Make your own 3d print
How Do You Make & Create STL Files for 3D Printing – Simple Guide – 3D Printerly
When you are in the field of 3D printing, there are steps you have to follow to be able to actually 3D print your objects. Many steps are done for you but making 3D printer files is one of the most important ones.
This article will show you exactly how 3D printer files are made so read on if you’d like to know.
3D printer files are made by using Computer Aided Model (CAD) software which allows you to create what your model will look like. After your model is complete, you need to ‘slice’ your CAD file in a slicer program, the most popular being Cura. After your model is sliced, it will be ready for 3D printing.
Once you understand the steps of this process and do it for yourself, it all becomes very easy and clear. I will do my best to detail the step-by-step process on how beginners create 3D printer files.
Creating models for 3D printing and learning how to make your own 3D model is a great skill to learn, so let’s get right into it.
- Choose & open a CAD program
- Create a design or model using the tools in your chosen program
- Save & export your completed design to your computer (STL file)
- Choose a slicer program – Cura for beginners
- Open & ‘Slice’ your file with your desired settings into a G-Code File
Choose & Open a CAD Program
There are many CAD programs out there that can be used to create your model, but some are definitely more tiered towards beginners which is what I’ll focus on in this article.
Also, many higher level programs actually need to be purchased, so you’ll be happy to know everything I recommend will be completely free.
The best CAD programs for beginners are:
- TinkerCAD – click and create your own account
- Fusion 360
- Sketch Up
Check out my article Best Free 3D Printing Software – CAD, Slicers & More.
The one that I will focus on and do recommend is TinkerCAD for beginners because it was definitely designed for you guys in mind. Beginners don’t want a complicated CAD program that takes a while getting used to, they want to be able to put something together in the first 5 minutes and see its capabilities.
One of the great features of TinkerCAD is the fact that it’s browser-based so you don’t have to install some huge program file to get started. Just go to TinkerCAD, create an account, go through the short tutorial on the platform and get to modeling.
Once you get the hang of one CAD program and the way designing a model works, you can move onto other programs, but at first just stick to one simple program.
TinkerCAD has enough capabilities to keep you modeling there for at least a few months, before you think about moving to a software with more features. For now, it will work wonders!
Create A Design Using the Tools in Your Chosen Program
TinkerCAD specializes in ease of use, as you put together blocks and shapes to gradually build a more complex structure that you can be proud of. The video below will show you a quick tutorial on exactly how it looks and how it’s done.
It’s always best to follow a video tutorial when learning how to create designs, while doing the same thing in the program yourself.
Reading a guide of some sort is great when you understand the program and are looking for ways to do cool, new things but when just starting out, get the experience behind you.
Once you’ve created some of your own models by following a tutorial, a good point to go to next is to play around in the program and get creative. One thing I chose to do is find a few household objects and try to model it as best as I could.
This ranged from cups, bottles, small boxes, vitamin containers, anything really. If you want to get really accurate, you can get a sweet pair of Calipers from Amazon.
If you want a quick, cheap but reliable set I’d recommend the Sangabery Digital Caliper.
It has four measuring modes, two unit conversion & zero setting function. You can get very accurate readings with this device, so I do recommend you getting one if you don’t already. Also comes with two spare batteries!
If you want a higher quality Caliper, go for the Rexbeti Stainless Steel Digital Caliper. It is more premium with a polished finish and a case to hold the device. It comes with IP54 water & dust protection, has 0.02mm accuracy and is great for the long-run.
Once you get some good practice creating different items, you’ll be a lot more prepared to start making useful and complex 3D printer files.
At first, it seems like all these simple shapes and holes won’t be able to make much. This is what I thought at first before seeing what people could really create in this software.
The following was made on TinkerCAD by Delta666 found on MyMiniFactory. It would be hard to describe this as a simple design, which just goes to show you the potential you could have with designing your own 3D printer files.
Save & Export Your Completed Design to Your Computer (STL File)
The great thing about TinkerCAD is how it’s made for things to be easy to use. This also includes saving and exporting your STL files straight to your computer.
Unlike some downloaded CAD software, this one auto-saves your work each change you make so you don’t have to worry about losing your work.
As long as you have named your work in the top left, it should continue to save. You’ll see a small message saying ‘All Changes Saved’ so you know if it’s working.
As you can see in the picture, exporting your CAD files into a downloadable STL file is a piece of cake. Simply click the ‘Export’ button in the top right of your TinkerCAD page and a box will pop up with a few options.
When it comes to 3D printing files, the most common ones we see are the .STL files. There are a few things that people say it’s abbreviated from such as Stereolithography, Standard Triangle Language and Standard Tessellation Language. Either way, we just know it works pretty good!
The complex part behind STL files is that they are made up of several tiny triangles, with more detailed parts having more triangles. The reason behind this is 3D printers can better understand this information with this simple geometric shape.
Below is a clear illustration of these triangles making up a model.
Choose a Slicer Program – Cura for Beginners
If you’re in the 3D printing field, you either would have come across Cura by Ultimaker or are already well-versed in the program. Cura is the most popular, cross-platform slicing software that 3D printer hobbyists use to prepare their files for 3D printing.
There isn’t much point trying to go with another slicer because this one works so well and does exactly what you need it to do. It’s very beginner-friendly and doesn’t take long at all to get the hang of it.
