Basic Guide for 3D Printing Beginners

Basic Guide for 3D Printing Beginners

3D printing is a very independent world. New users and community members often find themselves overwhelmed by the unknown science and terminology behind this unique hobby. The following guide will help you familiarize yourself with the components and functions of the printer, as well as some common terms.

There are many parts of the 3D printer. Knowing the names of these parts can help to upgrade or replace the components of the printer, as well as general troubleshooting. The following is the schematic diagram of Ender-3. In fact, most 3D printers are usually the same.

Parts of a 3D Printer

Hotend Assembly: The hot end assembly usually contains three main components; the hot end, part cooling fan, and the hot end cooling fan.

Hot end


The hot end, like its own name, is the part where the plastic melts and is where it is extruded.

Bowden Coupler: This assembly holds the end of the Bowden tube in the hot end

Heat Sink: Its purpose is to keep the upper part of the hot end cool

Heater Block: This part consists of heater cartridge and thermistor

Heater Cartridge: Heating component of the hot end

Thermistor: Obtain the temperature of the hot end

Nozzle: The extrusion of melted plastic

Part Cooling Fan: This fan cools filaments as they are extruded, which helps improve bridging and layer adhesion

Hotend Cooling Fan: This Fan can cool the heat sink at the hot end


Stepper Motor: To extrude or withdraw filaments by the extruder

Tension Spring: Produce tension to keep the extruder bearing against the filament

Lever: Release or apply tension spring pressure

Extruder Gear: Insert the filament to extrude it against the stepper motor

Extruder Bearing: Presses the filament against the extruder gear to facilitate smooth extrusion

Bowden Tube
The Bowden tube sets up a route from the extruder to the hot end and is held in place by couplers on both sides.

Endstop Switches
The end stop switches will be triggered by pressing a component of the printer. The printer can know the position of its components and find its home axis through the switches. Every X-axis, Y-axis, and Z-axis have their typically end-stop switches.

Heated Bed
The heated bed is the first place to be contacted by print. The hotbed usually has some kind of building surface, like the tempered glass. The bed is heated to improve the adhesion of the print to the building surface.

Bed Leveling Screws
The bed must be level so that the paint can adhere to the build surface. Under the four corners of the heated bed, there are four leveling screws that are used to adjust and level the bed.

USB and SD ports
USB and SD ports provide G-code (tell the printer what to print / how to print) to the printer. You can download the file to the micro SD card and insert it into the printer, or directly insert it into the computer to print from the USB port.

Controller LCD
The controller LCD is convenient for the user to control the printer. Through this, they can home and move the axes, preheat components, start prints, and so on.

Printers like Ender 3 or CR-10 are called XZ hot end and Y-bed printers. That is to say, the hot end assembly moves along the X and Z axis (left / right and up / down), while the bed moves back and forth on the Y-axis.

A printer like Ender-5 is usually called a CoreXYPrinter. On these printers, the hot end assembly move on the X and Y axes (left / right and forward / backward), while the bed moves along the Z-axis (up and down).




Moving the Axes
The axes on the printer are moved by the belt or leadscrew. The X-axis and Y-axis are moved by the belt. The teeth on the belt are matched with the gears connected to the stepping motor. The z-axis is moved by a leadscrew connected to the stepper motor. As you rotate, the X-axis moves on the threads of the leadscrew.

Important 3D Printing Terms You Should Know

Extrusion: The function of extrusion filaments

Under-Extrusion: Insufficient extrusion filaments

Over-Extrusion: Too many extrusion filaments

Overhang: Part of a 3D model that stretches out without support

ABS: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, a common thermoplastic, is known for its durability and heat resistance

PLA: Polylactic Acid, the most popular thermoplastic in 3D printing filaments, is famous for its low price and will warp at high temperatures.

CAD: Computer-Aided Design, used to create models for 3D Printing

STL: Stereolithography, the most common form of a 3D file in 3D printing

Slicer: Slices model layer by layer to set up a G-code file for 3D printing

Infill: Increase or decrease the number of solid plastic models in the slicer

Layer Height: the thickness of each layer for the model (adjusted in the slicer)

G-Code: Language which can communicate with the printer and tell it what to do

3D printing is a very unique hobby, which may feel a little overwhelmed at the beginning. With a little more patience and time, you will be fascinated by it, just like your first lover.

What Type Printer is for You
Although you've entered the magical world of 3D printing, you don't know where to start. This guide will focus on some basic science and terminology for the 3D printing, and help you start your first printing.

Types of 3D Printing
At present, the most popular 3D printers are FDM and UV Photocuring among consumers.

Fused deposition model (FDM) is the most popular method in the market. FDM uses thermoplastic (fusible plastic wire) to create objects layer by layer, starting with the building plate and building the model from the bottom.

UV photocuring (Ultraviolet Photocuring) is becoming popular in the field of 3D printing. UV photocuring doesn't use the melting plastic but uses an LCD screen to project the pattern of light from below into the photopolymer resin vat. The cured resin will form thin layers, which will form a complete model with the rise of the build plate.

FDM vs UV Photocuring
Although they seem similar at first sight, there are many differences between FDM and UV curing 3D printers, which makes them applied in different fields.

There are many reasons why FDM is most popular at present. One is affordability. Ender 3, one of the best-selling 3D printers, sells for less than $200 and can match the print quality of commercial machines with proper calibration. For some applications, ender3 may be a little too small, but its brother, CR-10, has a larger build volume and a lower price.

In addition to the low machine cost, the thermoplastic used is also one of the cheapest materials in 3D printing. From super durable plastics to flexible rubber filaments, there are a lot of materials available.

