3D printing: What you need to know to get started

By Tom Suddard
Jun 1, 2024 | 3d printing, Shop Work, 3d printer | Posted in Shop Work , Features | From the April 2022 issue | Never miss an article

Photography by Tom Suddard

After years of dreaming of our own machined parts, we jumped down the rabbit hole. We’re not claiming to be actual machinists, but we are learning how to machine parts at home. 

In the first installment of this series, we learned about design, technical drawings and CAD models. Part 1 concluded with some aluminum parts made to our drawings by SendCutSend …

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hybridmomentspass HalfDork
2/7/22 10:14 a.m.

Just finished a print last night - about 29 hours long. A flower pot for my fiance (she's teaching a class at a comm. college on house plants and one of the nights will be about creative potters or something...so why not print a few things out and she'll have this other world of ideas to show)

I like having this toy, but it doesnt get used a ton, honestly. I go through spurts of using it, then long times NOT using it. 

fidelity101 (Forum Supporter)
fidelity101 (Forum Supporter) UberDork
2/7/22 10:23 a.m.

I love not having one but having access to industrial ones. 

m4ff3w GRM+ Memberand UberDork
2/28/22 3:39 p.m.

I bought my kid a 3d printer years ago, but it was terrible and the heated bed wasn't flat.

I drug it out to play with it a couple of weeks ago and got frustrated.

I bought an Anycubic Vyper - the auto bed leveling did it for me.  It prints great out the box.

Looking forward to more articles in this series.

DrBoost MegaDork
2/28/22 3:46 p.m.

I've been printing for 7 years now. If anyone is looking to get into printing, skip the cheap chinese junk (Creality) and get a Prusa. The Creality machines can print, but not terribly well, and not consistently. I can't tell you how many people I've heard say then went out and picked up a cheap printer only to hang it up after a few months. 
It's an amazing tech and tool, but at the lower prices, it's a hobby that needs constant tinkering. 

EDT (Forum Supporter)
EDT (Forum Supporter) Reader
2/28/22 4:20 p.m.

In reply to DrBoost :

For the average person I 100% agree if they know they're going to be serious about it, but for nearly anyone on this forum I imagine a Creality-level machine would be just fine. I jumped into an Ender 3 back when they first came out and yes, it had a little bit of a learning curve, but after a couple printed upgrades and some learning it's now 99% hit print and forget for less than 1/5 of what a Prusa runs. No, it doesn't turn out anything production ready and isn't the fastest or biggest, but it has absolutely opened a world of possibilities. A Prusa-priced machine just was/is not possible for a college kid like me nor is it very palatable to test the waters with. 

Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter)
Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
2/28/22 4:30 p.m.

I'm at a bit of an impasse with 3D printing. My Ender 3 is an endless source of frustration. It doesn't stay level, the prints don't stick to the bed, it clogs, there are feed issues. I've done a bunch of upgrades, some stuff I printed to better guide the filament and some I purchased, like better springs for the bed. But it still requires constant fiddling and adjusting.

But, like someone said above, I don't use it all that often. I'll go through a period where I make 3 or 4 things, then it will sit for months. Based on that, it's hard for me to justify spending the money on something better, so I guess I'll keep fighting this thing.

trigun7469 UltraDork
2/28/22 4:36 p.m.

In reply to m4ff3w :

I had the same problem with leveling and sold mine, good to hear that the auto bed leveling changed the game for you, I might consider buying one now.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
2/28/22 4:47 p.m.

I have access to a good industrial printer, but I find myself using my Ender 3 quite a bit for useful stuff because it's just quick and easy. In the past few days, I've printed off some custom bushings for my Vanagon's transmission cables, a couple of sets custom-sized standoff and some cable brackets. Further back, I've used it to develop parts for a big brake kit including printing a complete model of a $2000 caliper that helped me decide not to go ahead and buy the actual caliper. I also use the Ender to confirm my models before booking space/time on the Makeforged. At the price I paid, I don't need to have it running constantly for it to pay for itself, it's more like owning a welder or a drill press. The thing that separates me from printing enthusiasts is that I never print stuff for the sake of printing stuff, for me it's a tool and most of my prints are my own designs.

The Ender worked pretty darn well out of the box and most of the modifications I've done have been for convenience, like the Octoprint controller. Tightening up some mounting screws under the bed made all the difference for keeping it level. I use the Creality glass bed almost exclusively with some hairspray for both ABS and PLA.

triumph7 HalfDork
2/28/22 7:57 p.m.

I bought an Ender 3 V2 about a month ago and have already printed some coolant line adapters for the Fmod.  And a birdhouse for the wife.  Out of the box, no problems.


Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter)
Tom_Spangler (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
2/28/22 8:49 p.m.

Huh. Makes me wonder if all my fiddling and modding has made mine worse.

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