There are other slicer programs out there, some even dedicated to specific 3D printers like PrusaSlicer or ChiTuBox. They all essentially do the same thing but Cura is the choice I recommend.
Check out my article Best Slicer for the Ender 3 (Pro/V2/S1), which also goes for other 3D printers as well.
Open & ‘Slice’ Your File With Your Desired Settings Into a G-Code File
The term ‘slice’ your file is one that is widely used in the 3D printing field which means to prepare your CAD model and turn it into a G-code file which 3D printers can make use of.
G-code is basically a series of commands that tell your 3D printer what to do, from movement, to temperatures, to fan speed.
When you slice your file, there is a certain function where you can preview your model in its 3D printing form. This is where you view each layer of your 3D print from the ground, up and you can even see the direction your print head will go while in the printing process.
It really isn’t as complicated as it looks. All it really takes is looking over the settings and hitting the blue ‘Slice’ button on the bottom right of the program. The box to the top right shows a simplified way to change settings without getting into all the specific settings.It’s a spice rack in case you’re wondering!
There are many settings in your slicer you can take control of such as:
- Print speed
- Nozzle temperature
- Bed temperature
- Retraction settings
- Print order prioritization
- Cooling fan settings
- Infill percentage
- Infill pattern
Now just because it isn’t complicated to get started doesn’t it mean it can’t get as complicated as you’d like it. I’m sure there are settings that Cura experts have never thought about touching.
This really is a short list when you have seen just how many settings there are, but luckily, you don’t have to worry about most of the settings. Cura has default ‘profiles’ which give you a list of already done for you settings that you can input.
This profile usually works great by itself, but it can take a little tweaking on the nozzle & bed temperature before you get some great prints.
There is a cool menu which allows users to choose custom setting views for beginners to masters, down to custom so the functionality and ease of use is great.
After you follow all these steps, you’ll have created your 3D printer file which your printer can understand. Once I’ve sliced a model, I simply get my USB drive and micro SD card which came with my Ender 3, plug it into my laptop and select the ‘Save to Removable Device’ button and Voilà!
I hope these steps were easy to follow and help you get started making your own 3D printer files.
It’s an amazing skill being able to design your own objects from start to finish, so try your best to stick with it and become an expert in the future.
If you found this helpful, I have other similar posts like the 25 Best 3D Printer Upgrades/Improvements You Can Get Done & 8 Ways How to Speed Up Your 3D Printer Without Losing Quality so feel free to check them out and happy printing!
New 3D printer? Here's how to create your own printables
Recently I got the chance to spend some time with a Micro 3D Printer, my first foray into the world of turning a spool of plastic filament into, well, just about anything.
I had lots of fun downloading existing designs from sites like Pinshape and Thingiverse, but eventually I wanted to create objects of my own. Unfortunately, I don't have a degree in CAD or access to any kind of 3D-design software.
Good news: Turns out you don't need either one. Autodesk's Tinkercad is a free Web-based design tool that enables you to create 3D objects, then download those creations in a printer-friendly format. Here's how to get started.
Step 1: Head to Tinkercad and sign up for a free account using Facebook, Twitter or your e-mail address.
Step 2: The service will immediately walk you through a lesson to help you learn basic navigation, followed by another lesson that teaches camera controls, and so on. It's a good idea to go through all of these, just to familiarize yourself with the environment.Enlarge Image Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET
Step 3: When you're ready to create your own object, return to the Tinkercad dashboard, then click Create New Design. The tool will immediately send you to the design page, complete with a randomly assigned (and often amusing, like Tremendous Snaget-Fulffy) name for your project. You can change the name by clicking Design > Properties, though this can happen at any point along the way.
Step 4: Now it's time to start assembling your object. The toolbar on the right side is home to a wide assortment of prefab shapes you can drag to the workplane and modify as needed. (You can also import existing SVG (2D) or STL (3D) shapes if you have any.) For purposes of our tutorial, click Geometric, then drag the Hexagonal Prism to your workplane.Enlarge Image Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET
Step 5: Notice that the shape has five white "handles": one at each corner and one in the center at the top. When you mouse over any of them, you'll see corresponding measurements appear. Click and drag any of the corners to resize the prism in that direction; click and drag and center one to adjust the height. (The thing that looks like a black teardrop above the center handle is used to raise and lower the object relative to the workplane.)Enlarge Image Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET
Step 6: As you add and modify more objects, remember the size of your 3D printer's print bed and build accordingly. When you're done, click Design > Download for 3D Printing and you'll immediately get an STL file you can load into your printer. (As you'll see, Tinkercad also has options for Minecraft versions, ordering 3D prints and uploading to Thingiverse.)
And that's all there is to it. This is a great place to start creating 3D objects to print.
Before you get back to it, here are some quick tips for the Tinkercad beginner:
- Use your mouse wheel to quickly zoom in and out.
- Click and hold the right mouse button, then move your mouse to change the viewing angle.
- After selecting an option, you'll see an Inspector window. Click the Hole option to make that shape "pass through" any solid shape. That's how you would, for example, create a cylindrical hole down the center of your prism.
- To make finer adjustments to object placement, click the Snap grid pull-down and choose a number smaller than the 1.0 default.
