Great. You bought a printer, now what?

Great. You bought a printer, now what? 720 720 admin

Given current global events, droves of people are discovering the wonderful hobby of 3D Printing. I know this because they are sold out or back ordered in every store I know to browse.  Thank you, I might add; this has deterred me from more than one unnecessary upgrade. After setting up my own, I’ve walked a couple friends through what to do when they’re setting up their printer and there seems to be a few common themes. Primarily,  “Okay… the UPS guy dropped this thing off, now what?” Here’s a few thoughts that I think will help get you started.

Where the heck is does this thing go?

Really guy,  you should have thought about this before you bought it. But like most of us, in your fervor to dive into a new hobby, you bought something without thinking about all of the ramifications.  No worries; let’s figure this out.

  • Printers do make a fair amount of noise and can be messy. Your office or a common area may not be the best choice. Consider the inevitable annoyance of having a high pitched, screeching, harmoninc, arhythmic machine constantly squealing in the background of your life. No thanks.
  • They can’t be disturbed while a print is in progress. Your printer’s home should be off the beaten path and not subject to traffic, small hands, pets or beverages.

I set my first printer up in my office; its location near my desk was great. I could work on a print, get it all loaded and set and get a print going and make sure it went off without a hitch. For a long while I really enjoyed supervising my printer. This eventually faded after working on a few spreadsheets that required some concentration. My printer’s current home is in the garage. In my case, this was close enough to the common areas where I could still check in on it regularly, but it was far enough away that it didn’t bother me during day to day tasks.

 Put that bad boy together

Let’s be honest, most assembly instructions for printers were authored by Satan with the full support of his army of demons to cause massive frustration and/or confusion. Putting a printer together correctly the first time can be quite the undertaking. Your printer will likely test every bit of your patience… if you have any left after deciding to redo your office in that IKEA furniture that seemed like a good value. In any case, don’t lose heart. Many new enthusiasts have gotten theirs together, and you will too.

  • Take a survey of the parts and tools included. Do your best to follow the assembly instructions. If you’re confused or unsure, take a little extra time. You can also look up advice online or join a facebook group for your printers community, join us on discord, ask your friend who has a printer.  Most people who have latched on to their printers and taken this on as a hobby love talking about it and are happy to walk you through your first efforts with one. 
  • Make sure you don’t skip any steps and screw in every screw with adequate pressure. Loose or missing screws can cause a lifetime of troubleshooting and frustration down the road.
  • Take your time. Don’t be in a hurry, everything about 3d printing is slow and this is no exception. While this hobby creates a massive amount of satisfaction and pride in your work, it will also test every ounce of your patience at times.

Gratuitous software

Software required for your printer is widely available. You can spend a fortune, or you can get freeware and open source versions. When you’re starting off, there’s probably only one real option for you, Cura.

Get a slicer. Slicers take the 3D models you design or download and apply the settings you input to produce what’s called a .gcode file. Gcode’s contain all the information your printer needs to print the item of your choice.

For beginners, I recommend Ultimaker’ “Cura”. Download and familiarize yourself with its functionality.  You will learn slowly how to use all it has to offer. It likely has your printer’s default and recommended settings already stored, so initial configuration is a breeze.

Get basic, test it out

Your printer likely has a few .gcode’s loaded on to it by default with settings that really showcase your printer’s abilities. Get one of these guys going and see your handiwork in action. You will be thrilled when you see your printer fire up and start moving. And for the rest of your life you will be chasing the dragon of the thrill felt from your “first time”.

Browse thingiverse and myminifactory

Find some models you might want to create in the future and start planning out your upgrades. I could go on about this one for ages and will at a later date, but for now – just print things you think are cool. That’s incredibly subjective, so I’ll leave it up to you.

Join some communities

Doesn’t matter if it’s youtube, twitter, discord or facebook. Get in some groups with fellow enthusiasts and get advice. Find out what others are making and absorb the knowledge necessary to take your craft to the next level.  This is one of the main reasons we decided to create LayerLair, to give people a place to participate in a community of like-minded enthusiasts to further the hobby and craft of 3D printing. Please consider joining us on discord and engaging our community with your questions and share your progress and expertise with others.