If you’re new to 3D printing; you just got a 3D printer and haven’t yet made your first print, or you’ve been thinking about getting a 3D printer and you’re curious about what it’s going to be like. You might be getting nervous. I’m sure most people get anxious about making that first print. I certainly did. All three times! Yes, three! I had three first prints. To tell the story in one blog, would be too long and no one would read, so I’m splitting up and naming each part. This way you’ll be able to find the parts that interest you. Hopefully you’ll find something worth your time in every part!!
I’ve been a maker most of my life, but I’m old enough to have been a maker before they were called that. Before “Maker” we had names like “Do-It-Yourselfer” that evolved into “DIYer” and the stuff we made was called homemade, homespun, handcrafted and things like that, but no matter what you called it, I enjoyed making things. Anything and everything! You get a good feeling about yourself when you make something. You get a confidence, knowing you have an ability to craft something if you need it. In my younger years, I built houses with my Father and the best feeling I ever had was watching a family move their entire lives into a house my Father and I made, by ourselves. Well, we did need help with the electrical wiring and the roofing, but the rest of the house we made all by ourselves and knowing a family, the parents, trusting our work with every aspect of their lives and especially the lives of their daughters, really meant a lot to me. Knowing my hands are capable of building something like that gives me a confidence that hard to shake.
It’s the same with 3D printing. There’s a good feeling that comes from having an idea, drawing it in a CAD program and printing out a real and tangible object. It feels amazing to have something go from being an idea in my head to a physical object that can be held in the hand. But to get to those good feelings it seems you must go through some scary feelings first. Knowing you’re about to create your first print can cause a fair amount of anxiety for many people. There is a lot that can go wrong with a 3D print if you’re new to it and more to go wrong, means more to worry about. More to worry about, means more worrying and that means more anxious lows in the beginning, but that lead to higher highs in the end. Another reason great feelings come from 3D printing, is that the printed objects can look so professional and made in plastic, a material that once only came from store bought things. We’re not used anything made of plastic that didn’t come from a factory. So, right away, being made of plastic is a head start to looking machine made, opposed to wood, metal or some other material we’re used to seeing things made from that are made at home.
Is that why I got into 3D printing? So that I could make things that looked professionally made? Maybe that’s a little bit of it, but really I wanted to get into 3D printing because I had to get into it! I’ve always identified with Michael Keaton’s character in the movie “Night Shift”. If you haven’t seen that movie, his character claims to be an ‘idea man’, a person who is so filled with good ideas, he comes up with new ideas constantly and can in a moment’s notice. When I heard him say he is an idea man, I instantly identified with that character because I’ve always felt like that about myself, but I’d never put a label on it before then. I honestly don’t know if everyone is like this, I’m always coming up with new ways of doing things better and ideas that can improve the world, my world or just be fun. Hand in hand with new ideas is learning new things. I love learning and seeing what I can do. When I was young, I wondered what I was capable of doing, what were my limits? I’ve spent my whole life trying to find those limits. I’m still looking.
BEFORE THERE WAS 3DP, THERE WAS CNC AND WHAT IS EITHER GOOD FOR.
What has all this got to do with 3D printers and 3D printing? Before the development of 3D printers, the only way I could have ever to hope to make many of my ideas was with CNC, Computer Numeric Control. If you’re not sure what CNC is: it’s a subtractive manufacturing method, where a computer controls a machine lathe capable of shaving metal into a designed part. CNC is an expensive method that requires serious training. You won’t find many CNC machines in many home garages or workshops. But, lots of things are made by CNC. They can make just about anything and what they can’t make, can be made by the machines the CNC machines make. 3D Printers are direct competition to this. They are much less expensive than CNC machines (even when they were too expensive for home use) and require a lot less training. Before 3D printing started making it into homes, I thought in order to get a lot of my ideas made I’d have to get rich enough to own a CNC machine or at least go to school for it and hope I could find a place that would let me use theirs. Now with 3D printers becoming affordable enough to own one at home, I can make most of the things I once needed a CNC machine for and a whole lot more than that. What can a 3D printer make? Pardon the cliché, but what can’t it make? 3D Printers can make just about anything. You can’t even say they are only limited by the size of their build volume. I recently saw a video series with one of my video mentors, James Bruton of XRobots set a Guiness World Record by 3D printing a 12 foot statue of himself and you can bet he doesn’t own a 12 foot tall 3D printer.
For the other parts of the series: