While I hope even experienced makers and designers will find useful information here and in our subsequent 3D printing posts – this particular post is for those of you who are new to 3D printing, and don’t know where to begin. This is the first in a series of five posts which will describe our 3D printing recipe for success, and address the most common issues faced in 3D printing.
Let’s get right to it. The four main components of a successful 3D printing toolset are:
- the 3D printer (of course!),
- build surface, and finally
- the slicer software.
One thing I omitted from the list above is the CAD or modeling tool for those of you designing your own parts (which we do). I will address this in another post – for now let’s just focus on the toolset needed to print a premade model (like something from www.thingiverse.com).
1) The 3D Printer
The 3D printer that we love, use daily, and has caused us virtually no problems is the Craftbot PLUS by Craftunique. It has a generous build volume, heated build plate, intuitive interface, and a manual bed leveling system. You can find the specific specifications and pricing information at http://www.craftunique.com. It’s won many awards including Best Plug ‘N Play printer of 2017 and Best Budget Printer of 2016 on 3dhubs.com – and its deserved them all.
What I love most about this printer is that it has been virtually maintenance free. We both have full time jobs, so in the evenings after the kids are in bed, we want to focus on DESIGN and turning our ideas into reality. The Craftbot Plus allows us to do just that. The feature I probably like most is the manual bed leveling. I know some people actually consider this a hassle; but it is a simple process, and if needed I can “level-on-the-fly” while the first layer is printing and I didn’t have everything dialed in perfectly. I’ll have a more detailed review of this printer in a later post. But the bottom line is we love it and it is our go to machine.
We primarily use PLA, and we LOVE Hatchbox. The colors are rich, clear, and exactly as depicted on their website. It is readily available on amazon, reasonably priced, and typically can be shipped for free via amazon prime. We have tried other cheaper filaments, and been very disappointed with their quality: color, texture, and bed adherence. Many cheaper filaments had lack luster color and caused our nozzles to clog.
3) Build Surface
Zebra Plate sold at www.printinz.com. Let me go ahead and say that again: Zebra Plate sold at www.printinz.com. If you’re printing in PLA, and need a surface that the print will stick to every time, this is the answer. And guess what? If you actually want to remove the print from the print surface (crazy idea I know), this surface has just enough flex so the print will pop right off. It’s tough too – if you still need to use a scraper for a particularly stuck print, feel free. Ours is scratched, dinged, dented, and we still use it daily.
This is a great product, great customer service, and I later I’ll add a more detailed post on how I modified our Craftbot and Zebra Plate to work together.
4) Slicer Software
There are a lot of free and online-based slicers out there. We paid $150 for Simplify3d, and it has been worth every penny. It has lots of features, including the ability to add custom supports, and most importantly tweak your first layer settings to get nice thick lines of PLA that will adhere to the bed.
Unlike a lot of the free slicers out there, it is very intuitive, well documented, and has plenty of video tutorials at https://www.simplify3d.com/. Once again, Simplify3D is another tool that has allowed us to focus more on DESIGN, and less on figuring out a cumbersome new slicer software.
That’s all for now. I’ll post more detailed reviews and instructions on everything I’ve discussed above in future posts. I didn’t want to spend a ton of time on all the different types and options of printers, filaments, build surfaces, and slicers. You can find a million articles describing all of that in detail. My goal was to set you up for success and get you started with the right tools for successful 3D printing – and hopefully avoid a lot of things we’ve had to learn the hard way in the past couple years.
Please leave a comment below, we always appreciate your feedback!