What I Learned from Three Weeks of 3D Printing: A Personal Experience


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I recently embarked on my journey into 3D printing. Just three weeks have gone by since I purchased my first Anycubic printer, due to an irresistible Black Friday offer on the Anycubic Kobra 2 Neo. Despite the short period, I feel that I’ve gained considerable knowledge about the workings of these machines. However, there are a few things I wish I had known earlier!

To assist individuals planning on buying one of the best 3D printers as holiday gifts this season, I’ve listed some of the valuable tips I’ve acquired. There’s a small admission I need to make. Even though I initially purchased the Anycubic Kobra 2 Neo, I canceled the order on the following day and placed another one for the Anycubic Kobra 2 instead. After going through a plethora of reviews, I felt that the slightly pricier Kobra 2 was better equipped for my desired builds and featured quicker printing speeds.

With that guilt off my chest, let’s delve into the unforeseen aspects of 3D printing, as well as some of the helpful tips I’ve learned during my first few weeks using the beginner-friendly Anycubic Kobra 2 3D printer.

An essential tip is that not every 3D printer operates in the same manner. In my case, my Anycubic Kobra 2 has compatibility issues with STL (Stereolithography) files — a bitter truth I learned the hard way.

When you’re on the hunt for an open-source file to 3D print, you’ll frequently use resources such as Thingiverse or Printables. Typically, you’ll come across files in STL format, which are 3D model files that aren’t usually printable on their own.

G-code is the conventional language and preferred file type adopted by most 3D printers. It provides precise instructions to the printer about parameters like extruder heat, nozzle, and printing areas.

The good news is that you can effortlessly convert STL model files to a printable G-code format. The conversion process, known as slicing, can be carried out using a “slicer” software. For instance, my Anycubic Kobra 2 came bundled with Anycubic’s slicing software on the provided MicroSD card, in addition to a slightly more advanced slicer, the Prusa slicer.

This software lets you visualize the 3D model in three dimensions and tailor it to your liking. You can add or remove supports, slice the model into smaller, manageable sections for your printer, and much more. If you’re planning to create your own designs and original 3D prints, understanding slicing is essential. I’m still in the process of mastering this skill.

More often than not, it’s necessary to add support structures to your 3D models and prints to ensure their solidity and stability. These supports are crucial in places where there are parts that extend beyond a 45-degree angle since you cannot print on thin air. These structures could take various forms: breakaway supports, tree-like supports, zig-zags, or vertical pillar-like linear supports. You can also have dissolvable supports manufactured from water-soluble materials that vanish, which requires a printer with dual extruder functionality. If you need more guidance, check out the extensive guide on understanding print supports offered by All3DP.

In the following example, the model “Bowser Spikey Shell” is presented, attributed to Peter Farell via Printables.

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Bowser Spikey Shell courtesy of Peter Farell via Printables

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Bowser Spikey Shell courtesy of Peter Farell via Printables

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Bowser Spikey Shell courtesy of Peter Farell via Printables

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Bowser Spikey Shell courtesy of Peter Farell via Printables

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Bowser Spikey Shell courtesy of Peter Farell via Printables

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Bowser Spikey Shell courtesy of Peter Farell via Printables

Supports can still pose challenges in large-builds as they can sometimes be difficult to remove, risking damage to the print and even mild injuries. In my recent experience with 3D printing, I utilized tree supports. This was for one of my models, via Peter Farell’s Printables, where I realized the need for supplementary tools for their removal.

It’s worth noting that not every print file will require additional supports. There are creative people who have remixed works to enhance them, negating the need for supports. However, as I am not a designer, I rely on the skills of the original artists and settings recommended by my slicing software. This software also alerts me if it predicts a print failure, which is particularly helpful in saving time, material, and avoiding frustration.

On the subject of materials, although advised, it’s not always necessary to use the manufacturer’s filament with your 3D printer. I started with Anycubic’s own-brand filament. Although this has been an effective learning aid, I am eager to explore highly-rated alternatives.

For instance, Amazon sellers like ERYONE and ISANMATE offer a range of options including silk filament, glow-in-the-dark filament, and even dual-color rainbow filament. These have received thousands of positive reviews and have been used by 3D printing enthusiasts who, like me, did not report any issues.

One of the more unexpected lessons I learned was how to halt a 3D printer during the printing process without ruining the object being printed. The sound output of my Anycubic Kobra 2 can be quite disruptive, especially when the fan speed is at maximum. Considering our gaming area is located quite close to our sleeping quarters, letting a print job continue overnight is not an option.

I discovered a technique to circumvent this issue. I first pause the print job using the button on my printer’s display screen. Once the print operation seems to stop, I navigate to the machine’s settings where I reduce the fan speed, bed heat and extruder temperature to zero. It’s important to note that the printer must remain switched on – do not stop the printing process or disconnect the machine – and the problem is solved.

Digital sources suggest that it is fine to pause a print job and power down the printer for the evening, but this is only applicable if the microSD card, where the G-code file is saved, has been triggered (which in my case, has not been). With over 30 hours into my print job, I wasn’t willing to gamble on this suggestion, though I will be sure to give it a try in the future with a smaller print job to avoid any wasteful use of filament.

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“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”


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GCode-Guru

Meet the mastermind behind NozzleNerds.com: GCode-Guru, a 3D printing wizard whose filament collection rivals their sock drawer. Here to demystify 3D tech with a mix of expert advice, epic fails, and espresso-fueled rants. If you've ever wondered how to print your way out of a paper bag (or into a new coffee cup), you're in the right place. Dive into the world of 3D printing with us—where the only thing more abundant than our prints is our sarcasm.

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