Last Updated: January 7th 2022
Printing… if you have ever setup a printer or worked in an office and had to print stuff, you know how frustrating printing can be. From the drivers, to the network, to the paper tray, it’s all annoying and can ruin your print experience at any time. 2D Printing on paper has been a challenge for office workers since printers came on the market. In fact printers are so annoying they made a movie about it.
3d printing can be just as frustrating and annoying as any printer you have ever used. Imagine that 40 page assignment you had to have for your professor/boss that would not print properly. 3D printing is just like that, except, you cannot simply print page 38 over again and be ok. Since they build directly upon the layer below, if a layer(page) is not almost perfect the next layer will also not be perfect and it will build on that small error compounding over time into a failed print.
That said you can do a lot to make sure your print succeeds. From choosing the right printer, and the right filament. To leveling your print bed properly, and choosing the necessary slicer settings. You too can dial in your printer just right.
Before you choose a 3d printer you should think ahead about what you want to print. Minis, jewelry, and small parts are great for a DLP resin printer. Larger parts like: toys, structural elements, anything large , etc. are probs best printed on an FDM filament printer.
I am pretty happy with my Ender3Pro FDM printer. Recently I have upgraded it from the stock model to make it even better. FDM Printers like the Ender3pro are harder to upkeep as they have many moving parts and are quite technical to operate. I have been looking into resin printers for high detail small parts like Dnd Minis and jewelry. Resin printers are fast, easy to use and provide great detail to your prints. They are much simpler than FDM printers as they have far fewer moving parts.
The Ender 3 pro is no longer produced and has been replaced by the Ender 3 v2. Check out this great video on its pro and cons.
Small resin printers in the sub $250 range are basically the same as larger more expensive versions. They are perfect for minis and high detail projects. This is a great video on resin printing: by Zack Freedman. I watched this and I was immediately inspired to plan my next printer purchase for resin minis.
So far, I have an the most experience with FDM printers and I am just getting started with resin.
Despite all the frustration and difficulty I have a lot of fun printing all sorts of stuff for fun and profits. I have compiled the information here in an effort to help others who are interested in the 3d printing world.
Note: This page contains affiliate links.
tldr; I have an ender 3 pro that I have upgraded quite a bit.
$209 The Ender 3 Pro came as a kit to assemble. This made me more familiar with it and since I built it I feel like I can always fix it. :)
In general upgrades are not required. I used the stock ender 3 pro for more than a year before any upgrades at all. In that time I noticed issues the printer was having that I wanted to correct if possible. After the upgrades, my printer performs better and is more reliable. That said it’s super fun to tinker with and improve your printer. Here are the upgrades I have done, in roughly the order I did them.
If our printer supports it, you should set up an Octoprint print server. It provides a web interface to send jobs to your printer and basically control all of it’s functions remotely.
This was the single best upgrade I have made.
This upgrade was mostly for piece of mind. The single z-axis that comes on stock on my printer seems to sag on the right hand side. This “sag” may have all been in my head. Regardless, I think it was a good upgrade.
$40 Dual Z-Axis
The Stock Ender 3 Printers only have a single Z-Axis. The dual Z axis ensures but sides are always perfectly inline with each other.
$85 OMG Extruder
$30 Upgraded Hot End
Here is my current hot end configuration. BLTouch, Hot end upgrade. Still working on the cooling fan upgrade.
I used the Unified Firmware Help. Download it here: TH3D Studio Firmware Package. You will need VSCode with Platform IO. This is probably the most difficult upgrade as it involves compiling code and setting up code parameters. You need to modify the firmware files and select the options you intend to use with your printer. VSCode and PlatformIO make this easier but not foolproof. I did over 30 compiles and uploads before I got it all working properly.
If you have a larger budget and larger ambitions, and or want to print super long/tall items, or a huge series or multiples this is what you would want :) $+1K Creality CR30 Infinite Z Belt Printer.
For starters try printing a Benchy
Hero Forge has a great tool for designing custom gaming minis that you can download at STL files for your slicer. Custom STL files are about $3.50 USD.
Eldritch Foundry also lets you create custom STL character files where you pay to download a printable file.
My Mini Factory has free and paid minis to print.
Here are a few places to get awesome things to print
In addition to your 3d printer you will need a computer. Almost any recent laptop or desktop, pc, linux, or mac, can run the required software. You may need access to a USB port to save your files to a thumb drive or an SD card port. Chromebooks or tablets are not a substitute.
You can download ready to print files from the internet quite easily, but if you have your own idea for a print you will need to render it in a drawing program. You will likely want to use a parametric drafting program to best create your models. There are also software sculpting tools that will create STL files but I have not tried them.
Here are options to try. These two are well supported with tons of video tutorials on youtube.
Once you have a model to print, you will need “Slicer” software to convert your model to GCode your printer can understand. Slicers generally take STL files as input. Most slicers are pretty easy to use. Create a new project and import/open your stl files. Arrange them on the print plate and slice.
Finally when you are printing you will want the best interface possible. For my Ender 3 Pro I use Octoprint. Octoprint connects to your printer and controls it remotely. You can use the web interface to upload files to print and track print progress and status. You can use additional plugins to create time lapse videos of your prints or send you an SMS when printing is done. Watch or check on your print remotely via webcam.
Your workflow will be as such:
What would you like to see more info about?