Have you found another good tool for creating 3D printer-ready designs? Name it in the comments!90,000 programs for modeling and printing on a 3D printer
- Program programs
- File types for 3D printing
- Free programs
- Paid programs for 3D modeling
- Programs for cutting 3D models (slicers)
- Free slicers
- Paid slicers
- To summarize
The whole cycle of creating a part on a 3D printer can be fit into three stages: Creating / finding a model, cutting a model in a slicer, printing on a 3D printer. Each stage is tied to its own program. Models are created in special programs, then in the slicer the model is “cut” into steps that the printer will sequentially execute. The resulting list of steps (commands) is either placed on a memory card and run from the printer itself, or sent to the printer via a wired/wireless connection. As a result of all these actions, we get the product. Therefore, looking for a “3D printer program” is wrong: you need to look for a modeling program and a slicer.
3D modeling software
Programs for 3D modeling are divided into two large groups:
Obviously, when creating a drawing, an engineer needs precise tools: a ruler, pencil, compass, etc. But the artist needs more free tools: brushes, pastels, palettes and others. Programs are divided according to the same principle: in engineering programs, there are all the tools that allow you to accurately specify the characteristics of each element of the part, and in art programs, tools are created to give smoother shapes so that the model looks as natural as possible. Of course, in art programs it is possible to model technical products, but this is comparable to drawing a drawing with pastel: it is inconvenient, difficult and inaccurate. Therefore, it is very important to determine why you need a simulation program.
Tip: It is best to learn one or two programs at a professional level, as this will allow you to create complex models. But you should also know the basics in other programs, since a large circle of knowledge allows you to more flexibly choose the approach to creating models.
File types for 3D printing
To begin with, it is worth understanding what types of files are involved in the manufacturing process of the part. The first step is to create a model. It can be saved in the format of the program itself (for example, KOMPAS-3D files have the .m3d extension, while 3ds Max has the .MAX file extension). Such files can only be opened in the programs in which they were created. But we need a universal format - STL. All programs can save models in this format. It stores the polygons that create the model.
All files are divided into 3 categories:
Files that store polygonal information (STL, OBJ, etc.). They are analogues of a raster image. It is possible to increase the quality of 3D models in this format only by smoothing, but in this case small details will be lost, and the file weight will increase greatly.
Files that store the steps for creating a part (STEP, STP, etc.). Here you can draw an analogy with vector images. Each element is specified either using simple dot connections (for example, as in a cube or pyramid), or using formulas (any curved, rounded objects). Models in this format can be scaled without loss of quality, while maintaining a relatively small file size.
Utility files that store steps for a 3D printer (GCODE, GCOD). These files store the commands that the printer executes and, in some cases, comments (for example, with what settings the model was cut). Some slicers can simulate the movements of the printer, thereby rendering the model, but it is impossible to convert a file from this format to a full-fledged model.
Be careful! If you are not sure that the GCODE file is intended for your printer, then you should not print it, because the print area for each printer is different. On third-party firmware there is no limit on the maximum travel distance, some third-party software commands may lead to incorrect operation of the control board. If the printer tries to move the print head out of the printable area many times, then it can harm itself!
If the files are in the same category, then they can be easily converted from one format to another with almost no data loss. The formats indicated in brackets are a kind of “transits”. For example, Inventor has its own file format - itp, and Fusion 360 has its own - f3d. But if you save the file in Inventor in the generic STEP format, you can open it in any engineering program and then save it in that program's format.
Usually, free programs are either limited in functionality or created by enthusiasts, which is why they have a very crooked interface and a lot of errors. But their functionality is enough to create simple models, and in some cases, such programs can completely replace paid software.
In essence, this is not even a program, but a website, that is, it does not need to be installed on a computer and it opens from any device that has Internet access. But this is its main disadvantage - without Internet access, you will not be able to download any model for yourself, because each project is initially saved in the cloud. You also need to register to use this site. Initially, the site was created for children, so each tool is intuitive. The program is suitable for modeling simple products: gaskets, bushings, adapters, covers, boxes, etc.
Inability to work without the Internet
Each individual project needs to be downloaded
Limited number of tools
This program is designed to create technical products: fasteners, bushings, hinges and more. Since this is an open source project, it is distributed free of charge. At the same time, it has all the necessary functionality for opening and editing files with the .step extension - a universal format for all engineering programs. It is also worth noting the ability to add addons - special subroutines that allow you to perform any actions in a fully automatic mode. For example, there is an addon that makes it easier to create various gears. In this program, you can create more complex products: mechanisms, gearboxes, hinges, etc.
This CAD is closer to programming languages than to modeling: each object or any action is specified as a code. This allows you to create universal models. For example, a coin sorter: once you write the “model code”, you can create a huge number of variants of this model for different countries, changing just a few parameters. This program, like the previous one, is an open source project, as a result of which it is regularly updated.
Works on weak PCs
Ease of creating universal models
Easy to learn if you have programming experience
No Russian interface
Is a programming language
Difficult to create curvilinear geometry
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Art program for entry-level 3D modeling. There are simple tools for processing STL files and functions for recovering “broken” files. Using Meshmixer, you can conveniently cut the model into several parts, as it is possible to set the size of the print area of your printer. And one of the most useful tools is the installation of tree supports. This function has already appeared in many slicers, but it is in meshmixer that they can be flexibly configured and installed manually. Despite the many tools, this program is rather auxiliary, as there are more suitable programs for creating a model from scratch.
