Over the past couple of years, 3D printing has emerged as a transformative force, reshaping how we conceive and create objects. But what exactly is 3D printing? What do we mean when we talk about FDM printers? What's an .STL file? The video above delves deeper into the basics of 3D printing, with a concise cheat sheet below.
See more: All 3D printers at MicroCenter
3D printing refers to the process of turning digital blueprints into three-dimensional physical objects. FDM printing (or fused deposition modeling) does this through an additive process, layering material until the object takes shape. This technology's allure lies in its versatility and the breadth of potential it unlocks for creators and professionals alike.
No longer confined to the realms of industrial giants or medical marvels, 3D printing has found its way into homes and small businesses, thanks to affordable and user-friendly models like the Creality Ender 3 V3 SE. This particular printer serves as a prime example of how 3D printing has become a smart, accessible tool for everyone, with its entry-level pricing of $199.99.
The Ender 3 V3 SE and other FDM printers operate akin to an intelligent hot glue gun, using filament material fed from a spool to a hot end, then precisely maneuvering it across the X, Y, and Z axes. This movement builds the object on a heated bed, which in the case of this printer, moves back and forth to support the creation of your design.
The journey from concept to object begins with a 3D file, which might be sourced from the vast expanse of the internet or conjured from the depths of your imagination using software such as Tinkercad or Fusion 360. For those not ready to design their own, platforms like thingiverse.com or printables.com offer an array of downloadable designs, usually in an .STL file format. These files are then processed using slicer software, transforming them into a language the printer understands. Your printer will usually include basic slicing software, but Cura is the most popular free option.
Filament is the 3D printer's ink, coming in various materials tailored to different needs. PLA plus, for instance, is a nontoxic bioplastic made from renewable resources like corn, and an eco-friendly option for the environmentally conscious creator. Meanwhile, ABS offers robustness akin to Lego bricks, and PETG, ASA, and other filaments provide unique properties, from flexibility to glitter-infused aesthetics. PLA is what you'll be starting with as a beginner, and should work for most of your early projects. Each filament type has its preferred temperature range, often indicated on the spool itself. While slicer software offers a starting point, fine-tuning by a few degrees can enhance the quality and strength of your print.
The iconic Benchy, a small boat, and the straightforward 20x20x20mm test cube are the rites of passage for every new 3D printer. These benchmarks are pivotal in assessing a printer's calibration and performance, and often come pre-sliced with new printers. Printing a Benchy is considered a universal test, reflecting your printer's precision and setting the stage for more complex projects.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of 3D printing is its adaptability. Using slicing software, you can scale a miniature Benchy to an impressive showpiece or shrink a vast structure to fit on your desk. This ability to adjust scale opens a realm of customization that traditional manufacturing methods can't match.
The beauty of 3D printing lies in its broad application spectrum. Whether you're a videographer looking to craft bespoke camera accessories, a musician in need of specific instrument parts, or a chef seeking unique cookie cutter shapes, 3D printing can help bring your vision to life.
Eager to start? Begin by selecting a design, be it a pre-existing STL file or your own creation, and prepare it using slicer software. Once your filament is loaded, you're all set to bring your digital model into the tangible world with just the press of a button. 3D printing is not just a trend but a revolution that's here to stay, evolving with our creative and professional needs.
Top beginners' 3D printers from Micro Center
Although it ends up being a little above the "beginner's" price point, I really would recommend the P1P or P1S for someone looking to get into 3D printing. It really helps with the learning curve and removes a lot of the guesswork.
Still, the others are great options at their price points!
Rich Text Editor.
To edit a paragraph's style, hit tab to get to the paragraph menu. From there you will be able to pick one style. Nothing defaults to paragraph.
An inline formatting menu will show up when you select text. Hit tab to get into that menu.
Some elements, such as rich link embeds, images, loading indicators, and error messages may get inserted into the editor. You may navigate to these using the arrow keys inside of the editor and delete them with the delete or backspace key.
Submit photos and a description of your PC to our build showcase
See other custom PC builds and get some ideas for what can be done
Services starting at $149.99