3D printing For Beginners: A Complete Guide

 |  Jamie Fry

                            3D Printing Basics: All You Need to Know

Imagine modeling and printing one of your missing chess pieces using a three-dimensional model you designed all from the comfort of your living room. Amazing, right? 3D Printing or additive manufacturing is a technology that enables you to build objects in small layers, placed on top of each other one at a time using material such as plastic, powder, pellets, ceramic, granules, resin and other industry-specific material.

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Chocolate 3D printer in action image source: SelfCAD on Instagram.

Although it can be a slow manufacturing process, 3D fabrication technology is gradually becoming a digital manufacturing trend in different industries such as health, supply chain, aviation, etc, hence making a significant impact on the world and changed everyday life and business scope.

As the popularity of 3D printing spreads, it is understandable why more individuals are also interested in trying their hands-on 3D Printing. So I have put together this 3D printing guide covering 3D printing basics, where to start from, using the CAD software, the right printer, and challenges you might encounter as a beginner.

                                     What You Need To Get Started In 3D Printing

                                               Select a CAD Software for Designing Models

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SelfCAD Software Image source: Instagram

When designing a model for 3D printing, you will need to make a 3D file, for example, an STL. These files are coordinate points that define a shape. You can design 3D models using the software known as CAD (computer-aided design) software. There are different types of 3D modeling software available.

Depending on your needs, level of experience, and specific models you would like to design, there will always be a CAD program for you. 


Categories of 3D modeling Software

3D modeling software is divided into four main categories, namely:

  • Beginners: These are 3D modeling software meant for beginners. They include SelfCAD, TinkerCAD, Onshape, 3D Slash, Clara.io, and SketchUp.

  • Intermediate: 3D modeling software laying in between programs for beginners and professionals. They include Blender, FreeCAD, LibreCAD, 3Ds Max, etc.

  • Professional: 3D modeling meant for professionals. They include SelfCAD, Rhino3D, ZBrush, and Poser.

  • Industrial: They include programs like Fusion360, Solidworks, Inventor, and Siemens NX.

If you’re just starting out, I recommend SelfCAD because not only is it easier to learn and has a user-friendly interface, but it has an in-built slicer for slicing your models. SefCAD also allows you to customize your designs to the measurement, resolution, or weight you'll require for Printing.


Choose an appropriate slicing Program

After designing your model, it’s time now to slice it. A 3D slicing software converts the 3D model into a format that is understandable by your 3D printer called a G-Code. The G-Code contains all the printing instructions, that is, where to start and when to move and stop. 

There are different types of slicing software available. Some of the commonly used are Cura, Simplify3d, Slic3r, OctoPrint, KISSLicer, etc. Some 3D modeling software like SelfCAD comes with an in-built slicer. So it’s advantageous to use SelfCAD for designing 3d models as you can also slice them all under one program without the need for additional software.

Depending on your design needs, you can get affordable tools to design your models and learn all you need to know about CAD programs. 

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A model designed in SelfCAD Image source: Instagram


If you cannot be able to design your own, you can opt to download ready to print models from the 3D models' libraries like Thingiverse, Cults3d and MyMinifactory and 3D print them.

Choose the Right 3D Printer 

As a beginner in 3D Printing, you might not be ready to get your printer yet. If so, you can print from public and college libraries or get an online 3D printing service like Sculpteo. All you need to do is make your order and they will handle the rest. They will print and deliver to you. Of course, you will need to make some payments to get your models printed.

On the flipside for beginners who are looking to buy their printers here are things you should know when making your choice:

Types of Consumer Printers

3D Printing Technologies

3D printers are categorized depending on:

  • The Capability of the printer

  • Cost

  • Printing Speed

  • Quality of the print

  • Technologies and materials being used by the printer

There are nine types of 3D printing technologies, or in other words, 3D printers. These are described below:

  • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printing process is built in successive layers of Heating and extruding plastic filament. FDM operates slowly, and the imperfect layer-to-layer bonding is more widely available and easy to find in a price range of around $1, 000. 

  • The stereolithography (SLA) process of Printing offers higher accuracy and flexibility. They print by beaming ultraviolet lasers onto a vat of light-activated resin to harden the shape layer-by-layer for smoother and more intricate designs. The price of an SLA ranges from $3,000 and above.

  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS): SLS is similar to SLA, except that the SLS printing process involves lasers and powders. SLS prints by using a laser to melt the powder, creating a layer of the printed material. It allows some models to print metal objects that cannot be printed by the FDM and the SLA.

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Selective Laser Sintering Image Source: 3D Insider

  • Selective Laser Melting (SLM): 

This 3D printing technology forms parts using high-powered laser beams just like the SLS. A perfect 3D model is formed when the laser beam melts the powdered material and it joins the particles together.

The printer keeps adding new layers of materials to the design after every complete print cycle. And the unused powder is then removed from the object once the printing is completed. 

SLM 3d printing technology is mostly used in parts that have complex structures and geometries and thin walls.

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SLM 3D Printing Image source: Protoshape

Difference between SLS and SLM

SLS sinters the powder. That is, it partly melts it, while SLM melts the powder completely. The end products of SLM 3D printing are stronger as there are no voids.

