The world of 3D printing has expanded beyond the expectations of many in recent years. It doesn’t seem that long ago that major companies and academic institutions were the only ones with the resources and money for these printers invented by Charles “Chuck” Hull.
Even then, they were large 3D printing machines with slow processes and models that were a little rough around the edges. It didn’t take long before these devices hit the mainstream and became accessible, commercial devices for the home.
Now anyone can have a go at printing objects for sale, pieces of art and pieces of equipment. The trouble is that not everyone knows how. There is still a lot to understand and master for the perfect design and result. That is where the best resources for 3D printing come in.
The great thing about learning about 3D printing is that there is so much to the process and so much to sink your teeth into. There is a long process between the initial design and a high-quality build, and the most avid creators want to learn to perfect every single element. This means that you need to take the time to learn about each element and find the right apps and tools for each step of the process.
Here we will look at 3D printing resources in two different forms. First, we have the different types of resources for information that will offer a whole new understanding of the principles. Then we will look at different apps and tools to improve skills from the design to the finished model.
Online 3D Printing Resources For All Newcomers That Want To Learn More
The best place to start when you first get hold of a 3D printer is a model library. These resources provide images that you use to practice with the printers and get an idea of how the process works. This is important for all those that struggle with the concept in theory, and need to see it all in action. Here you can go to a database, download the image and print away.
Some 3D model libraries are more extensive than others. Many are also free to use. The following are free resources in different areas of the scale regarding accessibility, the range of models and other tools.
The Thingiverse is the name that immediately comes to mind for many people when it comes to these designs. It has served the online 3S printing community with ease for many years now, and users view it as one of the most impressive, comprehensive options around. There are currently around half a million designs available, so no-one should ever be stuck for inspiration here.
YouMagazine works along the same line, just on a smaller scale. The appeal here comes from the community of users, which is pretty helpful for anyone struggling to find their way and looking for the best advice.
Cults3D takes things to a higher level of a better quality of content. The collection is smaller, with more high-quality designs. They are essentially curated by the site owners as they pick and choose the very best. Some are from professional designers.
The upside here is a model that you can be sure will look great with an interesting design. The downside is that not all the content is free. You may have to pay a little extra for the high-end stuff.
Use A Good Forum When Learning About 3D Printing
The forum of YouMagazine highlights an important point about online communities and shared knowledge. It is one thing to have a database of images at your disposal to play around with. It is another to have a group of users sharing information and tips on how to use them.
There are different approaches and ideas in 3D printing, and different users will have different suggestions. A friendly forum is a great place to pop in with a question when you have trouble with a software error or aren’t sure where to begin. Most users were in that position themselves at one point, so can relate.
The following forums are other examples of respected areas of discourse and suggestion.
Google has its 3D printing community, which is an obvious place to start for access to an impressive number of users and their tips. There are more people here than anywhere else, but they may not be the most hardcore developers.
Reddit is the number one stopping point for the nerdier designers and developers to discuss and debate ideas. This is perhaps one for the true enthusiast rather than the newcomer and is much smaller.
SoliForum is an alternative that may not be as obvious but is a nice midway point. There are users with greater experiences and a friendly attitude, with more subscribers than Reddit, but far less than Google.
Visual Learners Can Also Get A Lot Out Of Online Video Tutorials
There is a YouTube channel for just about everything these days. Many 3D printing experts and designers take to this platform to show off ideas and designs. These video tutorials highlighted processes and design element in a way that may be easier to understand.
Online tutorials are great free resources for those that want all the information they can get. The viewer can dip in and out of videos of interest or subscribe to specific users with a unique approach or a more relatable form of tutorial.
The Following Are Great Examples
Stratasys is a top 3D printing solutions specialist that posts videos in different categories on their YouTube channels. Subscribers can focus on areas like automotive solutions and aerospace and choose from hundreds of interesting videos.
Shapeways has fewer videos to browse but is still a well-known name with a lot of respect. This company allows to buy and sell products for a new 3D printing community. This channel works to inspire and inform new users and potential buyers.
