What I learned about 3D Printing after owning one for 24hrs

I recently turned 40 and my awesome friends bought me one of the best presents I could imagine, a 3D printer. I had watched on the sideline for years as 3D printers became more common (perhaps not as common as some had predicted), but never jumped in and bought one.

Now I have one, it’s a great opportunity to learn, have fun and write about 3D Printing here on techAU. The printer I got was an Ender V3, by all accounts, a great printer to get you started.

Knowing the printer was on its way, I jumped on Amazon a couple of weeks ago and ordered some filament, as I understood there was some included, but really just a small sample, thankfully it arrived the same day the printer did, yesterday.

Assembling the 3D Printer

Unboxing the printer revealed many parts and lots of assembly required. There are definitely pre-built printers available, but the advantage here is the configurability, and from the Ender Facebook Group demonstrates, many owners certainly go heavy down this path of improving the printer.

To assemble the printer, I started with a YouTube video, as the instructions in the box left a lot of necessary detail out. The video strategy worked well, although there was a few scratch my head moments, easily making you remember that however smart you think you are, doing anything for the first time won’t go smoothly.

After a couple of hours (had to undo, redo some steps), I made it through the assembly and now had a new piece of equipment in the office. The Creality Ender V3 3D Printer is capable of printing anything less than 220 x 220 x 250mm in size. That’s fairly generous and anything larger would simply need to be split into multiple prints and combined later.

The printer is made up of a computer, power supply, a bed, print nozzle, display (with control knob) and the main structure, a series of aluminum extrusions that bolt together to create the creativity machine. There are a few cables to connect, but ultimately your job is little more than arranging things correctly and being an Allen Key wizz.

On the software side, there’s an included microSD card (8GB in size) and I knew from earlier research that STL files were the starting point. Creality provides desktop software that help convert a 3D model (STL file) into something that can be printed. This takes the 3D object and slides it into the layers that will be used by the printer to create your physical model.

Each printer has different qualities or resolutions that it can create, which basically boils down to how smooth the resulting print is. This smoothness is really a result of how fine each layer can be (the thinner the better).

The first 3D Print

I wasn’t sure what my first 3D print would be, but to confirm it worked, I figured starting with a sample file on the included SD card was a decent place to start.

I asked my daughter and she selected the Pig (a small piggy bank) and with the decision made, it was time to print, but first. bed leveling.

I’d watched enough to know that getting the bed (the surface you print onto) level was important to allow the print head to move freely over the surface and print each layer. This certainly took some work to get it right but was easy enough.

I then used the knob to select the Pig file and hit Start Print.

The print head moved to the front left of the bed, something I’d later learn is common every time you print. Thankfully the print head then moved to the middle and began printing the first later, then the second and the third, the print was working.

A few hours later, the pig was complete and my daughter was happy to have something new to play with. With a slot in the top, this was actually a 3D-printed piggy bank. This one only fits 5c coins, but these models are able to be increased by percentage and I’ve since seen others printing at 200%.

The second 3D Print

With the first test out of the way, what next? I remember some time ago that I’d seen a 3D printed grocery hook for the rear of the Model 3. As a Model 3 owner, this was something I was keen to explore and this would also test the printer’s ability to print objects with embedded screws.

I started the search online for the model of this part and in a couple of seconds, found my way to https://cults3d.com/ a great resource for free and paid models.

I downloaded the file, opened it in the Creality software, which previewed the 3D model and gives you options for print quality, complete with estimates on how long this will take to print on your specific printer.

I saved the file to the SD card and transferred it to the 3D printer once again, before starting my second print with the printer. A few hours later the part was printed and after trying it in the car, it’s perfect. Now I do only have red filament right now and realistically I’d rather have it in black, but this was another great test.

The third 3D Print

With a couple of basic successes behind me, it’s time to try something more complex. I’d seen many other 3D printers sharing articulated models, things like snakes, dragons etc. These looked amazing and fun, so I found a model and for a couple of dollars, bought it and downloaded it.

Again I took it through the Creality software to set the quality and get a preview for the print time. This was a much larger model, filling the majority of the bed’s width, it also had a lot more detail, so I expected it to take longer. When I seen the estimated print time at more than 11 hours, I was a little shocked, but then switched to the highest quality and that jumped to something crazy like 25 hours. I quickly set it back to good quality and saved the file.

The 3rd print is underway and at the time of writing, the 3D articulated dragon is now 22% done, definitely an overnight job. Thankfully the printer is quiet enough to print in my office without annoying the rest of the house but is loud enough to be annoying on a conference call, if you’re not wearing a headset.

Final thoughts after 24hrs

Overall, I’m so happy to have a 3D printer now, this really was a fantastic gift, I can’t thank my friends enough for. This is the gift that keeps on giving and will be really down to my ideas and with 3D modeling experience, I’m keen to dive into creating original 3D models and turning them from 2D objects on the screen, to 3D objects in the real world.

If you’re a family member or friend, chances are, your next birthday present will be something printed in 3D.

Let me know if you have questions in the comments, or thoughts to share about your 3D Printing experiences.

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Jason Cartwright
Jason Cartwrighthttp://techau.com.au/author/jason/
Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

4 COMMENTS

  1. I have had my Ender 3 for a couple of years and it’s done a lot of prints. I am very happy with it. There are some simple things you can do to avoid issues. You should definitely print a filament guide to stop the filament wearing into the plastic release handle on the drive. If you don’t the filament starts jamming. The stoke boden tube couplings came loose after time and caused bad print quality. They may have fixed this on the new models. I also printed energy chains for the flexible cables to make them last.

  2. You can buy filament in a variety of sizes and colours at any Jaycar store or order it online. For other models have a look at http://www.thngiverse.com. For 3D modelling, Blender is free, but I recommend Cinema 4D and I’ve used it for 15 years or so. (I have had an Adventurer 3 3D printer for 18 months). One tip, get a 3D printer maintenance kit (about $30 or so) from Jaycar to unbung blocked nozzles etc.

  3. After reading your article, I bought an Ender 3 v2. Easy setup. A little bit of stuffing about with bed levelling and getting it setup for PETG, but first prints are done and now moving onto something fun. Thanks for the heads up.

    • Fantastic. It’s comments like this that make all the hours I put into techAU worth it. Glad you’re enjoying you’re 3D printer.

      I’m getting close to my first filament reel, have 2 more waiting.. lots of personalised birthday presents coming up 😁

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