. Using the following guide will greatly improve the quality and consistency of your prints, allowing you to concentrate on creating and enjoying 3D printing!
1. Choose where to setup your printer.
Where you ultimately choose to keep your printer will depend on a number of practical factors, mainly on what space is available to you. But whenever possible, try to place your printer on a hard, flat surface where it can be left alone to do its thing. Once you set up and calibrate your printer, it will need to stay put to avoid having to recalibrate. Moving the printer to a new location will almost always require the printer to be recalibrated in its new location to avoid printing errors. Once you have settled on a place to put your printer, we advise taking it a step further and using a spirit level to check your printer is sitting flat and not leaning to any one side.
2. Take the time to calibrate.
If calibration wasn't a necessary step, 3D printer manufacturers wouldn't ask us to do it 😉 Taking the time to properly and thoroughly calibrate your 3D printer will make the biggest difference in the quality of your 3D prints. All too often, in the excitement of getting and setting up a printer for the first time, we quickly skip our way through the calibration and setup process and jump straight to printing. The more time you spend calibrating your printer at the start, the more accurate your printer will be and the better your prints will be in the end. Calibration models supplied by printer manufacturers (and others available for download) can be printed and then measured with a set of digital calipers. You can use this data to further adjust and increase the accuracy of your printer.
3. Properly preheat your print bed.
Depending on the type of 3D printer you're using (as well as the type of filament), you may need to preheat the print bed. If this is the case, make sure to properly preheat your print bed before you begin printing. Don't make the mistake of getting excited and starting your print after a couple of minutes. A properly heated print bed will go a long way towards avoiding any warping problems you may encounter later on. During the printing process, try to avoid any drafts from windows or other sources of cold air that interfere with your printer – sudden changes in temperature may also cause you prints to warp. You don't need to have your 3D printer in an airtight vacuum, but avoiding any variations in temperature will help iron out any minor inconsistencies with your prints.
4. Placement of your model.
Remember that whenever positioning your model within your 3D software, think about how your model will be printed physically. Strategically position the model on your “virtual print bed” in order to create a minimum of support material for overhanging objects. For example, if printing a model table, placing the table upside down would reduce the amount of support material required to print it, as the table top would be printed flat first, then the legs, as the printer “builds” the model from the bottom up. You can always turn it over once it's printed 😉 Reducing the amount of support saves you from wasting not only filament and time, but reduces the amount of clean up needed for your prints, keeping surfaces smooth and clean and edges accurate, straight out of your printer.
5. Good things come to those who wait.
In a world of instant “on demand” content, we are all too often quick to lose our patience. 3D printing is by no means an instant process, although the printed products are still very much valued as on demand objects. Generally, setting your prints to a higher resolution will always increase the quality of your prints, but in order to do this, thinner layers must be printed and thus your print time will greatly increase. For anyone just starting out in the world of 3D printing, I would recommend starting at lower resolutions for your first prints, if your printer settings allow. Printing at lower resolutions, and therefore faster speeds, will allow you to learn from and troubleshoot mistakes quicker.
Feel free to share any tips of your own in the comments below and happy printing!