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3D Printing Diary: Tips, tricks, and terms that have propelled my creations

Today marks the 1-year anniversary of when I received my first 3D printer. Knowing this has caused me to reflect on how much I’ve learned and which things I wish I had known sooner. Since I am not a skilled craftsman, one of the things that drew me to 3D printing was the ability to create custom-tailored items at inexpensive price points. While this is true for small items, large prints can be expensive. Continue reading to for helpful 3D printing tips, tricks, and terms that have prepared me to tackle large projects.

3D Printing Tip #1: Use less infill

If you’re intrigued by 3D printing but are unaware of terms used, then you may be uncertain what infill means. Simply put, infill is how much material is used inside of a print. For example, if you print a box, a 3D printer is smart enough to not print a solid cube. Instead it will print a pattern inside that is able to support its top layer, sort of like how trusses supports a home’s roof.

Since the words above may not paint the clearest picture, have a look at the image below. Holding this model up to the light, you can see large triangles inside. These triangles build a structure that allows a lot less material to be used in-between the top and bottom layers. Upon receiving my first 3D printer, I never messed with these settings and it was always set at 20% infill. I now freely choose to use 5% infill on some projects when I know they will be structurally sound enough, yielding quite a bit of savings and less printing time.

3D Printing Tip #2: Avoid supports when possible

As you can see in the image below, the item here is unable to stand upright on its own. A 3D printer is able to print items like this by building very simple structures underneath that can be easily torn off once the print has been completed. Initially I thought nothing of printing supports, but as time went by I realized that if I would print an an item upside down or on its side, supports may not be necessary. As is the case with using a lower infill percentage, dodging supports lowers cost increases print speeds.

3D Printing Tip #3: Be patient

This may seem simple, but I cannot convey the importance of being patient. There were several times when I considered throwing in the towel and reselling my printer when a project didn’t turn out as planned. Thankfully I simply took a break and came back with a new approach time and time again until I achieved what I set out to do. After a year of printing, I am happy to say that I’ve doubled-down with a much larger Creality CR-10 S5 printer and have been having a blast using it.

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