What do you need to 3d print something

How to 3D print? The Beginner’s Guide to 3D Printing

Learning how to 3D print has never been easier!

3D printing is an ever-evolving and expanding field. If you’re a beginner at 3D printing, the number of possibilities and applications can seem so vast, it can be a bit overwhelming when you’re just starting to know how to 3D print and how to use a 3D printer.

In this beginner’s guide to 3D printing, we’ll explain what exactly 3D printing is, how it works, how to 3D print, the best materials for beginners, and what you need to get started. 

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing is the process of creating a three-dimensional object, usually done by systematically layering material on top of itself. The printer reads a digital file from the computer which dictates how to layer the material to build the object.

This is why 3D printing is also known as additive manufacturing. 3D printing and additive manufacturing are mostly synonymous, although you may hear additive manufacturing used more frequently in the context of mass consumption or mass manufacturing.

How to 3D Print: 

Depending on the specific print you are planning to do there could be more or fewer steps in your process. But in general, 3D printing involves the following actions:

Step 1: Create or Find a Design

The first step of 3D printing typically starts on a computer. You must create your design using a 3D design software, typically a CAD (computer-aided design) software. If you are unable to create the design yourself, you can also find many free resources online with free designs.

Step 2: Export the STL File

Once you have created or chosen a design, you must either export or download the STL file. The STL file is what stores the information about your conceptual 3D object. 

Step 3: Choose Your Materials

Typically you may have an idea about what kind of material you will use before you print. There are many different 3D printing materials available, and you can choose them based on the properties that you want your object to have. We will discuss this more in-depth below.

Step 4: Choose Your Parameters

 The next step is then deciding on the different parameters of your object and the printing process. This includes deciding on the size and placement of your print. 

Step 5: Create the Gcode

 You will then import the STL file into a slicing software, like BCN3D Cura. The slicing software will convert the information from the STL file into a Gcode, which is a specific code containing exact instructions for the printer. 

Step 6: Print

 This is when the magic happens! The printer will create the object layer by layer. Depending on the size of your object, your printer, and the materials used, the job can be done in a matter of minutes or over several hours.

Depending on what you want your final product to be or the material you used, there may be additional post-processing steps after printing, like painting, brushing off powder, etc. 

What is 3D Printing Used For?

3D printing can be used both recreationally and professionally, across various industries. It has applications in many different fields and sectors, from the healthcare industry to engineering, and even fashion. 

Increasingly, 3D printing is seen as a sustainable and cost-friendly solution for creating prototypes and tools for different manufacturing projects and processes. Traditionally, acquiring prototypes can be time-consuming and costly, requiring companies to depend on outside manufacturers. 3D printing allows companies to quickly make units of an object, tool, or prototype, all in-house. 

A great example of this is shoe company Camper. In-house 3D printing has allowed them to transform their nearly month and a half long modeling and designing process into an operation that takes only several days. 


3D Printing For Beginners: How To Get Started

So, what do you need to get started with 3D printing? Your specific needs will depend on why and what you want to print, but in general, there are three considerations for getting started: 

  • A 3D printer
  • Filament 
  • Slicing software 

If you plan on creating your own designs you will also need the appropriate designing software. But, as we mentioned earlier, you can also find many free resources online to download designs.

If you have not yet purchased a 3D printer, we have a guide that can help steer you through the most important considerations.

3D printer Filaments

The material also called filament, you choose for your print will depend on many different factors:

  • Do you want your object to be flexible?
  • Heat resistant?
  • Does it need to be very durable?

These are just some of the factors to consider when choosing your filament. 

In general, most beginners start with PLA. This is because PLA is cost-effective and typically easy to print with a standard configuration. Depending on your specific project, PLA could be good starter material.

PET-G is also considered a beginner-friendly material, although it is a bit more technical than PLA. However, it is great for industries like engineering and manufacturing. It is a good material for functional prototypes because it can withstand higher temperatures and has a different chemical makeup that is ideal for these uses.


There are two important pieces of software for 3D printing: CAD and slicing software. 

Typically, you can use any CAD system that can create a functional model. CAD is essential if you want to create your own models and objects. You must be able to export an STL file from your CAD software.

