3D printing is a much more accessible hobby than most people realize. You may have seen something like a 3D printed Iron Man suit and thought to yourself “that must have cost thousands!”. It doesn’t. 3D printers are getting cheaper by the day and you can pick up a great starter printer for around $200. Here is a step by step guide on how to 3D print ANYTHING:
1. Choose your 3D printer
Obviously if you want to start 3D printing you’re going to have to pick up a 3D printer. Don’t get me wrong, if you have the cash to splash you can spend thousands on a printer with all the bells and whistles. However, if you’re looking for something to get you started I would suggest something like a Creality Ender 3 pro. You can pick one up for approx. $200. I can recommend this because I bought one myself as a way to get started with this hobby. It’s great for smaller prints while you get used to things like print settings and troubleshooting.
Alternatively, you could jump straight in with a bigger printer and go for something like a Creality CR10-S. This printer is closer to the $500 range but it can print things like cosplay helmets all in one go. I encourage you to do some research into things like build dimensions and screen quality but for beginners, these two printers I’ve mentioned above are ideal.
Recommendation: Creality Ender 3 Pro (Approx $200)
2. Choose your filament
Filament is what you’ll need to print your creations. Again, lets keep it simple. PLA is by far the most common material used for printing. You can pick up a 1KG roll of PLA for about $20. From experience, this will allow you to print approximately 1-2 full size wearable Iron Man helmets. Yes, I do measure everything in Iron Man helmets. There are also materials like resin and PLA+ but for beginners I would recommend sticking with PLA. It’s simple, sturdy and cheap.
Recommendation: 1KG PLA (Approx. $20)
3. 3D Printing Files
As Anakin Skywalker says, this is where the fun begins. Contrary to popular belief you don’t need to be able to 3D model if you want to get into 3D printing. There are tons of websites that provide free files ready for you to print. Want to print an Iron Man suit? There’s a file for that. Want to print a Lightsaber? There’s a file for that. How about a Captain America shield? Yep, you guessed it, there’s a file for that.
There are 2 sites from which I predominantly get my files. The first is DO3D.com. This website has some amazing files that you can download completely for FREE. It also has some amazing paid files that are relatively inexpensive for the quality you receive. Here are some examples of files available from them:
Another great website for 3D printing files is Thingiverse.com. Here you will find thousands of 3D print files for anything you can imagine. From useful printer upgrades to headphone stands. Use these websites and you won’t be disappointed. I will say however, a lot of the time you get what you pay for.
Recommendation: DO3D.com for FREE and paid files
Recommendation: Thingiverse.com for general files
4. The Software
So you have your 3D printer, filament and files. Now what? Now you need a way to print the files. To do this you will need something called Ultimaker Cura. This allows you to see how your print will look on your print bed once complete. This is where you will configure your print settings like print speed, supports and more. This is something you will have to play around with and research further for yourself but I promise, it’s not as difficult as it might sound.
If you have a smaller printer but want to print larger parts there is also a solution for this. Sli3r is an application that allows you to cut your prints into smaller parts. These parts can then be fused or stuck together in the post-printing step. This allows owners of smaller printers to make large projects.
Recommendation: Ultimaker Cura for 3D printing your files
Recommendation: Slic3r for cutting up larger prints
5. How to 3D Print anything
If you follow the steps outlined above you will be more than ready to start your 3D printing adventures. Just add some sandpaper and some paint and Voila! There is no limit to where this hobby can take you. It will be difficult in the beginning but stick with it, I promise it’s worth it.