GETTING STARTED IN 3D PRINTING

Over the last few years various 3D printers have entered the market at significantly lower price points than ever seen before, making 3D printing more accessible to a much larger group of people. One of the companies producing these lower cost 3D printers is Wanhao and I have been using one of their printers, the Wanhao Duplicator i3 Mini, over the last two months.

The Duplicator i3 Mini is a compact PLA optimized 3D printer, weighing just 7kg, with a print volume of 120mmx135mmx100mm. The i3 Mini is extremely easy to get up and running and setup, it comes completely assembled and all the user needs to do to start printing is plug it in and manually level its print bed which takes a few minutes following the included instructions.

The printer ships with an included 1GB SD card with various printable models preloaded on it, so the user can simply insert the SD card and print as soon as the printer is setup. Below are a few photos of one of these models, a little dragon.

The little dragon was printed using CCTree 1.75mm PLA filament.

I use Cura for 3D print slicing, which is the process of converting 3D models into 3D printable formats. Configuring your slicing application correctly for your 3D printer is extremely important and getting this wrong will result in failed prints. Configuring your slicing application involves setting values inside the slicing application that relates to the characteristics of your 3D Printer, for example print volume, nozzle size, filament diameter, print speed and so on. The values for these settings can be found in the printers’ documentation or by simply googling the printer in question and the splicing application that needs to be configured.

Here are some lessons I have learnt so far in 3D printing which might help anyone new to the process:

– Make sure filament diameter is configured correctly, getting this wrong will result in prints failing rather spectacularly.

– Infill is important, but far less is required than most people think, reducing the infill percentage of a print not only reduces the amount of filament used, but also drastically reduces print times.

– When orientating a model for printing in a splicing application, experiment with different orientations and support configurations, sometimes much better results can be achieved with a few minor changes.

– 3D printing is a slow process and takes much longer than most people think.

– Don’t be scared of getting things wrong and having prints fail, it is inevitable and great learnings can be gained from failures.

I will be posting more in the future about my experiences and learnings in 3D printing, but for now I will leave you with a few photos of something else I printed, a USB\SD card holder, which came out great.

GETTING STARTED IN 3D PRINTING

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