Know What You’re Doing Before You Get Into 3D Printing, Please!

Not everyone is cut out for 3D printing

Not everyone is cut out for 3D printing

Sometimes there are people that simply should not be 3D printing. 

I recently encountered a frantic individual who was desperate for assistance in operating their 3D printer. He and his buddy had decided to acquire a desktop 3D printer, seemingly based on only two criteria: biggest printing volume and lowest price. 

I am entirely uncertain that they have knew what purpose they had in mind for the machine. What were they intending on 3D printing, and was this the correct machine for the job? No, they had no idea what they wanted to 3D print. 

But they did attempt to 3D print several 3D models apparently procured from public 3D model repositories. Unfortunately, their 3D printing attempts resulted in failures. 

This is apparently because they felt that the machine somehow “knew” what it was supposed to do. They did not understand the concept that they would have to iteratively discover how to correctly operate the machine to 3D print each model they were interested in pursuing. 

Of course, they had also acquired the least expensive 3D printer filament they could found, complicating the problem. 

They just took some default settings and hit “print”. 

They described many problems with the prints, and I thought they should have carefully read Simplify3D’s entirely excellent troubleshooting chart. But they were too busy, I suppose. 

I got the impression, after a lengthy explanation of what they really needed to do, that they were not going to do any such thing. They were in too much of a hurry to get “something” 3D printed that they probably wouldn’t bother with getting it right. 

This particular machine, which I won’t name here, is in fact a decent machine, but like almost all desktop 3D printer equipment these days, requires an operator with patience and systematic method to succeed. If something doesn’t work right, think about it and try again. Change ONE thing and see what happens. Then try again. Repeat until it works. 

That’s the basic method. 

But the basic method is not applicable to folks who “just want it to work”. 

I should have known right from the start of the discussion, as buying a “large machine” kind of gives away their sophistication. In almost every case, a large 3D printer is not what you want: size makes things much more complicated and challenging. And it’s more expensive too. 

Usually the first question asked by a newbie is “How big can you print with that thing??” And so someone buying a machine simply for its size without regard to almost anything else tells me this was a newcomer to the process. 

It’s unfortunate because these folks may become disillusioned with 3D printing as a result of their “bad experience”. But is it their fault for being ambitious? Is it there fault they were misinformed? Is it their fault the machines are essentially too difficult for almost everyone to use properly? 

No, none of those are their fault.

Here the blame could be placed on the seller, who, like almost every other 3D printer manufacturers of desktop equipment, wants to make the sale and have their machine appear “easy”, when in fact they are often not the case. And in some cases are not even close to being “easy”. 

In the Toy Department you will often see stickers on items that say “For ages 7-12” or similar. I sometimes wonder if a ratings system of some kind might be appropriate for desktop 3D printers so that buyers would at least think twice about what they are getting into. 

Like anything in life, think before you take a step. 

General Fabb

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has been writing Fabbaloo posts since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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