Beginner Guide to 3D Printing | All Questions Answered

What is 3d printing?

3D printing is a way of creating three dimensional (3D) solid objects. 3D printing is done by building up the object layer by layer from a digital file. Usually, 3D printers use plastic, because it is easier to use, cheaper, and faster. More details on this topic can be found on our other post here.

What can be 3d printed?

Virtually anything you can imagine (toys, mechanical components, gadgets, robotics, prototypes, casting masters.) 3D printing is a really cool technology that has more capabilities than traditional manufacturing processes and it is faster and cheaper when performed on a small scale. This makes 3d printing perfect for testing or displaying prototypes of any sort or just for a side hobby for someone looking to do something with their time.

How do 3d printers work?

There are about 9 different types of 3d printers and we will cover in detail two most popular by process types.  

  • FDM
  • SLA

FDM – (Fused Deposition Modeling) is a 3d printing process that uses thermoplastic which is fed from the spool into a moving, computer controlled hot end nozzle. The hot end nozzle melts the thermoplastic known as filament and dispenses it onto a build plate as it is moving, Creating a solid structure layer by layer.

SLA –  (Stereolithography or optical fabrication) is a 3d printing process that uses a light beam and resin.  As the build plate moves up the light beam creates the chemical reaction in resin causing it to solidify into a solid object layer by layer.  

FDM vs. SLA –  FDM is a much faster, cheaper and cleaner process than SLA. SLA is usually used to 3d print smaller non functional objects.  SLA is more precise than FDM and finished models are usually cleaner and more detailed than those created on FDM printers. SLA is the oldest form of 3d printing and the model is created upside down attaching to the build plate while the FDM builds model upwards and can easily achieve structure overhang of 45 degrees without need of support.  FDM requires minimal if no clean up when the model is finished printing while SLA will require intense cleanup of the model and printer with harmful solvents and most resins are toxic and harmful.  Must use extra caution when dealing with SLA printing.

Different types of 3d printers by process

  • FDM – Fused Deposition Modeling
  • SLA – Stereolithography or optical fabrication
  • SLS – Selective Laser Sintering
  • SLM – Selective Laser Melting
  • DLP – Digital Light Processing
  • EBM – Electron Beam Melting
  • LOM – Laminated Object Manufacturing
  • BJ – Binder Jetting
  • Wax Casting

3D printing process.

  • CAD model 
  • Stl
  • Slice
  • Gcode
  • 3d print
  • Product

Every product first starts with a design.  There are many CAD software that will allow you to design the product that you wish to 3d print. 

Top 3 Free CAD Modeling Software

  1. Sketchup – Intermediate (No download required, Build it online)
  2. 3D Builder – Beginner
  3. FreeCAD – Intermediate 

Easy youTube search will guide you through any CAD software tutorial to help you get started in 3d modeling.  If you wish to skip the CAD modeling maybe because you don’t want to get into it yet or just want to 3d print something quickly there are many online sites where you can download files 3d printer ready.  

Top 3 Free CAD Model sites for 3D Printing

  1. Thingiverse
  2. Cults 
  3. GrabCAD

All 3 of these websites are platforms where anyone who has a 3d model can share their creation with the world.  All files are free on Thingiverse and Cults and these are 3d printing specific sites therefore most of the download files will include instructions for 3d printer type and recommended 3d printer setting to achieve the best results with the minimal amount of effort.  

What is 3d Print Slicing?

A 3d slicing is a process by which the slicing software converts the 3d CAD model from .stl file to a .gcode file that 3d printer will recognize and execute.  During the slicing process the operator may change the setting of the 3d printing speed, layer height, add supports and more.  When applying settings to slicer it is important to remember that different types of materials play a major role in a success of the finished product.

More information on 3d print slicing and prices can be found on our another post Here

3D Printing Materials

It is quite obvious that required materials would be different for different types of 3d printers but as a beginner you should be aware of different types of materials within a specific type of 3d printer.  3D printing with different materials is probably the most challenging part of the 3d printing adventure.  

Different types of 3D Printing materials for FDM Printer | Filaments

There are about 13 different types of filament for FDM printers available today and this number keeps expanding as more new materials are being developed constantly.

  • PLA – is the go-to material for most users due to its ease-of-use, dimensional accuracy, and low cost.
  • ABS – is a low-cost material, great for printing tough and durable parts that can withstand high temperatures.
  • TPU – is a flexible filament  known for their elasticity allowing the material to easily stretch and bend.
  • PETG – is a filament known for their ease of printability, smooth surface finish, and water resistance.
  • Nylon – is a tough and semi-flexible material that offers high impact and abrasion resistance. It is an ideal choice for printing durable parts.
  • Polycarbonate – is known for its strength and durability. It has very high heat and impact resistance making it an ideal choice for tough environments.
  • Polypropylene –  is great for high-cycle, low strength applications due to its fatigue resistance, semi-flexible, and lightweight characteristics.
  • PVA – is commonly known for its ability to be dissolved in water and is often used as a support material for complex prints.
  • HIPS – is a lightweight material most commonly used as a dissolvable support structure for ABS models.
  • ASA – is a common alternative to ABS and is great for outdoor applications due to its high UV, temperature, and impact resistance.
  • Metal Filled – filaments are made by mixing a fine metal powder into a base material, providing a unique metallic finish and added weight.
  • Wood Filled – Wood filaments combine a PLA base material with cork, wood dust, or other derivatives, giving the models a real wooden look and feel.
  • Carbon Fiber Filled – Carbon fiber filaments contain short fibers that are infused into a PLA or ABS base material to help increase strength and stiffness.
Price per 1KgNozzle Temp.Bed Temp.Heat Bed RequiredPrint Difficulty 1-10 HardDurability 1-10
Metal Filled$50-$120190-220°C45-60°CNO3
Wood Filled$25-$55190-220°C45-60°CNO2
Carbon Fiber Filled$30-$80200-230°C45-60°CNO2
Material TypePrice per 1KgNozzle Temp.Bed Temp.Heat Bed RequiredPrint Difficulty 1-10Durability 1-10

Different types of 3D Printing materials for SLA Printer | Resins

There are about 6 different types of resins for SLA printers that we will cover in this post.

  • Standard – is the most commonly available resin type and can be used for non functional or display models at low cost and quality is OK.
  • Modeling – High detail and very expensive.  Great choice to be used to create a model for a casting.
  • Water Washable – is very similar to the standard resin. Main difference is it does not require a solvent for cleaning up.
  • ABS Like – is more durable than standard resin, has a little flex to it, and is more difficult to work with. Can be used to print functional prototypes.
  • Eco / Bio – is less odor than most but still does require solvent to clean up.
  • Tough / Engineering – is expansive but the best choice if you wish to make functional parts.

If you found this post helpful please share with others and subscribe so you don’t miss out on my latest post. Please like, comment and share with us you 3d printing experience. Be sure to check out our download tab above for models and slicer profiles.

Happy 3d printing!

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