Just like learning any skill or familiarizing any machine, learning about 3D printing takes time and patience. How long was your 3D printing learning curve? Today’s Ask Us Anything question came from Chris in Encino. Tom and Tracy Hazzard share their views as both the boss/spouse and maker/design. Your mastery of 3D print depends on the type of things that you produce. Engineering-based structures take more time to learn, while artistic, delicate forms take longer. At the end of the day, perception is important, but so is going into 3D printing with realistic expectations.
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What’s The 3DP Learning Curve Length?
This is Ask Us Anything segment.
Almost anything. Our question comes from Chris in Encino.
Chris is asking, “How long did it take you to learn how to 3D print?”
I don’t think we’re done learning.
3D printing is a complex thing in some ways. In other ways, you can be up and printing fairly quickly, but what kind of things and what kind of quality and complexity?
If we look back to what we’re doing, we have a little bit different viewpoint on when we were successfully 3D printing. You think that the machine running was a success.
I was happy to be making something close to what you were expecting to print initially. It’s all part of the learning process.
You have to look at it from a viewpoint of your spouse or your boss maybe. When you buy that 3D printer and then it takes you weeks and weeks to do anything but print the stock files that come with it. If I see another print of that elephant or the bracelet or the little cup again, I’m going to scream because I want to see what I bought the machine for, the designs that we intend to go forward with the products. I want to see a certain level of our designs come out of it. That takes a lot longer than people expect.
We’ve been doing this for years and we’ve printed on three different 3D printers in our own office. One of the things that strikes me when I’ve come across a technical struggle, a question or an issue that I need a little help with and I contact the manufacturer about the issue, I’ve been shocked at how many times the manufacturer doesn’t know the answer to the question.
A lot of it is because of those stock things. Those who successfully print think it’s good enough. Every time we go to do a new print, it’s a whole new world of technical settings. Even once we got to the point at which we felt design capable of using our 3D printer, the design is going in at the quality at which we expected, then there was this technical adjustment settings. We thought we’d finish the design and it would be ready to go and that would be great. We finished a design and then it’s maybe a week or two weeks to adjust the settings and get them right to get that print coming out consistently every time.
We refine that design to get it to the quality that you want. Our goal with 3D printing is when parts come off the printer, they are ready to use and that’s why we have focused our investment and our time on FFF printing. There’s little post finishing required. It’s in the color you intended it to be. Not that you can’t spray paint them or do other finishing processes on that if you want to. The point is you don’t have to put it in a solution bath to cure it or clean it or anything else. You can take it off and go.
The point though is it’s an iterative design process that we go through anyway, but it’s also an iterative process on the printing. You print a little, you test something, you then go back and redesign and then you go back and print again or you change materials or you change settings. All of that takes a lot more time than people think. It does seem there’s a constant learning curve on these machines and on your process. That can be frustrating to a boss or a spouse. You need to be aware of that time commitment and intensity to it. You at least need to give it a year to say you’re competent at it and you’ve got it down to the time it should take to do it. It might take an extra-long amount of time in the beginning but now it’s about the right amount of time that it takes to do for every print.
It depends on the types of things that you print. It’s hard to describe the different forms and objects. If you’re doing more engineering-based structures that are all of similar thicknesses and basic geometry, it maybe doesn’t take you as much time. If you do something that’s more artistic and more delicate forms and things like that, it takes longer to get the printer to execute that properly.
If everything that you do is a similar type part like always a cylinder or always something like this, it’s going to be a lot easier for you to go through that learning curve. For us, our clients are varied that the stuff that we go through and the product we want to make are different every time.
Our interests as designers are different. Our goal is to design things to be 3D printed that can’t be made any other way. That’s where this longer exploration and experience makes a big difference.
Chris, think about it this way, think about it being a learning curve that is based on adding skills to your consulting services or whatever it is that you do and that requires some investment in time. Also, think of it as a never-ending cycle of learning both in the changes to the machine and everything like that, but it’s manageable.
You get a lot of satisfaction early on. It’s not going to take a month before you’re starting to see what the possibilities are and you’re having fun with it.
Unless you’re starting from scratch. If you don’t know how to 3D design before you start, learn that first. It would make it more successful for you.
That’s a different question. Maybe about how you’re going to make the files for things you’re going to print if you’re not going to download them off the internet that other people have made. We’ll save that for another time.
Thanks again, Chris. If you have a question and you want to ask us anything, then you can go to our SpeakPipe link, which is a voicemail message and you can do it on our website HazzDesign.com or our Facebook page, Hazz Design. You click on the button and record over your phone or any mobile device or your computer and record a message about a minute long. Don’t forget to leave your name and where you’re from. You can leave your website address too.
We’ll be happy to answer your questions.
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