FDM also has some common disadvantages in 3D printing. Because the model is cumulative layer by layer, to some extent, there will be layer lines that can be seen. While this does not affect the functionality of most parts, it may not be visually appealing. In fact, if necessary, it can be repaired by sanding.

The layering of plastics in FDM also will have challenges with small and detailed parts. Smaller nozzle sizes and decreased layer heights may help improve the quality of small parts, but the results may not be suitable for your application.

The applications of FDM 3D Printing are limited mainly by the available materials and your imagination. If you can think it, you can probably print it!

The application of FDM 3D printing is limited mainly by materials and your imagination. As long as you have any good idea, you may be able to print it out!

Popular uses include:
Display Pieces
Replacement parts
Custom Gifts
Items that bring convenience to daily life
Small Scale Manufacturing
Create what you can imagine

UV Photocuring
UV photocuring printers, commonly known as "resin printers," are rapidly becoming popular. Although the price is a little high, the price is slowly falling as the starting price of some of the most popular entry-level UV printers on the market is as low as $300.

These printers provide high-precision print quality and generally do not even display any layer lines. UV printers are very suitable for very small and detailed parts and are very popular in the miniature and tabletop gaming communities.

However, despite their amazing print quality, they are not as easy to use as FDM printers. Many photopolymer resins are toxic before curing, and some precautions need to be taken, like wearing disposable gloves and a mask. After printing, it is necessary to clean and cure the printing, and FDM does not need these steps.

Currently, on the general consumer market, most affordable UV printers have a fairly limited build volume, up to 6 inches on the Z-axis, and even smaller on the X and Y-axis. There will also be some professional printers, it has a large build volume, but its price is very high.

Despite the extra steps and precautions, the UV printer with high-precision details is ideal for small, high-precision parts.

Common applications include:
Injection Molded Quality Parts
Jewelry Making
Dental Work

FDM and UV photocuring 3D printers have their own advantages and disadvantages, but in general, it depends on your own personal needs. FDM printers are much cheaper and easier to use. It can print many different models. UV photocuring printers produce high-precision print quality but require extra precautions and a limited build volume.

Printing Your Own Models

You received your 3D printer with great joy. You followed the instructions, or the unbox and operation tutorial on Youtube, and couldn't wait to start assembling. At last, you did a test print, and everything seemed to be normal. But suddenly, you felt very confused, because you didn't know how to print your own model?

Printing your own models is a three-step process; model design/acquisition, slicing, and printing.

Designing Your Own Models

Before you start printing anything you want, you need to have a model to print. There may be many different ways to do this, but there must be a step to design your own CAD.

CAD stands for computer-aided design, which is a software that allows you to design and create 3D models. There are many CAD software for you to choose from. They have different functions and prices. One of the simplest introductory courses is Tinkercad.

Tinkercad is a free web browser-based 3D Design tool. Its main function is to design basic shapes. Tinkercad is easy to operate. Although it seems to limit your design at first, it can help you create complex models from simple geometry after you have a deep understanding.

Fusion 360
is a popular and powerful CAD software. Fusion 360 is developed by Autodesk, a developer of many engineering software. Fusion 360 is free for enthusiasts and start-ups, but it's $495 per year for others. Although it's hard for you to accept his price at the beginning, if you have a deep understanding of it, you will find that it can design anything you need. If you're not sure how to set about fusion 360, Lars Christensen's YouTube tutorial will tell you what to do.

Downloading Free Models
There's a sense of accomplishment in printing what you've designed, but sometimes you just don't have the time or ability to design the model you want. Then file sharing websites can come in handy.

There are thousands of free 3D models on websites such as Thingiverse and my mini factory, most of which are uploaded by users to the websites for reference by others. Whether it's functional or role-playing, someone must have designed one and uploaded it to these websites. If you still can't find the model you are looking for, cgtrader also has a huge 3D model library, but they are charged. Some of the most popular 3D Model File Sharing sites include:

Slicing Your Model
Even if you have your own 3D model, you can't print directly, because, you have to import it into a software called a slicer before printing. The slicer operates according to the pronunciation of the name, slices the model to each layer literally, and finally tells the printer what to do. This is mainly achieved by G-code, a file format/language used to send and communicate commands to printers.

There are many slicers available, but two of the most popular within the community are Cura and Simplify 3D (commonly referred to as S3D).

Cura is developed by Ultimaker, and everyone can use it for free. Although it's free, Cura has some settings and may need to fine-tune the printer itself to ensure the quality of the product.

On the other hand, simplify3d is a slicer software that requires a one-time payment and costs $149.

S3D has all the features you might need, as well as some fancy features for more complex functions.

Cura and S3D can make you walk well on the way of printing. In fact, the use of this software ultimately depends on your personal preferences. You can compare some software here to find your favorite software.

After selecting a slicer, you need to follow the installation instructions it prompts. If you have a preset profile in your printer, make sure you select the correct printer. If you do not have a preset profile, you must create your own profile. You can learn more about slicers here from 3D Maker Noob, as well as setting up videos and adjusting slicer settings through teaching provided by Michael Laws.

Finally, import the 3D model into the slicer. If there is a model with a large overhang (no part of the model that supports it against gravity), it may need to be supported. After adding the necessary support, save the G code file.

Starting Your Print
Now that you have your own G code file, you can start printing the model. At this time, you have two options: you can use an SD card to print, or you can use USB to print.

If you print with an SD card, simply insert it into the printer, select "Print from SD", and then select the most recently created file.

You can also print directly from the slicer via USB, but please note that if your computer is disconnected during the printing process, printing will fail. Printing via USB will have different effects on every slicer. Now, searching YouTube will tell you how.

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