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5 Ways To Learn 3D Printing Technologies

One of the biggest misconceptions held by most people is that 3D printing is hard to get into. They look at all the cool stuff their friends have made but don’t imagine themselves being able to learn 3D printing without sinking too much time in it.

You know what? They are wrong.

3D printing is incredibly easy to get started with, even if you don’t know a thing about it. Here are the 4 best ways to teach yourself 3D printing.

#1: Youtube

A list about any kind of learning resources that does not begin with Youtube is missing something. Youtube has videos on just about anything, and 3D printing is no exception.

Chances are, you will even find a video using the exact same model of the printer that you have got, leaving little to guesswork.

Whether it is unboxing your 3D printer, setting things up, or actually printing something with it, you can find a youtube video to guide you through it. You can even check out the performance of the different 3D printer models in advance before deciding which one to buy.

#2: Coursera

If you are looking for a more formal mode of instruction, there is always a course on Coursera. For 3D printing, there are multiple.

Some of the courses are offered by leading universities, so you can expect to get a lot of educational value out of them. There are also many courses by Autodesk, targeted at a more advanced audience, with a view on incorporating 3D printing in an industrial setting.

For the most part, the courses aim to teach you more than just basic usage of a 3D printer. They cover topics like designing 3D objects or business applications of 3D printing, giving you skills that can help you get employed.

#3: Instructables

Instructables is home to a large number of tutorials teaching very specific things. For example, instead of a general-purpose guide about all aspects of 3D printing, there is a guide on how to paint a 3D printed object,  or a step-by-step guide on creating something creative, like a balloon-powered car.

Head to Instructables whenever you run into a roadblock while you are 3D printing. Each Instructable is by design an easy-to-follow list of steps for achieving something particular, which makes it a great resource for beginners.

#4: Online Resources

Learning by watching videos can be a bit time-consuming. For those with more experience in trawling through the web for information, there are plenty of written resources that can do the same job.

Apart from our complete guide into 3D printing, there are websites like All3DP and others that give a fairly detailed overview of the basics of 3D printing.

There are resources for learning individual aspects of 3D printing too. Blender has a number of tutorials to teach 3D modeling, while this is a good guide on slicing. There are many 

#5: Trial and Error

3D printing is a creative pursuit. And like any creative activity, sometimes the best way to learn it is by getting your hands dirty.

Look up an online guide to nail down the absolute basics – the operating temperature, making the first test print, etc – and start experimenting.

Print slowly. Print quickly. Fiddle with the slicing software parameters. Load up the 3D model in a modeling program and try modifying it.

At first, not everything you try will be successful. But the mistakes will teach you more about 3D printing than any guide or video, and make you better in the long-run.

The best thing? It is also very fun.

3D Printing: What Skills Should I try to Learn?

When we say 3D printing, we are not referring to just one activity, but several. There are many things that go into creating an incredible 3D print, from modeling to slicing to the printing itself, followed by post-processing and painting.

3D Modeling

3D modeling is the process of creating a digital object that can then be printed by a 3D printer. For most beginners, this is not a process they need to go deep into, as 3D models are readily available online on websites like Thingiverse.

But if you don’t know even the basics of 3D modeling, you will miss out on a lot.

Learning to create 3D models from scratch is a long and arduous process. For the purposes of 3D printing, however, you don’t need the whole skillset.

Simply knowing how to make modifications to already existing models is more than enough, as it allows you to take any 3D model and change it to suit your needs.

 

Slicing

Slicing is arguably the most crucial part of the 3D printing process and the one with the most user input.

Basically, slicing is the process of converting a digital 3D model into a set of instructions for a 3D printer to print it. As the name suggests, it consists of splitting the model into horizontal layers that can be fabricated by the printer.

There is quite a bit to adjust around in a slicer. You can set the thickness of the walls, as well as the number of internal walls being printed. A good infill should be selected to strengthen the print, along with the level of infill.

And most importantly, this is where the orientation of your print is decided. If you are printing a tall figurine, for example, it might be better to print it lying flat on its back.

For models with overhangs or curved bases, this is also the stage where you can add support structures so that your print does not topple in the middle of printing. 

Printing

Printing? But that is done automatically by the printer, right? What can you do about it?

A lot, actually.

No matter how entry-level your printer is, there are a lot of options for fiddling with the printing process. Varying the print speed, for example, can result in prints of drastically different quality, with prints that are made too fast blurring together the fine details due to lack of cooling.

The temperature of the print bed and the nozzle are equally important, as a temperature too high can damage the printer (or even set it on fire!) while setting it too low can make it difficult for the filament to melt at all.

Filing and Sanding

FDM printers (and to some extent, stereolithography printers too) have a hard time with edges and curved surfaces. Usually, the printed object tends to have uneven surfaces with protrusions and rounded edges.

Even if you don’t intend to paint your 3D print, you should take the time to at least smoothen it up with some minimal post-processing.

All that you need to do is to file away any clumps of material sticking out with a utility knife, then use sandpaper to grind away the remaining bumps. Sanding should be done with sandpaper of a decently high grit, rubbing in gradual circular motions that do not leave any scratches.

Priming and Painting

One thing that makes many people stay away from 3D printing is the lack of colors in the end result. You can use only one filament or resin (in rare cases, two) of a single color. While you can change up filament colors from print to print, each individual object is of a uniform color.

But take a look at the miniatures printed by any 3D printing enthusiast, and you will notice that their end products are multi-colored, like something bought from a leading store.

Their secret? Painting.

Painting a 3D model can be a tricky yet rewarding experience. You can use acrylic or oil-based colors, and paint using brushes or better yet, spray cans.


Before painting your model though, you need to prime it. Once again, a spray based primer is your friend. Make sure that you prime and paint your 3D print after you are done sanding it properly.

Conclusion

3D printing is not particularly difficult to learn. There is no complicated interface or millions of settings you have to get right. Printing a 3D model is a pretty straightforward process, with a clearly defined workflow that will become second nature once you have a few prints in your belt.

That said, 3D printing might appear a bit daunting to the very beginner.

The good news is that there is a wealth of resources these days about learning 3D printing without any prior knowledge. You can head to Youtube, follow along with the steps at Instructables, or sign up for a course at Coursera.

Or you can just refer to an online guide for the basics and try things out for yourself.

There is no wrong way to learn 3D printing, so if you are wondering where you should start, just get yourself a 3D printer and fire it up. You will be an expert in no time.

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