What if you could take any object you can dream of and turn it into something you can hold? 3D printing promises this and more.
A printer that prints in 3 dimensions, the 3D printer was prohibitively expensive until recently when prices dropped. With many currently flooding the markets, it has never been easier to purchase a quality 3D printer for your home.
Below we provide a quick guide for 3D printing including information on what a 3D printer is:
- how do 3D printers work?
- why you might want to consider a 3D printer?
- 3D printer filaments?
- 3D printers you should consider buying?
- and more.
I. What Is 3D Printing Technology?
A 3D printer, known also as an additive manufacturing tool, (AM,) is used to create 3-dimensional objects. The 3D printer operates by taking a model of an image and then assembling it layer by layer until the final object is complete. A 3D printer will use a filament that includes an adhesive to help hold everything together. Through a 3D printer, objects of almost every geometric form can be produced.
3D printers first came about in the mid-1980s. Until recently, they have mostly been relegated to large industries thanks to their cost and very large size. However, the release of software as well as less expensive parts have allowed for 3D printers to become more common.
With an increase in popular support for 3D printers, the cost of manufacturing has gotten so low that models can now be found for less than $300. Every year new advancements in filament technology allow for a broader range of materials to be produced, creating the incredible potential for creators and free thinkers.
II. How Does 3D Printing Work?
3D printing has a 3-step process for working including the modeling stage, the printing stage, and the finishing stage.
Once everything is set up correctly, an experienced user will be able to go through these steps in a relatively short order to produce whatever they are interested in producing.
is the first major stage of using a 3D printer. Modeling is where you use software to assemble the 3D shape before printing.
Every 3D printer will have its take on the software and some will support importing files from other 3D rendering software. While the 3D software rendering is designed to be straightforward, it may still require some trial and error to learn.
The next stage is the printing stage. Here the 3D printer uses the schematic of the model you create to begin creating the 3D object. Once the blueprint is registered and the process is begun, the machine will begin using a 3D printing filament to assemble the model.
The type of filament you use will go a long way to determining the color and texture. The total available space to print in will depend on the make and model of the printer. The less expensive the model, the smaller space you will have to work with. Sizes typically start at just below 6 by 6 by 6 inches in size and gradually get larger with the more expensive models.
How the model adheres to the surface while printing and what techniques you will have to use to pry the finished model from assembly will change depending on what 3D printer you are using and what they recommend in their user manual.
The vast majority of 3D printers on the market can print at a resolution of 200 microns. This is more than enough for providing a decent resolution. Nicer 3D printers can print 100 microns, providing an even smoother and more detailed print.
Some of the best 3D printers can go as low as 20 microns, offering unparalleled visual quality, however, it will typically take some tinkering in the options to get details that are this fine. Consider skipping anything with a resolution above 200 microns as it will probably not be of good enough quality to look good.
Know that increased resolution means far slower printer times. Also know that increased resolution will mean much more expensive 3D printers.
For some 3D printers, the final stage is the printing of the 3D object. However, for more advanced units, there is a finishing phase. The finishing phase typically refers to the addition of one or more layers on top of the object designed to protect and seal the object from possible damage.
Finishes can include any number of different materials and provide a whole host of benefits depending on what you are looking for. Finishes also add complexity to the task and do not always work out as intended.
If you are interested in applying finishes to your 3D model, then you will want to carefully research the 3D printer you are interested in and make sure that it works well with finishes.
III. Is A 3D Printer Right For Me?
An amazing tool to play around with, a 3D printer is right for just about anyone who is fascinated by creating things. As 3D printers continue to drop in cost, more and more people are considering whether or not a 3D printer is worth buying.
While they can be a lot of fun to play around with, does it justify the cost?
Along with being a creative tool for self-expression, 3D printers can provide a variety of useful functions that make them well worth purchasing. Simply put, the more you learn about what a 3D printer can do, the more you can get out of it.
A group that can benefit from a 3D printer is kids. Kids love creating, and a 3D printer can bring their works of art to life. It can provide an amazing opportunity to create things along with your kid and watch as they go from a design to something that they can manipulate in their own hands.
Depending on the filament you use, you can create fun custom-made toys or even future presents for your friends. A great tool for kids, a 3D printer can be the spark that gets them creating and motivates them towards a future career.
3D printers don’t just have to be for artists or companies. In fact, with the cost dropping to only a few hundred dollars, hobbyists and the DIY crowd can benefit from what a 3D printer can produce. An amazing tool for creating highly detailed figures, a 3D printer can be used in a wide range of games.