Electron Beam Melting Technology

A powder bed is used in this technology just like SLM. It achieves very complex geometries and it produces parts that are stronger. EBM is mostly used in 3D printing metal. It doesn’t need any extra auxiliary tools for the 3D printing process.

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Electron Beam Melting Technology Image source: 3D Insider.

Other types of 3D printing technology include Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM), Binder Jetting Technology, and Wax Casting Technology.

Features to look out for in a 3D Printer 

Irrespective of the price range the 3D printer you are considering should have these basic features:

  • Suitable for regular use and does not emit odors or fumes that can be harmful to you.

  • Produce quality and well-finished products with layers that are thin and barely visible.

  • Easy to load filament and print.

  • Multiple connectivity options, such as WI-FI or USB cable.

  • Intuitive and straightforward adjustment setting for your 3D models.

  • A heated bed to prevent printed objects from warping

  • Ability to work with all filament brands in case you need to change the filament that came with the printer.

When you consider all the above points you will be in a position to make an informed decision on the type of 3d printer you will buy.

How a 3D Printer Prints

Once you send your model file to print, the printer nozzle starts to heat up. The nozzle then reaches the required temperature to melt the filament, (anything above 175 °C, depending on the filament) into the heated extruder.

The print head dips down to the bed level to start depositing melted filament. The cooling fan cools and hardens the filament shortly after it exits the nozzle. The filament is placed one layer at a time. The Z-axis movement occurs after one layer is complete until the print is complete. 

Choose Your Materials

The earlier 3D printers fabricated only plastic parts, but today most 3D printers can print using a growing variety of materials. Be it plastic, steel, or nylon car prototypes needed to support your paper on cheap automobiles written by writing services review websites. There is now a material to print virtually any object you can think of.

The quality of the printed version is mostly determined by the material used for Printing. Depending on what object you want to print, here are a few suggestions:

  • Printing a Strong Object: you should consider making use of metals such as steel or titanium on an SLS printer. You can also use ABS or nylon when making use of an FDM printer.

  • Printing an Object that Requires Heating: ceramics will be the best material to use because they can withstand temperatures of up to 2,500˚F. SLS machines, preceramic polymers are used to print the object and then traditionally fired into a ceramic.

  • Printing an Object with Details: The resin material has a smooth surface that shows details. It also makes for prototypes and models, especially when it has been treated with high-powered SLA lasers.

Common Challenges Beginners Face When Starting With 3D Printing

You should ensure that you have followed the printer manually when setting up your printer and maintain the printer by cleaning it after each use to reduce subsequent problems. However, here are some other common 3D printing problems you might face and how to solve them:

Working with CAD: for most software, a simple drag-and-drop feature is usually enough to create a design. However, this is not the case when working with CAD programs. To avoid basic 3D design and printing problems, you must learn how to operate the designing software. You will need to learn how to edit the designs to fit your 3D printer and other design requirements, even when using the models from an online library.

The SelfCAD software comes with tutorials, manuals, and features that can help beginners set up and make use of CAD for their 3D models easily.

First Layer Adhesion is a common problem that occurs when the first layer of the print refuses to stick. To correct this, make sure that the bed is clean, and the level is set close to the printer nozzle.

You can set your bed level either manually or automatically, depending on your printer. The cooling fan and bed temperature and print speed should also be placed at an optimum level.

Nozzle Jams is another common challenge with 3D printing, especially on FDM 3D printers. If your nozzle isn't letting the filament pass through, then you might need to clean them out thoroughly or check to make sure your filament type and quality is right, among others.

Warping occurs when the layers of deposited material cool unevenly or too quickly. The material contracts and causes the ends of the object to lift or crack. To solve this, you can adjust your bed temperature, try new build pates, or adjust cooling speed.

Overheated printer: this often ends in warped and misshaped objects. The easiest way to solve overheating is to cool each layer with an additional fan.

Applications of 3D printing

Many industries have embraced 3D printing technology. The following are some of the industries using 3D printing and how they use it in their operations.

  • Hobbyists 

Hobbyists use 3D printing daily to 3D print models in their comfort of their homes. This includes replacement parts and also designs that are hard to find in the shops. 

  • Education

Many schools are introducing 3d printing in their classroom to help in explaining concepts and instilling creativity and problem-solving skills in students. It’s also being used in research institutes for research purposes. 

  • Entertainment

The prototypes of toys, action figures, and games are usually manufactured using 3d printers.

  • Defense

3D printing technology is being used in making parts of surveillance equipment. that is light-weight.

  • Manufacturing

3D printing is used in creating prototypes of designs before they are manufactured. It’s also used for design troubleshooting.

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Shoes designed in SelfCAD software Image source: SelfCAD on Instagram

  • Healthcare

Used in creating various organs of the body and also for research purposes.


3D Printing for beginners might seem like a difficult task to pull off. Luckily there are several tutorials and online classes that provide added knowledge and understanding about different concepts, processes, and applications for successful 3D Printing.


About the Author

Jamie Fry - Purposeful and promising author. Confidently goes to his goal. He has a talent for
writing original content. The main conviction in his life: «To be the best in the field in which you
are developing». Always in search of fresh ideas.



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