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16 Apr 2024

Basic 3D Printing Techniques Every Beginner Should Know

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Welcome to our comprehensive guide on 3D printing for beginners. In this article, we will walk you through the basics of 3D printing, explain how it works, and provide you with essential tips and information to get started on your 3D printing journey. Whether you're a designer, a hobbyist, or someone curious about this exciting technology, this guide will equip you with the knowledge you need to dive into the world of 3D printing.

1. What is 3D Printing?

At its core, 3D printing is a manufacturing process that allows you to create three-dimensional objects from a digital design, using materials like plastics, metals, and resins. It's versatile, used in industries like engineering and healthcare for prototypes and functional parts, and starts with a digital 3D model sliced into layers for the printer to follow, enabling precise and customizable manufacturing.

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Image Source: spiceworks

2. The process of 3D printing

The process of 3D printing involves several steps, from creating a digital model to post-processing the printed object. Let's take a closer look at each stage:

Step 1. Creating a Digital Model: The first step in 3D printing is creating or obtaining a digital 3D model of the object you want to print. This can be done using CAD software, which allows you to design the object from scratch, or by downloading existing models from online repositories like Creality Cloud.

Step 2. Slicing: Once you have the digital model, it needs to be "sliced" into thin layers. Slicing software takes the 3D model and generates a set of instructions for the 3D printer to follow. These instructions include the movement of the print head, the temperature settings, and the deposition of material layer by layer.

Step 3. Preparing the Printer: Before starting the print, you need to prepare the 3D printer. This involves tasks such as leveling the print bed, loading the filament or resin, and ensuring that all components are in working order.

Step 4. Printing: Once the printer is prepared, you can start the print job. The printer will follow the instructions provided by the slicing software and deposit the material layer by layer to build the object. The time it takes to complete a print job can vary depending on the complexity and size of the object.

Step 5. Post-Processing: After the print is complete, the object may require post-processing to remove any support structures or to achieve the desired finish. This can involve tasks such as sanding, polishing, painting, or assembling multiple printed parts.

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Image Source: Reddit

3. Choosing the Right 3D Printer

3D printers come in various types, each with unique strengths and limitations. Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers are popular for their affordability and ease of use, extruding melted filament to create objects. Stereolithography (SLA) printers use liquid resin cured by a laser for high-detail prints. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) printers fuse powdered material for strong, precise parts. Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM) printers layer sheets of material for cost-effective large objects. When choosing a printer, consider your budget, intended use, print quality, build volume, ease of use, and available support and community resources.

4. Preparing Files for Printing

Before you can start printing, you need to prepare your 3D model file for the specific requirements of your printer. This involves two main steps: designing the model using CAD software or getting 3d models from online repositories and then slicing the model into printable layers.

CAD Software

CAD software allows you to design 3D models from scratch or modify existing designs. There are many CAD software options available, ranging from beginner-friendly tools to professional-grade software. Here are some popular choices, such as Tinkercad, Fusion 360, SolidWorks, etc.

Choose a CAD software based on your skill level, the complexity of your design, and your budget. Most CAD software allows you to export your model in a format that is compatible with 3D printing software.

Online Repositories

If you don't want to build the 3D model yourself, heading to the 3d model online repository is also a good choice. There are numerous websites like Thingiverse, Creality Cloud, and CGtrader, where you can find a wide range of pre-made 3D models.

These platforms offer a variety of designs created by talented designers from around the world. Whether you're looking for functional prints, artistic sculptures, or intricate gadgets, you're likely to find something that suits your needs. Plus, many of these repositories allow you to browse and download models for free, making it a convenient and cost-effective option for those looking to explore the world of 3D printing without the need for extensive modeling skills.

Slicing Software

Slicing software converts your 3D model into a series of instructions that your 3D printer can understand. It determines the optimal toolpaths, layer heights, printing speeds, and other settings for your specific printer. Some popular slicing software options include Ultimaker Cura, PrusaSlicer, Simplify3D, etc.

When selecting slicing software for your 3D printer, ensure it is compatible and offers the necessary features. Check your printer's documentation and user forums for compatibility. For instance, if you use a Creality Printer, consider using their dedicated slicer, Creality Print. This software provides a seamless workflow from the 3D model library to slicing and sending files to the printers.

5. Printing and Post-Processing

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Image Source: additive-x

Once you have prepared your files, it's time to start printing. Here are some important considerations for a successful print:

Bed Leveling

Proper bed leveling is crucial for ensuring good adhesion and consistent layer height during printing. Follow the instructions provided by your printer manufacturer to level the print bed correctly. This may involve adjusting the leveling screws or using an automated bed leveling system if available.

Support Structures

For models with overhangs or complex geometries, support structures may be necessary to prevent sagging or collapsing during printing. Most slicing software can automatically generate support structures based on the model's geometry. These structures can be removed or dissolved after printing, but they may leave small marks or require additional post-processing steps.

Finishing and Polishing

After printing, you may need to perform some post-processing to achieve the desired finish. This can include tasks such as sanding, filling imperfections, priming, and painting. Each material may require different post-processing techniques, so consult the material manufacturer's guidelines for best practices.

Keep in mind that post-processing can significantly impact the final appearance and strength of your printed object. Experiment with different techniques and materials to achieve the desired result.

6. Safety Considerations

While 3D printing is generally safe, it's important to follow some safety guidelines to ensure a safe printing environment:


  • Solution: Ensure proper ventilation in your printing area to prevent the accumulation of fumes and particles. If using materials that emit harmful fumes, consider using a dedicated enclosure or printing in a well-ventilated space.

Handling Chemicals

  • Solution: Some materials and post-processing chemicals may be hazardous. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for safe handling and disposal of chemicals. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves and safety glasses, when handling chemicals.

Always prioritize safety and consult the material and printer manufacturer's guidelines for specific safety considerations.

7. Copyright and Licensing in 3D Printing

When using 3D printing technology, it's essential to respect copyright laws and understand licensing requirements. Some key points to consider:

  • Intellectual Property: Ensure that the objects you print do not infringe on someone else's intellectual property rights, such as patents, trademarks, or copyrights.
  • Creative Commons Licenses: When downloading or sharing 3D models, be aware of the licensing terms. Creative Commons licenses define the permissions and restrictions for using and distributing creative works.

Always verify the licensing terms of any model you download or use, and consider licensing your own designs to protect your intellectual property.

8. Conclusion

In conclusion, 3D printing offers endless possibilities for innovation and creativity. By understanding the basics of 3D printing, choosing the right printer and materials, designing for 3D printing, and following safety guidelines, you can unlock the potential of this exciting technology. Have fun experimenting and creating with your 3D printer.