Limited functionality for creating 3D models
Lack of Russian interface
Some operations require a powerful PC
A completely free program with huge possibilities not only for creating models, but also for animation, rendering, simulations and much more. It is mainly used by multipliers, but due to the large number of extensions, this program covers a huge range of tasks. At first glance, Blender may seem too complicated, but everyone can master the basic functionality. Also worth noting are constant updates that improve performance and add new tools. A large community of people working in this program and developing it will help with the solution of many problems.
Paid 3D modeling software
This category includes programs for professionals and enterprises, as well as their simplified versions for home use. Many companies have begun releasing a product at a low cost for home use, although initially the designs were intended only for enterprises and were priced accordingly. The common advantage of these programs is great functionality and constant support. For example, Autodesk Inventor was first released back in 1999 and is updated annually. Next, we will look at the most popular of them.
The new product from Autodesk tried to combine several tasks at once: modeling, simulation and rendering. In many ways, it adopted the functionality of the previously mentioned Inventor, but supplemented it with a simple interface: many tools are similar to those that can be used in the previously mentioned Tinkercad. You can also edit STL files in it, albeit with a limited set of tools.
The main feature of this program is cloud data processing, such as simulations and renders. At the same time, almost all functions can be performed offline using the power of a PC. To process tasks in the cloud, you need to buy additional tokens, but when creating models, they are not necessary. It is worth considering that despite the presence of a native file format (f3d), all files are initially stored on Autodesk servers, and then they can be saved to your computer.
There is a version for schools and universities, but obtaining such a license requires the educational institution to register and issue you a personal license.
Price: from 7,123₽ to 25,721₽ for 1 year
The program is designed to prepare the model before slicing. In many ways, it is similar to meshmixer, but it does not have the tools to create a model from scratch. Merging several models in STL format can be called a distinctive function, but the most important tool is the “repair” of models. That is why everyone should install this program, even if you have another model editor or model repair built into the slicer. Also in Netfabb it is very convenient to cut the model into several parts for printing separately. At the moment, the Netfabb functionality is built into Fusion 360 and is not officially available separately, but can be found on third-party resources as a separate program.
Great functionality for repairing the model
Convenient cutting into pieces
Easy to learn all the necessary tools
Price: from 18 024₽ for 1 month
A professional program created by Russian developers for Russian enterprises. It has a huge functionality, but at the same time, each function has a description, and the main tools have explanatory animations, a huge database of standards and GOSTs is built in. The program is free for all students and does not require verification of documents. There is also a paid version of KOMPAS-3D HOME, which, although intended only for home use, retains all the functionality of the “professional” version. Because of this, and also because of the low price, this CAD system is the best choice as the first professional program for creating complex 3D models.
Completely Russian interface
A large number of tools
Availability of a free student version
Very low price
Price: from 1 490₽ for 1 year
One of the oldest programs on the market that has become a standard. If you learn how to work in SolidWorks, then you can work in any CAD. It has a relatively simple interface, an average number of tools that are enough even for professionals, but since the program is designed for production, many functions will only interfere with work. It should be noted that this program is available in Russian, and this is one of the reasons for the prevalence of this program in Russia.
Easy to learn
The presence of the Russian interface
Large community of people using SolidWorks
Widespread in Russia
Price: from 8,431₽ to 292,560₽ for 1 year
The main program at many enterprises, but due to the simplicity of the interface and the presence of the Russian language, it is easy to learn. In many ways, it is similar to SolidWorks, both in functionality and in purpose. The main distinguishing feature of this program is a large number of high-quality video tutorials and text courses. It is studied at many universities both around the world and in Russia.
Prevalence among the Russian community
Lots of learning materials
Availability of student version
Price: from 106 860₽ for 1 year
It is the simplest program for technical modeling. As easy to learn as Tinkercad, but not for kids, but for professional 3D printing. This program is not CAD, so there is no editing history, which allows, for example, to change sketches without entering edit mode.
You can download this program for free, but this version will have limited functionality. There are also paid versions with monthly payment or a one-time purchase forever. Only paid versions have a simple slicer, but its functionality is extremely limited.
Price: from 1160₽ ($14.99) for 1 month
The program is designed to create 3D models and render images. It has great functionality, but it is extremely difficult to learn due to the lack of the Russian language and a complex interface. This is due to the fact that 3ds Max was originally developed for 3D animation and video game studios. It was to create a simple and free analogue that the previously mentioned Blender was created. Due to the above reasons, this program is not suitable for creating 3D models for subsequent printing on a 3D printer, but nothing prevents you from doing this.
Price: from 9 791₽ for 1 month
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3D cutting software (slicers)
Having any model in STL format, you cannot immediately place it in the printer and start printing, because the printer only executes commands, and these commands form a slicer. According to the etymology of the word, one can understand that the program cuts the model into layers, or rather into separate commands. But the number of cutting options for one model is almost endless. In this regard, a large number of programs have appeared that allow you to fully customize the operation of the slicer, or rather, how it will split the model into separate commands. The slicer itself consists of two parts: the core and the shell. The slicer core performs slicing based on the specified parameters, and the shell allows you to set these parameters and visually evaluate the slicing result before sending the model to print. In addition, many slicers have built-in functionality for direct access to the printer, which allows you to manually control the printer and carry out its settings and diagnostics. Next, we will consider the most popular slicers, which have their positive and negative sides.
