Getting a new 3D printer is an exciting moment, but it can be rather daunting to figure out what the FFF to do first with it. We’ve come up with a few ideas and projects to ensure first time print success for first time 3D print users, especially those still working on building their CAD modeling skills. There are some great ideas out there, but they do still need to be approached with caution and expectations should be managed when it comes to what your first 3D print should be.
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What the FFF Should I Do First With My New 3D Printer?
Some of you might be looking at what to do with that new 3D printer that was under the tree this year. That’s our question today, we decided to pose it ourselves. What the FFF should I do first with my 3D printer?
I do have a couple of recommendations here. We’re going to say, if you’ve gotten a 3D printer under the tree, we’re going to assume you don’t have a whole lot of CAD skills to create new models. Because if you do, you probably already know what the FFF you want to print.
We go through a lot of 3D printers here, we review them, we spend a lot of time with them. The first thing I’m going to say is especially for you men out there, because I know where you’re coming from, don’t skip the instructions please. Read the instructions and start there. Start there and even if you think you know more than the instructions tell you, you think they’re written for someone that knows less than you do, start there. Sometimes there are no instructions, sometimes they just point you to their website but there’s always a PDF with some information or some videos. I highly recommend you watch them.
After that, follow the instructions, set up the machine. They usually come with some test prints, a number of test prints. There’s nothing more satisfying when you get that new 3D printer, even if you didn’t create the first file or the first ten files that you’re going to print, to get the thing plugged in, setup and proves that it works, that it actually is properly calibrated and that it is capable of printing something properly. Because you’ve got to rule that out. Because then, when you start to print your own stuff, if it doesn’t work, you might think, “Is there’s something wrong with my file that I created or the way that I prepared it to print?” You got to make sure that you’ve gotten the printer settings all right for what they expect from a factory setting standpoint.
With the test prints, they’ve already done all the settings. All it is is simply selecting a file and say print. As long as you’ve obviously loaded your material, your filament into the machine properly, it should print properly. If it doesn’t, it’s going to tell you, “My build plate needs to be calibrated. It’s not level. Or the filament isn’t feeding properly.” I don’t know, there’s just a lot of potential things that could be wrong and you’ve got to rule out those machine problems before you go starting to print some of your own files. You got to eliminate variables here, and we recommend checking out the 3D printer testing kits from 3DKitbash.
The other thing is that you probably ought to get yourself signed up for a class really fast. I would recommend that, certainly. There’s a lot of online courses, Udemy and Lynda.com, they all have courses that are in 3D printing. Our friend John Bokla has i3Dclub.com, which I think is awesome. We like him, he’s been on the podcast many times and he’s a good guy. He has a fun attitude about it. I like the way he steps people through the process. I think that really it not only helps you use your printer but it helps you learn the design process at the same time. Not a lot of them do it.
A lot of them just go through the steps of how to use the software and how the software is organized. His is organized in a design thinking standpoint, which I think is really important. I really like John’s videos. He’s done a great job with them, especially for beginners. I highly recommend them. Our daughter uses I3D club, which is for the younger kids as well. He has a program there for them, which uses Tinkercad.
There’s nothing more satisfying than getting that new 3D printer and actually making something on it, even showing your family by, maybe later on, Christmas Day, if you just got it, that you can actually make something on your printer. Take one of those test files, pick the one that you like the most or maybe that your kid would like the most or your wife, whatever, and print it out.
If for some reason your printer and some of the kit printers and other things like that, which probably would take you longer than today to build. It’s probably not the first thing you’ll be doing. I wasn’t talking about a kit printer, I think that’s … Plug and play. More of a plug and play. That’s a different discussion.
You’ve got to go to some file sites. I can tell you from experience, because I traffic those sites on a monthly basis to come up with my picks for the month on whatever the holiday might be or whatever the gifting occasion might be and find some interesting things to download. The reality is that a lot of them aren’t screened and they’re not rated for your particular printer. You have to be really, how do I say, open minded about it and realize that either you’re going to pay for a file that may not work, it may need setting adjustments, it may need time to get it figured out for your particular printer.
If it’s really critically important and especially if you’re paying for it, make sure you see someone who has or used it before, has downloaded it before, has rated it, has printed it, there’s an actual print. That’s my number one recommendation, is if there’s images that are there, make sure it’s an actual print because there’s a lot of design files being thrown up there from someone who doesn’t even own a printer. They’ve never printed before. I would not really waste a whole lot of time with files that you don’t see a picture of that they’ve been printed.
Some of the sites that are the stores that will print your objects for you as well, that’s where I would be even more cautious because those are usually using industrial printers. To think that you can print those on your machine at home is highly unlikely that the quality will be the same. You have to really be cautious about those as well and make sure that there’s been FFF printing done of those items before. Some of those are a lot more challenging on the desktop 3D printer.
Just start thinking about that. There’s a lot of really great ideas out there and there’s some fun jewelry items and figurines and just fun things out there, chess pieces and lots of tchotchkes. I have to admit that that’s not my favorite out there but there are a lot of those as well.
I guess that’s what I would do first. Courses, signing up for courses, number two. I want to give a shout out to … I saw an article just recently. I think it was published in The New York Times about in Rye, New York. I want to give a shout out to Rye, New York in the Rye Arts Center. This is actually a town that I grew up in from the time I was about nine years old through high school. The Rye Arts Center existed when I was a kid and I took photography courses, learned how to develop film and make prints in a darkroom.
Of course everything is digital now. Anyway, I got a lot from that. It’s not a maker space, but it is a community art center. The article in New York Times is written about how they’ve gotten into STEAM programs. Thank goodness, they put the A in there. I think too many people leave it out, it’s only STEM. Extremely important.
They have added 3D printing and 3D printers to their community art center. Anywhere from kids to adults can go in there and signup for a course and learn more about it and gain some of the knowledge they don’t have to be able to do more with their own 3D printer. You don’t to have one in order to start to do it. Reaching out to community maker spaces or libraries, there’s lots of places where you can do this.
A lot of maker spaces are supplementing their maker space programs and membership with courses as well. We see that a lot. I definitely think that that’s the way to go. I think the third thing that you should do. Download some files, get signed up for some kind of course, fill your skill gap, and number three I think you should go out there and join the community that’s related to your printer. There’s a lot of these community groups and forum threads that are going on in the back. I’m not a big forum fan because there’s a lot a lot of tech geeky stuff going on there. I’m not the one who’s a big fan of it personally but there’s a lot of really great information and there are a lot of really eager people to help you.
Especially if you happen to have gotten a new 3D printer. If you’ve gotten a printer as a gift here on Christmas Day or recently with Hanukkah, you didn’t choose that printer. You may not have gotten the printer that has the best resources available for you. We did this earlier this year, was it last year? I can’t remember now. We bought a 3D printer from a company in the Netherlands. It didn’t have a lot of resources available. It didn’t have a lot of US support. That was a problem for us. I got into their forums and became a part of that community and ended up finding some people that I was communicating with that could help each other and provide each other tips. It’s like a buddy program. That’s a really good idea.
We don’t have a Ultimaker here but we hear that Ultimaker has a fabulous community group that’s really active and strong. We recommend it to Clay, our mentee who has just really enjoyed the forum and has really helped him. Those are areas at which I think you really need to reach out because you are going to need some group support here. There are other people just like you out there who you can communicate with and there’s other people with more experience than you on the same printer that can help you. You just have to find them.
For that same matter, tomorrow when the mail is working again, send in your warranty card for your new 3D printer because you want to register your printer with the printing company because there are going to be technical problems. You need to make sure that your printer has the latest firmware update that’s available from the manufacturer. By the time these printers have shipped to you and you’ve gotten it, they’ve probably updated the firmware once or twice since the time your machine was manufactured and packed. Not all of them are automatic updates. They don’t just automatically download and update the minute you hook them to WiFi. It doesn’t work like that for a lot of these printing companies.
Some do but you may need to download on your computer, put it on a flash drive or something and then load it onto the printer. There’s a process. That’s where you need, again, your instructions for your new 3D printer. The companies that manufacture printers are constantly making improvements to their onboard software and to their software to prepare a print and make sure you’re using the latest and greatest. That tech support is critical and putting in your warranty card is a part of that, or registration form, whatever they require.
Anyway, we hope that helps you and we hope you really enjoy 3D printing with your new 3D printer as much as we do and see the potential future of it for your family, for your businesses and just for the future economy in general. Please, if you’ve got some machine experience that’s happened and you have a question for us, just shoot us a picture of what you printed. Instagram us. Love to see it. Reach out to us anywhere on social media @3DStartPoint.
- 3D Printer Testing Kits with 3DKitbash
- i3D Club
- 3D Prints for Christmas and Hanukkah
- At the Rye Arts Center, Learning New Ways of Creating
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