The slicing software is the second part of the equation. This software translates the STL file into a language that the printer can understand. The Gcode contains movement information that tells the printer how and where to move its axis, as well as how much material to deposit. The Gcode is sent to the printer via an SD card or wifi.

Final Thoughts

3D printing is now more beginner-friendly than it has ever been. In the beginning, many people saw 3D printing as something inaccessible to the major public, but this sentiment is changing, and for good reason. While it takes practice to perfect your prints and technique, learning how to 3D print is an attainable skill.

3D Printing in 3 Steps (Yes, Only 3!)

3D Printing in 3 Steps (Yes, Only 3!) | Staples.com

by Kevin Ackerman, Staples® Contributing Writer

Since it gives computer users the ability to produce tangible objects in a variety of materials and colors right from their desktop, 3D printing seems as if it would be technically complicated (or just magical). But in reality, it’s not all that different from printing in two dimensions on paper.

To produce a printed page, all computer users need is a document, a computer and access to a printer — and, of course, ink and paper. Likewise, printing in 3D only requires three similar things. Sure, the technologies differ, but that’s the basic gist, as these three steps explain.

Step 1: Develop a Concept

If you were to open a document file on your computer, hit some random keys on your keyboard and press Print, you’d have a paper printout — though it wouldn’t make much sense. With 3D printing, you can’t make a shape that easily, not even a poor one, so it’s worth beginning the process by putting some thought into your object.

Start by knowing what you’d like to print in three dimensions. If you don’t have an idea or concept, there are plenty of free suggestions online to get you started. Web sites like Thingiverse.com offer a library of pre-designed objects that you can print with any 3D printer to gain experience. Or you can be inspired by people who are already using 3D printing technology.

Phoenix-based sculptor Kevin Caron uses 3D printing to refine his artwork before making full-sized versions. "Mostly what I'm doing is proof of concept designs. You know, will it stand up, does it look right and are the proportions correct on it?” he says.

And Chris Considine, CEO and founder of Los Angeles–based CXC Simulations, uses 3D printing to prototype custom-designed parts for racing simulators that are so realistic, they are used by professional race car drivers. "We need 3D orienting to see if the part feels exactly how we want it to feel,” he says.” We went through about 30 versions before we found the one that was perfect for us. Other than 3D printing, there’s truly no way you could have done that without building it over and over again."

Step 2: Hop on a Computer

Once you know what you want to produce, it’s time to sit down at a computer and make it happen. 3D prints are most commonly generated from an STL or .stl file. Standing for “stereolithography” (what 3D printing was named when it was first invented), this file format is to 3D printing what the .doc file is to document output.

To open and manipulate an STL file, you’ll need computer-aided design (CAD) software. For decades, these programs have been used by everyone from architects to product designers, so there are many kinds of CAD software available.

SketchUp is a free modeling program designed to be straightforward and allow anyone to create three-dimensional renderings, whether simple or complicated. Likewise, Tinkercad keeps the design process easy by providing just three simple tools. It also runs in a Web browser and offers step-by-step design lessons to demonstrate how easy 3D printing can be.

Meanwhile, programs like AutoCAD are favored by many experienced professionals, having been used in the design and prototyping of millions of products throughout the years.

To run these programs, you don’t need a particularly powerful computer. Caron uses an HP desktop machine to create his digital sculptures. "It's not a big screaming gaming computer by any means,” he says. "It's just a small office computer and it handles the CAD program just fine.”

Step 3: Get Access to a 3D Printer

Most people assume they need to own a 3D printer to produce digitally rendered objects, but that isn’t true. Sure, owning a desktop 3D printer can put your designs within arm’s reach. But driving across town to pick up your objects at a Staples 3D printing service location or having them delivered by mail can be just as convenient for some businesses.

For example, Caron owns a CubeX™ commercial 3D printer. With the ability to print objects up to the size of a basketball, this device produces designs in plastic and in more than 4,000 different colors. He’s also used print-on-demand services to produce sculptures that he couldn’t make on his office’s machine.

"They’re breathtaking when you see them,” he says of the two acrylic sculptures. "The detail that I could view on the computer came out in the print — it just blew me away.” Caron is planning to scale his designs down and turn them into jewelry to sell. "I've gotten one back in a polished glass and it's stunning. You can’t tell it from gold other than by the weight."

