3D Printing Tips and Tricks
3D printing is amazing technology that gets kids (and adults!) interested in making cool stuff and learning more about science and technology. The great news is that anyone can use it.
How does 3D printing work?
There are different kinds of 3D printers, but the most common and affordable use a process called fused deposition, where plastic filament is fed from a spool into a small heater which then melts the plastic and extrudes it out of a fine nozzle.
The heater, the nozzle and a motor to feed the filament is located on the 3D printer head. The printer head moves around relative to a horizontal print bed to print one layer.Read more
There are many types of plastic that can be used however the most widely used, and the type that School-gen recommends, is called PLA plastic. PLA is made from starchy renewable plant sources such as corn or cassava. It is non-toxic, very strong and durable whilst also biodegradable in the right conditions. This is not to say we recommend throwing unwanted PLA in the compost, as it requires hot composting to break it down quickly. As always, be thoughtful in your use of resources!
Note – don’t put PLA in the recycle bin.
How to 3D print
- 1. Download the file provided in the Make & Play section <link>
- 2. The file provided is in STL format which is the most common type of 3D file used for printing.
- 3. Once you have this on your computer, you will need to slice the model into thin layers to create the instructions for the 3D printer – the file type is in GCODE format.
- 4. There are several slicer programs available. A recommended free open-source software is called Cura.
- 5. It is initially necessary to setup the slicer programme for the specifics of your 3D printer and filament – specifics of these are on the page of each project.
- 6. When you have loaded the STL model into the slicer, you can set the recommended parameters for the model which will affect the print time and overall quality of your 3D print. The most important parameters are layer height and infill percentage. The programme will then slice the model and generate the GCODE.
- 7. Save the GCODE file to an SD card (or send it directly to the printer).
- 8. Push print and watch the model transform into reality!
- 9. Make sure the print bed is perfectly level with the extruder (print head) – this may require manual leveling on some printers.
- 10. Make sure the print bed surface is clean and free of particles. It’s a good idea to wipe it with window cleaner using a lint free cloth every few prints.
Tips for successful printing
Designing your own 3D models
TinkerCad is an awesome free browser based design tool that can be used to create 3D models that can then be downloaded and prepared for 3D printing.
Anyone from Primary school students to PhD engineers can use it to design whatever their imaginations can dream up.
Great 3D resources on the web
There are some awesome Youtube videos and 3D printing websites to learn about how to get started. Here are a few we like: