With the industry of 3D printing continuing to grow, it’s no wonder that newer models and updates keep being rolled out around the globe. With each new 3D printer out in the market, there’s one more thing you need to learn, whether it be new features or simply new technology applied. Tom and Tracy Hazzard share their own experiences with new 3D printers to provide guidance and simple tips that can make the whole experience better for you. They talk about some of the best practices they have put into place to ensure everything runs smoothly and minimize the cost involved when indulging in a project. In this episode, learn how you can maximize the resources and support available for your specific printer wherever you may be.
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What the FFF Should I Do First With My New 3D Printer?
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.
Some of you might be looking at what to do with that 3D printer that was under the tree. That’s our question and 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 got 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.
If you do, you probably already know what the FFF you want to print.
The first recommendation and we go through a lot of 3D printers here and 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. Read the instructions and start there.
I’m glad you said that, not me. It would have sounded sexist coming out of my mouth.
I know you’re going to say it. 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 it just points you to their website. There’s always a PDF with some information or some videos. I highly recommend you watch them. Follow the instructions and set up the machine. They usually come with some test prints, one of the 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, set up and prove that it works. That it is properly calibrated and that it is capable of printing something properly because you’ve got to rule that out. When you start to print your own stuff and it doesn’t work, you might think, “There’s something wrong with my file that I created or the way that I prepared it to print.”
You’ve got to make sure that you’ve got the printer settings all right for what they expect from a factory setting standpoint.
With the test prints, they’ve already done all the setting. It is simply selecting a file, save and print. As long as you’ve loaded your material like 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.” There are a lot of potential things that could be wrong and you’ve got to rule out those machine problems before you start to print some of your own files. You’ve got to eliminate variables here.
The other thing is you probably ought to get yourself signed up for a class fast.
I would recommend that.
There are a lot of online courses like Udemy and Lynda.com. They all have courses that are in 3D printing. Our friend, John Bokla, has 3DCrashCourse.com which is awesome. We like him. He’s been on the podcast many times. He’s a good guy. He has a fun attitude about it. I like the way he steps people through the process. It not only helps you use your printer but it helps you learn the design process at the same time and not a lot of them do it. A lot of them 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 is important.
I like John’s videos and he’s done a great job with them especially for beginners. I highly recommend him.
There’s nothing more satisfying than getting that printer and making something on it and showing your family that you can 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 and print it out.
If for some reason your printer is some of the kit printers and other things like that which probably will take you longer to build, it’s not the first thing you’ll be doing.
I wasn’t talking about a kit printer. 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 open-minded about it and realize that you’re going to pay for file and it may not work. It may need setting adjustments. It may need time to get it figured out for your particular printer. If it’s critically important and especially if you’re paying for it, make sure you see someone who has used it before, has downloaded it before, has rated it, printed it, there’s an actual print. That’s my number one recommendation. If there are images there, make sure it’s an actual print because there are a lot of design files being thrown up there from someone who doesn’t even own a printer.
They’ve never printed it before. I would not 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, it’s highly unlikely that the quality will be the same. You have to be cautious about those as well and make sure that there’s been FFF printing done on those items.
Some of those are a lot more challenging on the desktop 3D printer.
Start thinking about that, but there are a lot of great ideas out there. There are some fun jewelry items, figurines, chess pieces, lots of tchotchkes and fun things out there. I have to admit that that’s not my favorite out there, but there are a lot of those as well.
That’s what I would do first, but then you want to go into second or third maybe on that.
Signing up for courses, that’s number two.
I want to give a shout-out on an article that was published in The New York Times about Rye, New York. I want to give a shout-out to Rye, New York and The Rye Arts Center because this is 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 the darkroom.
There was a darkroom?
There was. Of course, everything’s digital now. I got a lot from that. It’s not a makerspace but it is a community art center. The article in The New York Times was written about how they got into STEAM programs. Thank goodness, they put the A in there because too many people leave it out so they’re STEM. They have added 3D printing and 3D printers to their community art center. Anywhere from kids to adults can go in there and sign up 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 need to have one in order to start to do it. As you were talking about reaching out to community makerspaces or libraries, there are lots of places where you can do that.
A lot of makerspaces are supplementing their makerspace programs and membership with courses as well and we see that a lot. I definitely think that that’s the way to go. Download some files, get signed up for some course to fill your skill gap and number three, you should go out there and join the community that’s related to your printer. There are 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 are a lot of tech geeky stuff. I’m not the one who’s a big fan of it personally. There are a lot of great information there and there are a lot of eager people to help you.
Especially if you’ve gotten a printer as a gift on Christmas Day or with Hanukkah, you didn’t choose that printer.
Hopefully, put it on your list.
You may not have got the printer that has the best resources available for you. We bought a 3D printer from a company in the Netherlands and 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. That’s a good idea.
We don’t have an Ultimaker here but we hear that Ultimaker has a fabulous community group that’s active and strong. We recommend it to our mentee, who has enjoyed the forum and has helped him. Those are areas that you need to reach out because you’re going to need some group support here.
There are other people like you out there who you can communicate with and there are other people with more experience than you on the same printer that can help you. You have to find them.
For that same matter, when the mail is working again, send in your warranty card. You want to register your 3D 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.
Not all of them are automatic updates. They don’t automatically download and update the minute you hook them to Wi-Fi. It doesn’t work like that for a lot of these printing companies.
Some do but you may need to download on your computer and put it on a flash drive or something and then load it onto the printer. There’s a process, that’s where you need your instructions. The companies of manufacturer printers are constantly making improvements to their onboard software and to their software to prepare or 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. We hope that helps you and we hope you enjoy 3D printing as much as we do and see the potential future of it for your family, for your businesses and for the future economy in general.
If you’ve got some interesting experience that’s happened and you have a question for us, shoot us a picture of what you printed on the first day. I love to see it. Reach out to us anywhere on social media.
Thank you everybody and we will talk to you next episode.
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