If you are interested in using 3D printing but need help with these steps, visit one of our stores that offers 3D printing services (currently in Los Angeles and New York City). There, we can help you with all the steps, from getting in touch with designers to actual 3D printing. You can even get in our 3D printing photo booth and have your face put on a figurine.

Go from Concept to Reality

Some businesses would argue that 3D printing, whether it’s done in the office or at an outside service, is worth its weight in gold. "I can go from concept in my head to holding the part in sometimes as quickly as an hour,” says Considine. "It’s a very powerful thing for an engineer to have. It's liberating."

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Rules for 3D modeling for 3D printing

It is known that a prerequisite for 3D printing is the presence of a 3D model, according to which the printer will grow a three-dimensional object. But, even after simulating an object, you should not assume with absolute certainty that the job is done, and soon the printer will give you the finished product. The fact is that not all models are suitable for 3D printing. There are certain requirements for the dimensions, thicknesses and design of models - and these requirements vary depending on the material used and the printer. In addition to these individual characteristics, there are general requirements that distinguish print models from other 3D models. And now we will talk in more detail about how to prepare a model for 3D printing.

First of all, you need to remember that STL files (for one-color models) and WRL (for color plaster 3D printing) are suitable for 3D printing. Almost all 3D modeling programs allow you to export models to STL, so this should not be a problem. You should also take into account that for online download on our website, files no larger than 50 MB each are accepted, as well as an extended list of formats that are automatically exported to STL: STP, STEP, OFF, OBJ, PLY and directly STL. If the file size is more than 50 MB, then you need to send the model to our email address: [email protected] By the way, one of the easiest ways to reduce the volume of the model and the file size is to create hollow 3D models, we already wrote about how this works in our blog.

Before you start creating a model for 3D printing, it is important to understand what material you want to print the product from. Each material has its own individual characteristics for 3D modeling - maximum and minimum model dimensions, wall thicknesses, distance between moving parts, etc. You can learn more about the requirements for a particular material in the appropriate section on our website.

If you use the online model upload on our website, it will automatically check for standard 3D modeling errors. Models are checked instantly, and if errors that prevent 3D printing were not found, then immediately after uploading the model will appear in your personal account in the "My Models" section. If the model did not pass the test, then you will see a notification that the file cannot be loaded, then you will need to check and refine the model again.

What are the most common errors encountered when modeling for 3D printing?

  1. Inverted normals - incorrectly oriented normals. Normals should always point outward, they define the boundaries of the object and allow the 3D printer software to understand which is the inside and which is the outside of the model. If at least one of the normals is directed in the opposite direction and contradicts the other normal, then this causes a failure in 3D printing, since the printer cannot distinguish between the front and back sides of the object.
  2. Non-manifold geometry - Non-manifold 3D model is a prerequisite for 3D printing. The essence of this concept is that each edge of a 3D model must have exactly two faces.

The following errors are usually included in this concept:

o Mesh with holes - "unclosed" mesh problem. Remember the basic rule of 3D modeling: your model must be "watertight" or "airtight". If a hole is formed, it means that some edge is missing one face, therefore the model is not manifold, and therefore not suitable for 3D printing.

o Presence of internal polygons. There must be no faces inside the model, for example inside walls.

o Common ribs. An error occurs when more than two polygons are attached to the same edge. Each edge in your 3D model should connect only two adjacent faces.

o Matching edges. Occurs when two separate edges are created at the same location and are not connected, such edges must be merged into one common edge.

o Polygon overlap. Occurs when a polygon is created on top of an existing one. Intersecting edges can confuse a slicer - a program that translates a 3D model layer by layer into a control code for a 3D printer.

o Zero polygon thickness. To avoid this error, make sure that each polygon has the specified thickness.

How can standard errors in 3D modeling be corrected?

To do this, it is enough to use the Netfabb program, which, with more than 95% chance to correct all errors. You can download Netfabb here or use the online version of the program.

Read about the basic principles of working with Netfabb in the "Lessons" section of our blog.

FDM 3D printing guide for beginners.

Understanding Basic Terms

Getting started with 3D printers doesn't have to be intimidating. We have created this simple 3D printing guide for beginners to help all beginners understand the basic terms.

