3D Printing – A Beginner’s Guide
3D printers are a very new technology and as a MOD-t user, you’re one of the first consumers to use one. That’s why you’ve probably been asked these questions by your friends and family:
- Does it just create things out of thin air instantaneously?
- Can you print organs like they do on Grey’s Anatomy?
- Can’t you make candy with a printer?
The answer to all of these questions is “No.” Not because it isn’t possible to print any of these things, but because desktop printers aren’t advanced enough (just yet!) to do so.
But that shouldn’t be a surprise! A decade ago, almost all 3D printers were bulky, expensive, and difficult to use. The calibration and operation processes were tricky and not worth the effort if you were just a casual user. Three decades ago, 3D printing barely existed. The first patent for a printer was filed in the early 1980’s and the first 3D printing patent was awarded to Charles Hull in 1984.
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), the process the MOD-t and most other consumer-oriented printers use, was just patented in 1992. FDM builds models by extruding filament layer by layer. It’s not as high resolution as some more dangerous and expensive methods of printing, and it certainly can’t make martinis like the Replicator from Star Trek, but it’s still an incredibly developed technology for its age.
More and more materials are becoming available for FDM printers and new ways of laying down layers of filament are being developed. The MOD-t itself has pushed the boundaries of 3D printing by using encrypted G-code and a specialized carriage/build tray interaction.
As great as FDM is, it still has some drawbacks. One is filament, which can be fussy and can restrict what materials you can print in. (You can read this blog post to learn how to properly care for filament, though!)
You’ve probably noticed the MOD-t is optimized for PLA – a plant-based filament. While you could certainly print a replica of the aforementioned body part or candy, we don’t suggest printing the real thing. Inserting human tissue into the MOD-t or trying to take a bite out of PLA candy would most likely yield unpleasant results. Besides, where would you even find human tissue? (Don’t answer that.)
The MOD-t is made for homes and schools, so safety and ease-of-use were huge factors in its design. The industrial printers that make rocket engines, titanium pieces, and other metal parts are used by 3D printing experts and have fewer safety features. These printers can use dangerous photopolymers and powders at sometimes incredibly high temperatures to build just about anything. Trust us, you wouldn’t want it in your house.
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and Stereolithography (SLA) use lasers to print. SLS is powder-powered and SLA works with resins. Both processes allow for a wider variety of models, sizes, and materials. They’re also incredibly expensive, with machine price points reaching the hundreds of thousands and, sometimes, millions.
Another issue FDM faces is surface adhesion. The MOD-t is actually one of the easiest printers to use in this regard. You can read this blog post to learn how to properly care for your print surface and optimize your surface adhesion. As a MOD-t user, you have it easy! A lot of other FDM printers require special glues and tapes for every print job. How messy!
You’ve also probably noticed that some geometric shapes are impossible to print. That’s because FDM builds layer-by-layer. Some angles or shapes require the MOD-t to lay a layer on top of nothing. That’s most likely going to fail, even if you have a swaggy, million dollar 3D printer. You can learn how to format your models so they successfully print in this blog post.
Not surprisingly, many folks still have questions about what 3D printing is or why you’d want to use it. Simply put, 3D printers are great for protoyping, customizing, crafting, and creating. You can use your MOD-t to print items from our store and other online marketplaces, or you can design your own products and print them with ease.
If you follow our tips and maintain realistic expectations (i.e.: don’t expect a machine out of Star Trek that can make things appear like a wizard in Harry Potter), you’ll have a wonderful experience with 3D printing and the MOD-t.
Let yourself feel inspired that you’re a part of a brand new frontier. You’re making things you can use out of a spool of plastic. That’s incredible! And now that you have a front row seat to watching this technology improve, don’t let the occasional hiccup stop you from making great things.
Make anything interesting lately? Make sure you share with us via social media using #MadeWithMODt!