Fantastic for creating your games, a 3D printer can create the pieces. In addition, those who like problem-solving around the house can use a 3D printer to create fixtures, braces, and other useful things. Saving you time and money, a 3D printer can be looked at as an investment as well as a fun toy to play around with.
Another great use for a 3D printer is parts manufacturing. If you are a small company, you can use a 3D printer to create specialty parts for your products. You can start a business selling very specific items that may otherwise be hard to find or prohibitively expensive.
Depending on the type of filament you use, you will be able to produce a wide range of goods that other people will pay top dollar for.
IV. 3D Printing Materials
It is impossible to talk about 3D printing without mentioning 3D printer filaments. Around the very first 3D printers, 3D printer filament is as nearly important as the 3D printer itself. The materials you decide to buy can alter how your final product will look. For those considering parts manufacturing, tiny differences in 3D printer filaments can mean the difference between the success and failure of your part.
There are more than 15 different popular filaments available for consumer use including ABS, PLA, PVA, PET, PETT, HIPS, Nylon, Wood, Sandstone, Metal, Magnetic Iron PLA, Conductive PLA, Carbon Fiber, Flexible/TPE, and Glow in the Dark.
Filaments come in either 1.75mm or 3mm sizes. Most experts will recommend you go with the 1.75mm size as it is easier to work with and fits through most 3D printers easier.
Petroleum plastic ABS is among the most popular 3d printer filaments thanks to the fact that it is slightly flexible durable, and strong. However, it is non-degradable and challenging to recycle. Nature-friendly alternatives to ABS include PET and PETT, which offer more flexibility. In addition, PLA, PVA, HIPS, and Nylon are common enough choices. Note that Nylon can be heated and reused without material loss.
Along with the more common filaments, there are specialty filaments that can create the ideal look you want. For example, there is a wood filament that combines wood particles with glue to create a natural look that many prefer over plastic. The sandstone material is similar, combining chalk dust with PLA to create a rocky look perfect for things like models.
You can also use metal filaments, which combine the metal powder with PLA to create what looks like solid metal casts. Magnetic iron also lets you create magnets while conductive PLA can be used for things like circuits. Last but not least, there is a glow-in-the-dark PLA that is great for kids and toys.
When it comes to selecting the right 3D printer filament, begin by looking at your 3D printer manual and seeing what filaments they accept. Check the temperature range of your 3D printer with the guidelines for the material as provided online. If everything lines up, order a roll of the filament and give it a try.
You can order less expensive samples and tests from most companies to save money before being sure that the filament will work for you.
Popular 3D printer filament companies include Filamentum, 3D Prima, Formfutura, LulzBot, MakerBot, Matterhackers, and 3d FilaPrint.
V. Finding Inspiration
Looking for inspiration? 3D printers typically come with their support forums as well as a database of shapes and objects you can make. Simply sign in and download from the 3D printer company you buy from and enjoy some free inspiration. In addition to borrowing models from the company, you will no doubt be able to find models from other users as well.
Every year the number of available models to select from increases. The only challenge you will have is in making sure the format of the file you download is compatible with the program you are using with your 3D printer.
VI. 3D Printers Worth Considering
There are dozens of 3D printers on the market with prices that range from the low $200s to upwards of $3000+. Know that the lower-end 3D printers will not last as long or provide as wide a range of features. Also know that the lower the cost, the smaller the printable area will be.
A few 3D printers worth purchasing below $500 include the Flashforge Finder 3D Printer at $499, the New Matter MOD-t 3D Printer, and the XYZprinting da Vinci Jr. 1.0 at $349.99. 3D printers up to $1,500 worth of considering include the XYZ Printing Nobel 1.0, the Lulzbot Mini 3D Printer, and the MakerBot Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printer. If you have money to burn, then consider the MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer at $2,899.
3D printers have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. Offering the ability for you to create your 3D objects, a 3D printer can be the perfect tool for artists, hobbyists, and even kids.
With prices getting more affordable every year, 3D printers are finding their way into more and more homes. Providing even more choice is the wide number of filaments out there.
Affecting the performance and texture of the final piece, these filaments are another thing worth considering when you get a 3D printer. With all of this in mind, 3D printers are great because they allow you to get as simple or as complicated as you want.
While some learning may be required, the possible results make it more than worthwhile.