Is a 3D printer useful in the shop? Yes!

quid_non

Wayne
Senior User
Been interested in this 3D printing also - wondering how steep is the learning curve for software? Considering the Anycubic Mega-S unit. Anyone have one of these? Are the files from different #D printer makers compatible (i.e. if I see something on Makerbot Thingiverse can I use for Anycubic?)
Great informative thread - any help/advise appreciated
Thanks
 

Bas

Recovering tool addict
Bas
Corporate Member
Been interested in this 3D printing also - wondering how steep is the learning curve for software? Considering the Anycubic Mega-S unit. Anyone have one of these? Are the files from different #D printer makers compatible (i.e. if I see something on Makerbot Thingiverse can I use for Anycubic?)
Great informative thread - any help/advise appreciated
Thanks
There are two pieces of software involved. One is to create 3D models from scratch, they're similar to Google Sketchup if you're familiar with that. The learning curve depends largely on how good you are with spatial orientation and design software. There are lots and lots of tutorials available that will get you started. I am not good with spatial orientation, but even I was able to design a relatively simple model using Fusion360.

The second piece of software is the slicer. It takes the 3D model and basically figures out how to print it. This factors in layer height, fill density, infill pattern, etc. as well as speed, retraction, and temperature. I found this pretty easy to learn, the printer I have comes with software with ready-to-use profiles for the different materials.

The real expertise is figuring out how to juggle these settings for the more complex prints or resolving issues. Some filament tends to be "stringy", some prints might have issues with warping, etc. Some printers have auto-bed leveling, others require manual tinkering to get things level. This is really important because without a level bed or the right material settings, your first layer won't adhere properly. That's 90% of the battle. If you buy a quality printer you should have plenty of hassle-free fun. But it's why this is still in the tinkerer/ hobbyist domain. This is not like buying an inkjet printer and turning it on. In terms of complexity, it's probably similar to tuning a band saw (truing up the wheels, replacing the tires, aligning the blade supports, etc.).

If your model has overhangs, i.e. things sticking out, you may need to use software like MeshMixer to generate tree supports, or those parts will sag/ fail. But don't let that scare you off, lots of videos available that show you how to do this.

The files you download from places like Thingiverse are printer-agnostic, it's just the 3D model. It'll print on any Anycubic, Prusa , Monoprice, Creality printers. Your slicer software will generate gcode from the model, which is what your printer will process. Gcode is not really printer-agnostic, but it is standardized. It's in text form, and basically is a bunch of commands that tell the printer where to go (X/Y/Z) and what to print. Experts will even modify the gcode to do very specific things with it.

Some public libraries now have a MakerLab with 3D printers, including Durham. I'd check and see if there is one close to you and get some hands-on experience. There's usually a user group as well that can give you some advice.
 

quid_non

Wayne
Senior User
Great advice and overview Bas - many thanks for giving me more to think about. I have used Sketchup in the past but not often. Still on the fence about this - - appreciate the overview and thoughtful comments!
 

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