Featured Photo by Jakub Zerdzicki: https://www.pexels.com/photo/3d-print-project-19149826/
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links that are generated by Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. If you click on the link, and finalize the purchase, we will earn an affiliate commission.
Getting started with a 3d printer may seem simple at first. You just buy a printer, take it out of the box, and turn it on right? Well, it’s not quite that simple. There are quite a few more steps between bringing your printer home and your first print.
The first step is actually step 0. You need the 3D printer first! Should be a simple choice right? You get the one that prints those 3D objects. Well, it’s not quite that simple. You have some choices that you need to make.
- Start with a FDM Printer. It will get you started and learning the craft. I’d recommend a well priced Creality FDM Open AirPrinter to start with. It is not the easiest one to work with, but capable enough to get started and teach you the fundamentals.
- Get started PLA. It’s the easiest filament to work with and will get you great results. Get plain colors without different finishes or stuff in the filament.
- Not all filament is created equal. Read the specs of the filament and make sure that your printer is able to print the material.
- Amazon is great place to start. If you live near a Microcenter, that’s even better since you can see everything for real and touch it. Prices are competitive as well.
I’m going to start and make a few assumptions:
- You are brand new to this
- You are looking to not spend a ton of money
- You have some basic knowledge of what a 3D Printer is
Knowing these assumptions will help get to the recommendations part. I’ll call it a starter pack. A checklist of sorts to help you get started that have the important items for you to complete your first successful print.
The Printer Itself
This should be self explanatory, but I like to start with the most basic thing. You are going to need a 3D printer. What’s a good printer to start with? I’d recommend starting with something in the Creality Ender 3 Family.
I may be biased, but I really do think it’s a good place to start and here is why. It has enough of the basics to get you a good solid print without being just too cheap. With cheaper ones, you are never too sure if it will print right or how long the printer itself will last. With the Ender 3, it can get pretty cheap, especially if you can find it on sale.
You could also go with Vat Polymerization (a.k.a. 3D Resin Printing), but I wouldn’t recommend that for someone starting off, even though you might find it for a similar price. It’s defiantly cool and something that I want to get in to, but 2 main things stop me:
- It creates toxic fumes. To print with resin, you need to do it in a room with good ventilation so the toxic bits have somewhere to go.
- On top of the toxic fumes, you will need to have a level place for it. You do not want your resin to spill.
Due to this, the rest of the article and following articles will focus on FDM printing.
What’s This Filament Thing?
The next item that you are going to need is filament. In the long run you are going to end up spending far more on filament than you are the printer itself, especially if you get a good quality printer. That’s because the printer melts the filament and fuses it into the object that you are trying to print. Remember, this is a printer after all. Just like that inkjet or laser printer you have used in the past, this is where it get’s expensive.
When you are shopping for filament, there are many different types that have different properties:
All filaments, even those within the same family, can have different melting points, need a different bed temperature to stick to, and different printing speeds. There are calibration tests that I usually run when dealing with a new material.
I would recommend everyone start with either PLA or PLA+. I’d recommend not using a matte or silky finish either. Just stick with something generic and easy. Remember, at this point in your journey, you are focused on fundamentals and not making anything too flashy. Rush into something flashy with this family of printers and you will regret it later. Materials that are not PLA/+ generally are more difficult to work with and not recommended to start with.
Here are a few recommendations that I would recommend based on my own personal usage
- Inland 1.75mm PLA 3D Printer Filament 1kg (2.2 lbs) Cardboard Spool – Black
- Inland 1.75mm PLA 3D Printer Filament 1kg (2.2 lbs) Cardboard Spool – Sand
- Inland 1.75mm PLA UV Color Change 3D Printer Filament 0.5 kg (2.2 lbs.) Spool – Natural-Red
Here are a few filaments that I’d recommend based on reviews:
- OVERTURE PLA Filament 1.75mm PLA 3D Printer Filament, 1kg Cardboard Spool (2.2lbs)
- SUNLU PLA 3D Printer Filament PLA Filament 1.75mm, Neatly Wound PLA 3D Printing Filament 1.75mm, Dimensional Accuracy +/- 0.02 mm
That’s all that you really need. Everything else should come in the 3D Printer box. To summarize, you need:
- A 3D Printer
That’s really it folks. That’s how you get started with 3D printing. Well, that and some patients. Remember, this is something new and fairly complicated. It’s not a turn key solution where you set it up out of the box and it runs. It takes time to learn the printer, materials, and techniques needed to print effectively. Just remember, you will get there, just keep trying.