The availability of free slicers is due to the fact that without them the printer becomes a useless machine that can only heat coffee and play a melody with the help of motors. Therefore, many companies that create 3D printers supply slicers with them, while laying them out in the public domain. Often these are large companies such as Ultimaker, CraftUnique, Prusa, etc.
It was originally created only for Ultimaker 3D printers, but soon became an open-source project. Now in its library of profiles you can find a huge number of printers from various manufacturers. Uses its own core Cura, which has many settings and functions: tree support, wireframe printing, color printing, etc.
Frequent updates bring innovations and even more profiles for various 3D printers. It is a standard choice for beginners, as it has two control modes: simple and professional. Recently, support for add-ons has appeared that allows you to save backup copies of settings, repair the model directly in the slicer, integrate various programs for 3D modeling, and much more.
It is also possible to control the printer by sending commands directly from the computer. But there is no feedback from the printer, apart from receiving information about the temperature of the nozzle and table.
Sometimes you can find other names: Slic3r Prusa Edition or Slic3r PE. Prusa decided not to reinvent the wheel, and took the open-source Slic3r project, partially reworked it and began to actively develop it. Like Cura, Prusa Slic3r has many printer profiles, but Prusa's printer profiles are the most optimized. The core of the slicer of our own design, while the number of settings is less than that of the same Cura.
A distinctive feature is the flexible adjustment of the layer thickness and the support of a special extruder capable of printing 5 different plastics at once (again, produced by Prusa). The program will be extremely useful for people who have more than one 3D printer: all settings are divided into 3 tabs, each of which can be saved to separate profiles. But the printer control console disappeared completely, only the send button for printing via wire remained. In general, this program will be a reliable and convenient slicer, especially if you have a large number of printers.
This slicer was created more for remote control of the printer, but it can also cut models. One of the few programs where you can choose the slicing core: Cura, Sic3r, Prusa Slic3r. The number of settings for the slicing itself is extremely small, but they are enough to cut the test cube.
The most important plus of this slicer is the huge functionality for managing and configuring the printer. It is worth noting the convenient interface for sending commands, as well as customizable temperature graphs. This is extremely useful, for example, when tuning the PID or checking the movement of the axes. Even if you choose a different slicer, this program is handy to have in order to 3D print using GCODE from another slicer.
One of the few programs that combine functions for editing stl files and a slicer. You won't be able to create any serious model, but you can add text or cut out part of the model. The slicer has not so many settings, but they are enough for a beginner 3D printer. This slicer can be useful if you need to make art products with minor changes. Supports saving to the cloud.
This software is designed to remotely manage printers from anywhere in the world. All that is needed is to connect the printer to the computer and install this program on it. From now on, all printer management occurs through the web interface. In it, you can remotely change the model, cut it and put it on print. It is also possible to connect a camera and observe the printing process. There are very few slicing settings, some will not even be enough to calibrate the printer, not to mention serious printing.
Carefully! It is not recommended to leave the printer unattended, especially if it is no longer new: at any time there may be a risk of fire due to wiring or mechanical problems.
Start printing from anywhere in the world
Ability to monitor printing
Availability of tools for editing the model
It is a combination of OpenSCAD with its “modeling language” and slicer. In addition, models can be edited using a “brush”, like the one in Meshmixer. It has many small pluses that are not found in other slicers, but it is not suitable for everyday use due to an inconvenient interface and a small number of slicer functions. This program can be described in one phrase: interesting, but not recommended.
In many ways it is similar to 3DprinterOS, but is an open source project, as a result of which it has many additions. Designed for home use. It is the most popular way to remotely control a printer, and the user community is constantly growing. Therefore, it will be very easy to transfer your printer to remote control due to the large number of lessons and articles. The program itself does not have a slicer, but direct export of files from Slic3r is supported, which is already good in itself. Just like Repetier, it has an excellent printer management and monitoring console. But, unlike the aforementioned analogue, most of the functions will have to be configured manually.
Large user base
Lots of tutorial articles
Ability to create a video broadcast of the printing process
At the moment, many paid slicers are no longer used, as free ones have either caught up or overtaken them. But some of them are still unique.
One of the first thundered paid slicers. At the time of its introduction, it was the most advanced due to the ability to change the print settings for one model at different layer heights and the functionality of printing with more than one extruder. But at the moment it has been replaced by Cura and Prusa Slic3r. Nevertheless, the convenience of setting up print settings and their number still remain the main advantage of this slicer. Also worth noting is the excellent printer management interface, second only to Repetier host.
Another difference is the ability to manually install supports and a large number of filling patterns. Viewing models also has several features: changing the way models are displayed, viewing in section, displaying normals to planes.
Lots of print options
Convenient printer management interface
Manual installation of supports
Changing print settings at different heights
Easy print setup with two extruders
Price: from 11499₽ ($149)
Read also: A detailed review of 3D printing slicers: Ultimaker Cura, Simplify3D, IdeaMaker, UP Studio, FlashPrint
Many believe that this particular software is a direct competitor to 3DPrinterOS. The most important difference is user friendliness, achieved through a user-friendly interface and easy installation. The program is based on Octoprint, essentially providing only a server, a modified interface and several add-ons that allow you to fully manage the printing process while away from the printer - from finding a model, to cutting and printing. At the same time, the program positions itself as a serious business solution, so the company also provides special PCs and management consoles that make it easy to connect the printer to the system. A trial plan is available where only 2 printers can be connected, but all basic features will be available.
