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Suggestions for breaking into 3d printing

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    Suggestions for breaking into 3d printing

    I'm sure this was a topic covered extensively on the old forum, but I'm trying to get into 3d printing and not quite sure where to start. That's a pretty broad ask so here's some info specific to me...

    Where I'm at
    The itch seems to hit me every other year to get into 3d printing. I do a bunch of research on machines, materials and CAD softwares to use, get overwhelmed and put off getting into the game at all.

    What I want to do
    I would like to have a machine that could print something the size of an Emek body or lower frame. Smaller projects as well. but for now my interests are in paintball knickknacks and gardening ideas.

    Relevant Experience
    I'm a software developer by trade and I used to be pretty good at photoshop, I wager maybe that can be helpful picking out the right cad software to use?

    I'd like to stay under $500.. but if the absolute perfect machine was out there I could probably go as high as a thousand. I'm not sure if it's better to invest in a crazy nice machine now or get one that just barely gets me in the door and upgrade later as needed.

    So there it is.

    Basically i'm wondering, what machine should I get, what filament should I use and what software is best to get started with?
    Last edited by ford; 11-28-2020, 03:35 PM.

    I personally hire other people out to do the 3D printing for me, it's cheap and plenty of people wouldn't mind taking in some extra work to print your ideas
    Otherwise, some of the cheaper printers are good, but it would be best to upgrade the hot ends and such. I know others on here can tell you more about those.

    For CAD programs, I primarily use Fusion 360 and last I checked it is free for hobbyists, students, and businesses making less than $100k a year. I have friends that use and like TinkerCad and All3dp. I tried getting into blender, but moved on from it as I felt it was more for virtual design.

    Before you go out and buy all the printer stuff, I would suggest learning how to use CAD software. Would hate for you to purchase everything and find out that you just don't want to do it anymore or just would rather let other people deal with the printing part like I do.

    As to what filament to use, I have had great success with ABS and PETG for on the field durability. They are able to take heat without warping (important for down here in Florida) and are durable enough to survive repeated direct hits from paintballs. ABS does produce some nasty smelling fumes, but that can be reduced or eliminated with the right air filter setups, I've heard good things about ABS+ having less smell but usually have others print for me so I couldn't give first hand experience.

    I've heard great things about nylon, but also heard they can be a nightmare to get set up for FDM. SLS and MJF seem to produce some really nice results but the printers are super expensive. Again, I usually hire someone to make those types of parts for me but they are expensive!


      So far as software goes, I'd look no farther than Fusion 360. It's an extremely capable application that's relatively easy to use. Best of all, it's free for non-commercial to use.

      As for filament, I prefer to use PETG for paintball related items. It's durable and resistant to heat (unlike PLA). It's also more forgiving to print with than materials like ABS. Nylon is also a good choice, but your machine will need to be capable of printing at those kinds of temperatures and the filament should be kept in a drybox.

      The printer itself is going to be where things get a bit murky. More than likely, you'll end up buying a printer and start customizing it to fit whatever your specific needs may be. In my case, I'm using a modified Creality Ender 3. Out of the box, these are very capable machines. However, they're not without their shortcomings. With the right upgrades, these things can be amazing machines. In my case, I've upgraded the mainboard to an SKR Mini E3 32-bit board. The display has been updated to a color touchscreen. The extruder and boden tube have been upgraded to an aluminum version with Capricorn tubing. The bed and springs have both been upgraded. I've also installed a BL-Touch ABL sensor. This isn't including upgrades I've printed for it like cable chains, filament guides, and so on. The rabbit hole can get pretty deep.
      My Feedback Thread
      3D Printed Marker Upgrades


        Thanks for the feedback!

        I didn't realize Fusion360 is free for non-commercial use, that's heartening.

        Greatly appreciate the filament suggestions. Getting a machine I can upgrade is something I hadn't thought about as well. Interesting rabbit hole to consider =]


          For the printer, there are a lot of options most of which I can’t really speak to, but about 6 months ago I bought the upgraded version of the Ender 3, the Ender 3 Pro which fixes a lot of the base model issues supposedly for slightly more money. It’s been amazing so far, and cost me $200, printing far better and so far with less trouble than the older more expensive makerbot I was using at work. As a bonus it has great out of the box print settings in cura for different filaments, so you can focus on modeling skills and basics to start with. I have no doubt there are other equally good printers out there now too, I’m surprised how reliable the technology has become over the last few years.


            Ehhhhhh... Fuson360 is kinda free. As the season go on, they take more and more away with functionality. Get in on it now, like the others, f360 is pretty amazeballs. All kinds of great tutorials out there for getting started!

            I learned how to rebuild a broken part on a homebrew bluetooth headset I built pretty quick. 3 iterations and it fit without any issues!
            Fred aka ChoSanJuan
            Team: With Intent
            I drop ship harder to find Kingman parts and 3D Printed items!
            My Feedback


              Im psyched for you man! I don't have a whole lot to add to what others have already said. Basically printing and CAD are learn-as-you-go hobbies. Just pick a printer and software that have high recommendations, and expect some trial and error.

              Looking forward to seeing what you create!


                Something I though of to add: I recently found out that if you are a member of the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA membership is $40/yr), you get a free copy of Solidworks as a perk for your membership. Solidworks is (in my opinion) even better than Fusion360. I'm going to do this soon, I miss Solidworks from my college days.


                • Paintzapper


                  Editing a comment
                  Now that is cool! I've been wanting to learn solidworks for a while now.

                • ford


                  Editing a comment
                  lol, you caught me just as I started running through Fusion360 tutorials! Thanks for the info.

                • boarder2k7


                  Editing a comment
                  Yeah this is one of those little secrets to cheap software you can find now and then. Solidworks is better than Fusion 360 and at only $40 you might as well.

                +1 for Fusion360. I don't own my own printer and just use printing services (shapeways and i.materialise), printing mostly with SLS or MJF. I'm personally not so interested in learning about nozzles and filament, I just want to design the thing and have it (after a couple of weeks) in my hand.


                • Paintzapper


                  Editing a comment
                  Add to that list for SLS and MJF too, I get them to make lots of my stuff.