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So You Just Got Your First 3D Printer – Now What?

Picture of Miles Scott
by Miles Scott
Dec 10, 2017

This post was contributed by Miles Scott, UK-based 3D printing expert, and co-moderator of the biggest 3D printing community on Facebook.

So you just got yourself a shiny, brand-new 3D printer for Christmas. You have read some articles on the internet so that you don’t feel like a total 3D printing noob. You may already have got a few prints out of the machine – maybe even some decent ones. Are you looking what to do next? Here are some suggestions.

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3D Printing for Beginners - First Steps Join The Communities!

Image of 3D Printing for Beginners - First Steps: Join The Communities!

I have to admit, I’m extremely biased here. But I think that you really should join different printing communities so that you can interact with the different people, get inspired. and learn as much as possible.

It’s a good idea to find a specific group for the printer you have, as well as general groups. The group for your specific printer will have lots of useful files mods and people that you will find really useful. More general groups will let you see what is going on in the wider community rather than talking about a particular machine or brand.

Great place to join is this Facebook 3D printing group. (Disclosure: I am one of the admin team.)

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3D Printing for Beginners - First Steps Search for 3D Printable Upgrades For Your Printer

Image of 3D Printing for Beginners - First Steps: Search for 3D Printable Upgrades For Your Printer

Now that you are in different groups, it’s time to search for community mods and upgrades. It’s so great that the users of these different printers will always find ways to make them better and add features to them. Check the file section for most used mods and printer profiles for your slicer of choice. That way you can get printing and not mess with settings you may not understand just yet.

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3D Printing for Beginners - First Steps Get Inspired by YouTube

Image of 3D Printing for Beginners - First Steps: Get Inspired by YouTube

Now that you have seen around the community, you can have a look at some of its most prominent members. Watching different YouTube channels is a great way to learn new things and to get on the trending print. Different channels have different focuses but I will link some of my favorites here.

Here’s more info on great YouTube channels that will give you advice on 3D printing.

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3D Printing for Beginners - First Steps Order Another Roll of Filament

Image of 3D Printing for Beginners - First Steps: Order Another Roll of Filament

If you haven’t printed a bunch yet, you have not developed what I call “spool eye”. So you will not be super sure that you can finish your print with the amount of filament you have left. It is a good idea to order a second roll of filament right away. So you can use up the sample spool that comes with your printer and have new stuff ready to go.

To me, it’s like when you got a new Gameboy for Christmas and you run down the batteries that came with it. You don’t want to have your brand new printer be useless for a day or two while you wait for the delivery. If you’re in one of those great places where you can easily go down to shop and buy a roll of filament then this is a lot easier. But the lack of brick and mortar stores carrying 3D printing products is pretty small in most of the world. Plus, who wants to actually leave the house?

Oh, and don’t buy filament just by its color. It’s more about the material: PLA, ABS, and PET-G are the most common filament and they all offer different properties. If you want to know more about filament in general, continue here.

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3D Printing for Beginners - First Steps Look Up These Great Model Repositories

Image of 3D Printing for Beginners - First Steps: Look Up These Great Model Repositories

Now you’re on your second roll of the filament and you might want to start printing bigger and better prints. So it’s time to get deep into model repositories and go hunting for your favorite props or movie or game models whatever you’re interested in printing. I will link some of my favorites below.

I visit ThingiverseMyMiniFactory, and Cults 3D on a regular basis, they are great repositories. But there are tons of other ones… here’s a list of the most interesting ones.

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3D Printing for Beginners - First Steps Have a Go at CAD

Image of 3D Printing for Beginners - First Steps: Have a Go at CAD

CAD or Computer Aided Design is used to create the models we all love to print. CAD knowledge is essential if you want to print something that does not already have a model out there for you to print.

Many of the professional CAD programs are a bit daunting and need a fast computer power to run them well. A great place to start learning and printing the things you model is Tinkercad. Its simple its cloud-based and can be used by anyone from beginners to experienced modelers. So give it a try and you will soon be using more complicated tools when your needs reach that point.

If you want to take first baby steps in CAD, here‘s a tutorial for beginners.

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3D Printing for Beginners - First Steps Have Fun!

Image of 3D Printing for Beginners - First Steps: Have Fun!
Fablab Berlin 3D Printing Workshop

3D printing is a great hobby. So make sure you remember when you encounter failed prints, filament tangle, and nozzle clogs, that it’s not too serious. Enjoy making things. Add to new projects. Learn something new. It not always about getting the perfect print all the time and obsessing over minute details. Have some fun, mess around and push your comfort zone.

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