3D printing is a very general term. The media, especially mainstream marketing, portray 3D printing as the magical technology of the future, capable of reproducing complex objects.

But this approach makes it difficult to understand what 3D printing is from a technical point of view.

In reality, there are many different 3D printing technologies, but the most common for beginners is layer-by-layer modeling (FDM or FFF), which is the focus of this article.

Ender 3 V2 is one of the most popular hobbyist 3D printers.

FDM prints parts using thermoplastic, which is basically a filament of material that can melt, cool, and solidify. Details are built by stacking layers on top of each other.

This technology was created because people needed a way to quickly prototype parts. Even today, rapid prototyping is one of the biggest advantages of FDM and 3D printing in general. Not surprisingly, 3D printing is also gradually becoming a powerful manufacturing solution.

Before we get into the details of how FDM works, there is one more thing worth mentioning. If you have done some research on FDM, you may have noticed that some sources use the term "FFF" instead of FDM when referring to the technology. This is because FDM is a term originally patented by Stratasys and FFF is a non-proprietary generic abbreviation. Remember, this is the same technology, only the names are different. Today, most people use the term FDM.

FDM 3D printing. How it works?

  1. 3D printer control interface
  2. 3D printing plastic (filament)
  3. Extruder
  4. Hotend (hot end)
  5. Fan (cooler)
  6. Print platform (table)
  7. 3D printing

The easiest way to understand how FDM works is to study the details of an FDM 3D printer. However, before we get into the specifics, it's worth mentioning that most 3D printers can move in three axes: X, Y, and Z. The X and Y axes are responsible for moving left, right, forward, and backward, while the Z is responsible for vertical movement.

Now let's look at the main components of a 3D printer:

Control interface : Some modern 3D printers have a touch screen that is used to control the 3D printer. On older printers, a simple LCD with physical scrolling and a click wheel may be present instead of a touch interface. Depending on the model, an SD card slot and a USB port may also be present.

Print Bed : The bed or table of a 3D printer is essentially the surface on which parts are made. Platforms are most often made with heating to improve the adhesion of the part, but more on that later.

Extruder(s) : The extruder is the component responsible for melting and progressively depositing the plastic filament to build the model.

The extruder actually consists of two subcomponents: hot and cold. The hot end or hot end contains a heater and nozzle that actually melts the filament, while the cold end consists of a motor, drive gears and other small components that push the filament into the hot end to melt.

There is a heatsink and a fan between the hot and cold ends because it is necessary that the cold end stays cold to avoid jamming.

In addition to the heatsink fan, there is usually at least one other fan designed to cool the molten filament after it exits the extruder - this is commonly referred to as the parts cooling fan.

Print head : one or more extruders are installed on the print head (standard 3D printers have one extruder). At the top of the print head is a tube that feeds filament into the print head.

How a 3D printer prints.

The process starts when you send the 3D model file to the printer. After starting a print job, the nozzle starts to heat up. When the nozzle reaches the temperature required to melt the filament, the extruder draws the filament into the hot end in preparation for deposition modeling.

The printer is now ready to 3D print the part. The print head descends onto the build surface (platform) and begins to fuse the filament, which cools and solidifies shortly after exiting the nozzle thanks to the part cooling fans.

Plastic is applied one layer at a time, and after one layer is completed, the printhead moves up the Z-axis a short distance and the process is repeated until the part is completed.

Create, download and purchase 3D models.

Naturally, if you want to 3D print a part, you must have a 3D model of that part. 3D models are created using 3D modeling software commonly referred to as CAD (computer-aided design) software. Here are some examples of popular 3D modeling software:

  • Autodesk's Fusion 360 (Free for non-commercial use)
  • Blender (free of charge)
  • ZBrush (paid, but free trial available)

However, most newcomers to 3D printing do not have the skills required to use such software. If so, don't worry because there are other solutions.

First, there are simpler CAD software options like Tinkercad, a program that almost anyone can use without any prior experience. This is an online application developed by Autodesk, one of the leading developers of CAD software.

File downloads

With so many people having access to 3D printers in recent years, several sites have become repositories for 3D models.

Some of the most popular are:

  • Thingiverse (free)
  • MyMiniFactory (many free, some paid)
  • Cults3D (free and paid)
  • CGTrader (some free and most paid)
  • PrusaPrinters (all free)

So anyone can get their hands on a model without any modeling skills.

