Taron Foxworth

@anaptfox

What I Wish I Knew Before Buying a 3D Printer

3D printing is new, awesome and incredibly cool. It can be valuable if you do any hardware/IoT projects. Personally, I wanted to start building enclosures for all of my projects.

It’s important to note: If you already own a 3D printer, these concepts/themes may be very familiar to you. If your new, hopefully this helps. Diving in head first, there is a lot I learned along the way. Hopefully, I can help you avoid this:

Before you get started or buy a printer, here are some helpful tips:

1. Watch this video

This is the by-far the best introduction into 3D printing I could find:

2. There are places that can 3D print for you

You don’t need buy a printer because you saw a cool video of someone printing Baby Groot. However, it is ridiculously cute:

In reality, if you want to print just one thing, there are services that will 3D print for you:

3D Hubs

3D Hubs is like an Uber for 3D printing. The service connects you to other people in your area who make their printers available for you to use.

It’s is convenient because you can pick up your prints directly, instead of waiting for shipping. I found this to be the fastest way to get something printed.

Shapeways

Shapeways is a company that will print your designs. They have an awesome Marketplace filled with amazing designs you can get printed.

The best thing about Shapeways is that they have tons of materials — you can print in flexible material or different metals. You can even sell your designs.

Local places

Your local library or University may have 3D printers too.

Once you start to think about 3D printing, you’ll want to 3D print everything. But, to do this, you don’t have to get a printer, these services will work just fine. If you find yourself using them a lot, just buy a printer.

4. Designing is hard

Designing for the physical products are hard. There is so much that goes into the items you use every day. This documentary explains it all.

Thingiverse

Thingiverse can save you a lot of time. It is a community of people who let you use their designs for free. See, people are awesome.

5. 3D printing takes a long time

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Your prints will take a very long time. Something like Pikachu (above) could take ~50 mins to print. Baby Groot took ~7 hours to print.

Watching it is like watching paint dry or waiting for water to boil.

Just to note: You’ll spend most of your time getting the print to stick to the base of the printer. This is a very challenging task.

7. Multiple Colors?

Ha! Not happening, unless you want to buy an expensive printer. Your other option is to buy this awesome device:

8. What printer?

If you still want to get a printer, here is my biggest recommendation: get one with a heated bed. The heated bed helps your prints stick to the base of the printer. Because your prints will fail less, it will save you a lot of time and effort.

This was rated the best 3D printer by Make Magazine. It has a heated bed and a multi-color upgrade.

How to print enclosures for hardware projects?

Next, I’m writing about how to design and print enclosures for your hardware projects. Stay tuned.

Let me know on Twitter if you have questions.

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