Then There Are The Books
We might assume that 3D printing is such a modern day concept that nobody could have written any books on the subject. This isn’t true at all. In fact, there are some publications and ebooks from those that want to express their knowledge – and make a few bucks while they are at it.
Some books will always be better than others. There will be those cheaper e-books with a few good tips and a lot of filler. There are also those from keen experts that really can help.
Books offer learning and guidance on a different level to videos, for those with a different learning style. It is also nice to be able to dip into a book to find the right information as and when you need it while working on the printer.
The following are a couple of examples of some great books that you may find helpful.
3D Printing: The Next Technological Gold Rush, as the name suggests, takes a look at the business side of the industry, as well as the fundamentals. Here users can gain insight into how to create designs and models, and how to sell them.
3D Printing: The Next Industrial Revolution takes a slightly different approach. Here there is a focus on the potential and future of the industry. This helps newcomers understand the opportunities ahead, while also educating more experienced printers on new options.
The other approach to 3D printing is to start from nothing and enjoy the full process.
This means making your design with some helpful design tools.
This is all great for a practice run to see what the printer can do, and understand the physical mechanics a little better. However, most that turn to 3D printing want to be able to create brilliant models of their designs. It can be pretty daunting to go from a small sketch on a piece of paper to a high-end 3D model.
There are steps to learn in between, from creating the perfect design and computer model to printing something clean and high quality.
The good news is that there are many different model creation suites for Windows and Mac – all of which are free to download and use.
Autodesk 123D suite provides a broad collection of tools to help users understand the process further. It is the ideal starting point for a broader understanding.
SketchUp focuses on the drawing application for the perfect model and design. There is a focus here on architecture and engineering, which may limit its appeal in some ways. The detail and precision helps
Sculptris works with virtual clay to bring the principles of 3D printing into a potentially more familiar medium. This allows for accessibility and understanding of form in what is currently a pretty foreign practice.
Tidying Up The Design
The initial design is just the start when it comes to creating the perfect 3D model. There are additional stages to perform between a digital model and a physical, 3D printed one.
The first thing to do is to clean up all the edges and gaps to make sure that the image resembles a complete form. The printer has to see the potential for a solid structure to print this out. Some refer to this is a “watertight” model. The cleaner the image and model, with all the polygons in the right places and edges dealt with, the better the results.
This watertight model then needs converting into a form that is easily read by the printer. This is an issue that some people fail to mention as some send finished designs to printing services, and don’t see the errors and fixes in the middle.
Those that want to learn the whole process and work at home, or with a public service, need to understand how to fix them all themselves.
Luckily, there are apps available that can help users find the perfect solution to tidy up all these issues.
Many apps and tools help to fix the errors and gaps that you can’t see. These include MeshLab, MeshMixer, and Netfabb. These three are popular for their effective approach, as the most often catch the problems before the model goes to the printer.
Then there are the slicers that create the precise layers for the final model. The best options here include Slic3r, KISSlicer, and Cura.
The final step is to get the model printed and get to grips with the process.
Then comes the printing process. The ease of use and the complexity of the process can depend upon your approach and machines. The first question here regards the machine. Do you have your system and want to try out designs on a personal, large-scale level? Or, or you looking to use public access machines where you can print occasional models without paying for an expensive personal machine. Some people forget that the latter is an option here.
There are different forms of public access solutions to 3D printing that can be beneficial. They are often a great stepping stone from the first experience with 3D printing to regular use with a personal printer. You can practice on a model with user support and basic controls, although the results may not be as good.
Look out for the following in your local community for a simple way to into 3D printing
Public libraries are keen to open themselves up to new opportunities and services as a way to bring the community together and modernize. Computer stations and free WiFi are now common, and the latest trend is the 3D printer that anyone can make the most out of it.
3D Hubs is a great tool if you are unsure of local facilities in the area. This search engine locates local printing services and uploads files for a simple connection with added convenience.
The resources listed here are just a few examples of the options that are available. This highlights a few key apps, books, and guides that will help newcomers start on their first designs and models. You will soon find that there are even more options and tools as you progress with your models.