Model preparation.

3D models must be prepared for 3D printing using special software that translates the model into machine instructions. This is done using slicing software, also called a slicer. 3D models are imported into a slicer, which then actually "cuts" the model into layers. The resulting files consist of a G-code, which is essentially a long list of instructions that a 3D printer follows to build a model.

G-code is the "language" of 3D printers and CNC machines. These files contain important parameters needed to create a model, such as print speed and temperature, wall thickness, infill percentage, layer height, and many others. In other words, 3D printing is impossible without G-code files!

Supports (support structures)

Another of the main functions of the slicer is the generation of support structures (supports). In particular, supports are needed for parts with attachments.

9The 0002 Slicer allows you to choose where to place the supports and how tight you want them to be. Some slicers even offer users the ability to select different types of support structures for easier removal or strength.

Printer preparation.

Before you start printing on a 3D printer, there are a few mandatory steps to take:

Loading plastic: The extruder must be ready to extrude the filament before printing begins. The loading process begins with heating the hot end to the melt temperature, and then the filament is directly loaded into the heated extruder.

Platform Leveling: In order for the printer to successfully print an object, the table must be as level as possible.

Depending on the printer, platform calibration can be performed manually, semi-automatically or automatically.

Platform leveling is very important because, for example, if the nozzle is too far from the table, the first and most important layer will not adhere to the surface, resulting in you not being able to print your object.

Materials for FDM 3D printing.

As we have already mentioned, FDM 3D printers use spools of plastic as part material. Filament is basically a thermoplastic specifically designed to melt and cool while maintaining its structural integrity.

3D printing filaments usually come in two diameters: 1.75mm and 3mm (or 2.85mm). Most 3D printers use 1.75 diameter plastic, which is why the variety of types and shades of 1. 75 filament significantly exceeds 2.85.

We recommend that before you buy a 3D printer, be sure to clarify which filament it works with.

Converting the extruder from 2.85 to 1.75 is possible, but requires fiddling, time and additional accessories.

One of the best things about FDM 3D printers is that they can handle a wide range of plastics.

Here are just a few of the different types that are used in FDM 3D printing:


  • PLA
  • ABS
  • PETG


  • Flexible (TPU, TPE)
  • Nylon
  • With additives (wood, metal, etc.)
  • Polycarbonate (PC)

For supports:

  • HIPS
  • PVA

Among other things, FDM filament is one of the cheapest materials used in the world of 3D printing.

Post-processing of printed products.

Post-processing is the final steps you must take to complete your object.

Below we have listed some of the post-processing steps for a 3D printed part. You don't necessarily need to complete each of these steps.

Most often, post-processing is completed at the stage of removal of supports.

Support Removal : After printing, the support structures are mechanically removed by simply breaking them off. As a result, you can see marks left on the surface of the part.

If you have bought a 3D printer with two extruders, you can use special soluble plastics to print supports. In this case, you just need to place the object in water if you printed with PLA+PVA or in limonene if you printed with ABS+HIPS.

Sanding : Your part may have imperfections (for example, after removing supports). In this case, grinding comes into play. Light sanding of 3D printed parts can make the surface smoother.

Coloring : You will often print in one color. To add more colors, details or protection, you can paint your model!

Polishing or Smoothing : Epoxy is one way to smooth the surface of a printed part. For ABS, an acetone steam bath is often used. Under the influence of acetone vapors, ABS begins to dissolve and, if this process is stopped in time, you will get a smooth and glossy part.

Gluing : If you want to print a large 3D model that won't fit in your printer's build chamber, you can print the part in two or more parts and then glue them together.

Common 3D printer problems.

Let's discuss some of the most common problems beginners may encounter when using a 3D printer.

Warp : This problem occurs due to temperature differences during the 3D printing process. 3D Print Delamination - 5 Tips and Tricks to Avoid Delamination.

Plastic bleed (snot) : Thin extra strands of plastic on your model may be caused by incorrect temperature or retraction settings. Some types of plastic, such as PETG, are more prone to free flow from the nozzle.

Nozzle Clog : Nozzle clogging is one of the most annoying problems of FDM 3D printers.

Learn more