Jul 19, 2021

6 min read

Millennial Musings — How hard can 3D printing really be?

So, it was prime day and I think I got a little carried away. I bought all the things that I needed or that I could justify to myself that I needed until I fell into the trap and got something that I really didn’t need. This year, I entered the world of 3D printing due to amazon tricks! Little do they know I can now print all the things that I need so I will never use them again, but probably not. So the printer I bought was the Labists 3D printer (Don’t take this as advice I know next to nothing about 3D printing and I picked it as it was not the cheapest but close to it!). Amazon was their normal useless self delivering it to me but that’s a story for another day and I finally am a 3D printing person. Well, I was till I found out 3D is more like Ikea and I have to build it myself with instructions that I do not understand.

Labists put this helpful image on their site, to stop novices like me from getting overwhelmed and returning it rather than persevere making it. Even in step one I struggled with lining up the bolts while trying to hold the frame and the base you literally need to be an octopus with 8 arms even if the accoupling YouTube video a vastly more skilled human can do it all by themselves. So, I followed the YouTube video until I made my first major rookie error, they tell you to move this screw:

So, I move the screw and nothing was happening, so I move it some more and keep moving it. Nothing happens so I move onto the next step. The issue is something was happening, that screw is some kind of light sensor that measures up and down — ness (I told you I don’t know what’s going on) and I have set it now to want to go so far down that it wants to fight through the platform, table and halfway through the earth's core if it had its own way. At this point cue lots of swearing and self-doubt, would I ever be able to recover from this or have I just broken the nice new 3D printer that I defiantly needed in order to stop buying anything else on amazon and to show Jeff Bazos that I don’t need him anymore. The issue is, did I screw the device that still has no idea what it was clockwise or anti-clockwise and how do I figure this out without breaking it! The video and help guides do not mention which direction was which even using the almighty Google to find out didn’t help (Probably me not knowing what the technical term rather than anything to do with Google’s supreme intellect!) So, I started experimenting, I couldn’t make the problem any worse, could I? I started out by making little adjustments trying to stop it from going through the table, the issue is I gone way too far and couldn’t tell if I was helping or not. Then I took the decision to go big or go home (even though I was already home) and spent the next few minutes going in one direction and running it all again at least this will tell me which way was up. Thankfully I guessed correctly but now the GME / the Moon was its target. Eventually, I dialled this in so it would stay inside its little metal frame and followed the rest of the instructions so I was ready to print. But now problem number two when I try and print, I get nothing sticking to the platform and a really enjoyable squeaking sound.

So, time for diagnosis number two, the first thing I tried was the piece of paper trick. The level of the printer might be too far or close to the platform to stick so I moved the auto level with an unnamed offset of — 1.10. That didn’t work.

After cleaning up the mess it puts on the nozzle I tried again this time I changed the printer preheat settings up, I was using the included filament that was included in the box but it didn’t specify temperatures so wanted to try hotter to see if that makes it more sticky. This made the filament leak out of the nozzle even when waiting to start the print. This time it started to stick but as the nozzle moved around it moved the picture with it. So showing, progress I found this site and moved it up to the biggest numbers they suggested 230/60. Still no joy! And they further knocked my confidence with this joy of a quote “Overall, PLA is very easy to print and doesn’t require much to be successful.”.

So after many, many, many fails at something so easily I had finally done my first 3D print. You want to know what I was missing, something that was not in the manual nor on reviews of the printer for some reason you need to spray the platform with hair spray? How is that intuitive and how did the first person to 3D print work out that was what was missing. Neither the less I now have a 3D printer and, more importantly, the ability to print things off it. You will hear from me next once I have printed everything on the Thingiverse twice and am complaining that I don’t understand how to create 3D models, but I will save that for another post.

So, what do I take away from all of this? Firstly, a company is selling an entry-level model no matter how complicated the industry they need a lot more support and handholding rather than just a YouTube video that shows a perfect path. They need to provide help and troubleshooting so that someone like me who knows nothing can get their product working. Rather than my first hours (many, many hours) of using the product is frustrating and wasteful. Secondly, I am amazed at how good the 3D prints are and how they can be used to create custom items. I mean I got trading cards that I want to display and I can literally make a stand that fits together with different card thickness rather than needing to buy sets of 5 stands where I only need one (and it's way cheaper!). Finally, how much technology moves on so quickly! I always assumed that 3D printing was way out of my price range but it's super affordable, I am really curious what super expensive thing I have not heard about that will slowly fall into my budget next.