Easy connection and setup
Interface specially designed for mobile devices
Price: from 765₽ ($9.90) for 1 month
This slicer is another representative of programs that failed to keep up with the times. Previously, its functionality was a cut above the rest, but now the same Cura has all the same settings as KISSlicer, and also adds its own. Of the useful in this program, we can note the function of joint viewing of GCODE and model.
There were two versions: free and PRO. The only significant difference between them is that the paid version has support for printing in multiple colors. At the moment the project is dead, even the main site does not work, but the program can still be found on third-party sources.
Price: from 3240₽ ($42)
After considering all the popular programs, we can highlight the clear favorites:
For beginners in 3D printing, Tinkercad is the best 3D modeling software because it combines simplicity with the necessary functionality. The best programs for professional-level 3D modeling are KOMPAS-3D, Fusion 360 and Blender, due to the huge number of tools and a large community that makes it easy to find lessons and guides. Among the slicers, the Ultimaker Cura and Prusa Slic3r are the best choice for ease of use and flexibility when slicing models. But do not forget about such auxiliary programs as Meshmixer and Netfabb, which allow you to quickly edit or repair the model. You can learn more about some of the programs from this list on our website.
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How to build a home 3D printer: recommendations from personal experience
3D printing and assembly of 3D printers is my hobby and passion. Here I will not share detailed diagrams and drawings, there are more than enough of them on specialized resources. The main goal of this material is to tell you where to start, where to dig and how to avoid mistakes in the process of assembling a home 3D printer. Perhaps one of the readers will be inspired by applied engineering achievements.
Why do you need a 3D printer? Use cases for
I first came across the idea of 3D printing back in the 90s when I was watching the Star Trek series. I remember how impressed I was by the moment when the heroes of the cult series printed the things they needed during their journey right on board their starship. They printed anything: from shoes to tools. I thought it would be great someday to have such a thing too. Then it all seemed something incredible. Outside the window are the gloomy 90s, and the Nokia with a monochrome screen was the pinnacle of progress, accessible only to a select few.
Years passed, everything changed. Around 2010, the first working models of 3D printers began to appear on sale. Yesterday's fantasy has become a reality. However, the cost of such solutions, to put it mildly, discouraged. But the IT industry would not be itself without an inquisitive community, where there is an active exchange of knowledge and experience and who just let them dig into the brains and giblets of new hardware and software. So, drawings and diagrams of printers began to surface more and more often on the Web. Today, the most informative and voluminous resource on the topic of assembling 3D printers is RepRap - this is a huge knowledge base that contains detailed guides for creating a wide variety of models of these machines.
I assembled the first printer about five years ago. My personal motivation to build my own device is quite prosaic and based on several factors. Firstly, there was an opportunity to try to realize the old dream of having your own device, inspired by a fantasy series. The second factor is that sometimes it was necessary to repair some household items (for example, a baby stroller, car elements, household appliances and other small things), but the necessary parts could not be found. Well, the third aspect of the application is "near-working". On the printer, I make cases for various IoT devices that I assemble at home.
Agree, it is better to place your device based on Raspberry Pi or Arduino in an aesthetically pleasing "body", which is not a shame to put in an apartment or take to the office, than to organize components, for example, in a plastic bowl for food. And yes, you can print parts to build other printers :)
There are a lot of scenarios for using 3D printers. I think everyone can find something of their own.
A complex part in terms of drawing that I printed on my printer. Yes, it's just a figurine, but it has many small elements
Ready solution vs custom build
When a technology has been tested, its value in the market decreases markedly. The same thing happened in the world of 3D printers. If earlier a ready-made solution cost simply sky-high money, then today acquiring such a machine is more humane for the wallet, but nevertheless not the most affordable for an enthusiast. There are a number of solutions already assembled and ready for home use on the market, their price range ranges from $500-700 (not the best options) to infinity (adequate solutions start from a price tag of about $1000). Yes, there are options for $150, but we, for understandable, I hope, reasons, will not dwell on them.
In short, there are three cases to consider a finished assembly:
- when you plan to print not much and rarely;
- when print accuracy is critical;
- you need to print molds for mass production of parts.
There are several obvious advantages to self-assembly. The first and most important is cost. Buying all the necessary components will cost you a maximum of a couple of hundred dollars. In return, you will receive a complete 3D printing solution with the quality of manufactured products acceptable for domestic needs. The second advantage is that by assembling the printer yourself, you will understand the principles of its design and operation. Believe me, this knowledge will be useful to you during the operation of even an expensive ready-made solution - any 3D printer needs to be serviced regularly, and it can be difficult to do this without understanding the basics.
The main disadvantage of assembly is the need for a large amount of time. I spent about 150 hours on my first build.
What you need to assemble the printer yourself
The most important thing here is the presence of desire. As for any special skills, then, by and large, in order to assemble your first printer, the ability to solder or write code is not critical. Of course, understanding the basics of radio electronics and basic skills in the field of mechanics (that is, "straight hands") will greatly simplify the task and reduce the amount of time that needs to be spent on assembly.
Also, to start we need a mandatory set of parts:
- Extruder is the element that is directly responsible for printing, the print head. There are many options on the market, but for a budget build, I recommend the MK8. Of the minuses: it will not be possible to print with plastics that require high temperatures, there is noticeable overheating during intensive work, which can damage the element. If the budget allows, then you can look at MK10 - all the minuses are taken into account there.
- Processor board. The familiar Arduino Mega is well suited. I didn't notice any downsides to this solution, but you can spend a couple of dollars more and get something more powerful, with a reserve for the future.
- Control board. I'm using RAMPS 1.4 which works great with the Arduino Mega. A more expensive but more reliable board is Shield, which already combines a processor board and a control board. In modern realities, I recommend paying attention to it. In addition to it, you need to purchase at least 5 microstep stepper motor controllers, for example - A4988. And it's better to have a couple of these in stock for replacement.
- Heated table. This is the part where the printed element will be. Heating is necessary due to the fact that most plastics will not adhere to a cold surface. For example, for printing with PLA plastic, the required surface temperature of the table is 60-80°C, for ABS - 110-130°C, and for polycarbonate it will be even higher
There are also two options for choosing a table - cheaper and more expensive. Cheaper options are essentially printed circuit boards with preheated wiring. To operate on this type of table, you will need to put borosilicate glass, which will scratch and crack during operation. Therefore, the best solution is an aluminum table.
- Stepper motors. Most models, including the i2 and i3, use NEMA 17 size motors, two for the Z axis and one each for the X and Y axes. Finished extruders usually come with their own stepper motor. It is better to take powerful motors with a current in the motor winding of 1A or more, so that there is enough power to lift the extruder and print without skipping steps at high speed.
- Basic set of plastic fasteners.
- Belt and gears to drive it.
Examples of elements appearance: 1) MK8 extruder; 2) Arduino processor board; 3) RAMPS control board; 4) motor controllers; 5) aluminum heated table; 6) NEMA 17 stepper motor; 7) a set of plastic fasteners; 8) drive gears; 9) drive belt
This is a list of items to be purchased. Hardcore users can assemble some of them themselves, but for beginners, I strongly recommend purchasing ready-made solutions.
Yes, you will also need various small things (studs, bearings, nuts, bolts, washers ...) to assemble the case. In practice, it turned out that using a standard m8 stud leads to low printing accuracy on the Z axis. I would recommend immediately replacing it with a trapezoid of the same size.
M8 trapezoid stud for the Z axis, the use of which will save you a lot of time and nerves. Available for order on all major online marketplaces
You also need to purchase customized plastic parts for the X axis, such as these from the MendelMax retrofit kit.
Most parts available at your local hardware store. On RepRap you can find a complete list of necessary little things with all sizes and patterns. The kit you need will depend on the choice of platform (we'll talk about platforms later).
What's the price
Before delving into some aspects of the assembly, let's figure out how much such entertainment will cost for your wallet. Below is a list of parts required for purchase with an average price.
The community has already developed a number of different platforms for assembling printers - the most optimal case designs and the location of the main elements, so you do not have to reinvent the wheel.
i2 and i3 are key platforms for self-assembly printer enclosures. There are also many modifications of them with various improvements, but for beginners, these two classic platforms should be considered, since they do not require special skills and fine-tuning.
Actually, illustration of platforms: 1) i2 platform; 2) i3 platform
On the plus side of i2: it has a more reliable and stable design, although it is a little more difficult to assemble; more opportunities for further customization.
The i3 variant requires more special plastic parts to be purchased separately and has a slow print speed. However, it is easier to assemble and maintain, and has a more aesthetically pleasing appearance. You will have to pay for simplicity with the quality of printed parts - the body has less stability than i2, which can affect print accuracy.
Personally, I started my experiments in assembling printers from the i2 platform. She will be discussed further.
Assembly steps, challenges and improvements
In this block, I will only touch on the key assembly steps using the i2 platform as an example. Full step by step instructions can be found here.
The general scheme of all the main components looks something like this. There is nothing particularly complicated here:
I also recommend adding a display to your design. Yes, you can easily do without this element when performing operations on a PC, but it will be much more convenient to work with the printer this way.
Understanding how all components will be connected, let's move on to the mechanical part, where we have two main elements - a frame and a coordinate machine.
Assembling the frame
Detailed frame assembly instructions are available on RepRap. Of the important nuances - you will need a set of plastic parts (I already talked about this above, but I'd better repeat it), which you can either purchase separately or ask your comrades who already have a 3D printer to print.
The frame of the i2 is quite stable thanks to its trapezoid shape.
This is how the frame looks like with parts already partially installed. For greater rigidity, I reinforced the structure with plywood sheets
An extruder is attached to this part. The stepper motors shown in the diagram above are responsible for its movement. After installation, calibration is required along all major axes.
Important - you will need to purchase (or make your own) a carriage for moving the extruder and a mount for the drive belt. Drive belt I recommend GT2.
The carriage printed by the printer from the previous picture after it has been assembled. The part already has LM8UU bearings for guides and belt mount (top)
Calibration and adjustment
So, we completed the assembly process (as I said, it took me 150 hours) - the frame was assembled, the machine was installed. Now another important step is the calibration of this very machine and extruder. Here, too, there are small subtleties.
Setting up the machine
I recommend calibrating the machine with an electronic caliper. Do not be stingy with its purchase - you will save a lot of time and nerves in the process.
The screenshot below shows the correct constants for the Marlin firmware, which must be selected in order to set the correct number of steps per unit of measure. We calculate the coefficient, multiply it, substitute it into the firmware, and then upload it to the board.
Marlin 9 firmware constants0856
For high-quality calibration, I recommend relying on larger numbers in measurements - take not 1-1.5 cm, but about 10. So the error will be more noticeable, and it will become easier to correct it.
Calibrating the extruder
When the frame is assembled, the machine is calibrated, we start setting up the extruder. Here, too, everything is not so simple. The main task of this operation is to correctly adjust the supply of plastic.
If underfeeding, the printed test item will have noticeable gaps, like test die 1. Conversely, the result will look bloated if plastic is overfed (dice 2)
Getting Started Printing
It remains for us to run some CAD or download ready-made .stl, which describe the structure of the printed material. Next, this structure needs to be converted into a set of commands understandable to our printer. For this I use the Slicer program. It also needs to be set up correctly - specify the temperature, the size of the extruder nozzle. After that, the data can be sent to the printer.
As a raw material for printing, I recommend starting with regular ABS plastic - it is quite strong, products made from it are durable, and it does not require high temperatures to work with. For comfortable printing with ABS plastic, the table must be heated to a temperature of 110-130 ° C, and the extruder nozzle - within 230-260 ° C.
Some important details. Before printing, calibrate the machine in the Z axis. The extruder nozzle should be about half a millimeter from the table and ride along it without distortion. For this calibration, a regular sheet of A4 paper inserted between the nozzle and the surface of the heated table is best suited. If the sheet can be moved with little effort, the calibration is correct.
Another thing to keep in mind is the surface treatment of the heated table. Usually, before printing, the surface of the table is covered with something that hot plastic sticks to well. For ABS plastic, this can be, for example, Kapton tape. The disadvantage of adhesive tape is the need to re-glue it after several printing cycles. In addition, you will have to literally tear off the adhering part from it. All this, believe me, takes a lot of time. Therefore, if it is possible to avoid this fuss, it is better to avoid it.
An alternative option that I use instead of scotch tape is to apply several layers of ordinary light beer, followed by heating the table to 80-100 ° C until the surface is completely dry and re-applying 7-12 layers. It is necessary to apply the liquid with a cloth moistened with a drink. Among the advantages of this solution: ABS plastic separates from the table on its own when it cools down to about 50 ° C and is removed without effort, the table does not have to be peeled off, and one bottle of beer will last you for several months (if you use the drink only for technical purposes :)).
After we have collected and configured everything, we can start printing. If you have an LCD screen, then the file can be transferred for printing using a regular SD card.
The first results may have bumps and other artifacts - do not worry, this is a normal process of "grinding" the printer elements, which will end after a few print cycles.
Tips to make life easier (and sometimes save money)
In addition to the small recommendations given in the text above, in this section I will also give a short list of tips that will greatly simplify the operation of a 3D printer and the life of its owner.
- Do not experiment with nozzles. If you plan to immediately print from materials that require high temperatures, then it is better to immediately take the MK10 extruder. On MK8, you can "hang" special nozzles that support high-temperature conditions. But such modifications often cause difficulties and require special experience. It is better to avoid this fuss on the shore by simply installing the right extruder for you.
- Add starter relay for heated table. Improving the power supply system of this critical printable part with a starter relay will help solve the known problem of RAMP 1.4 - overheating of the transistors that control the power of the table, which can lead to failure of the board. I made this upgrade after having to throw away a few RAMPS 1.4s.
- Select the correct media diameter for printing. Recommend 1.75mm plastic for MK8 and MK10. If we take plastic, for example, 3 mm, then the extruder simply does not have enough strength to push it at an acceptable speed - everything will be printed much longer, and the quality will drop. ABS plastic is ideal for MK8, MK10 will be able to produce products from polycarbonate.
- Use only new and precise X and Y guides. Print quality will be affected. It is difficult to count on good quality with bent or deformed guides along the axes.
- Take care of cooling. In the course of my experiments with various extruders, the MK10 showed the best results - it prints quite accurately and quickly. The MK10 can also print plastics that require a higher print temperature than ABS, such as polycarbonate. Although it is not as prone to overheating as its younger brother MK8, I still recommend taking care of its cooling by adding a cooler to your design. It must be permanently enabled, this option can be configured in Slicer. You can also add coolers to keep the stepper motors at an acceptable temperature, however, make sure that their air flows do not fall on the printed part, as this can lead to its deformation due to too rapid cooling.
- Consider heat retention. Yes, on the one hand, we are struggling with overheating of the elements. On the other hand, a uniform temperature around the printer will contribute to high-quality printing (the plastic will be more pliable). To achieve a uniform temperature, you can put our printer, for example, in a cardboard box. The main thing is to connect and configure the coolers before that, as described above.
- Consider insulating your desk. Heated table heats up to high temperatures. And if part of this heat leaves properly, heating the printed part, then the second part (from below) just goes down. To concentrate the heat from the table onto the part, you can perform an operation to insulate it. To do this, I simply attach a cork mouse pad to its bottom using stationery clips.
I am sure that during the assembly process you will encounter a number of difficulties specific to your project. Neither this text nor even the most detailed guides will insure against this.
As I wrote in the introductory part, the above does not claim the status of a detailed assembly manual. It is almost impossible to describe all the stages and their subtleties within the framework of one such text. First of all, this is an overview material that will help you prepare for the assembly process (both mentally and financially), understand whether you personally need to bother with self-assembly - or give up on everything and buy a ready-made solution.