7 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started 3D Printing

Awhile back I got a 3D printer. A small m3d. It prints to about 4.5 x 4.5 inches at the largest, but was relatively inexpensive as far as 3d printers are concerned and came completely built – a must for me. I recently found myself listing off all the things I wish I had known going into 3D printing. Sure there would still be trial and error involved, but knowing these things up front would have saved me a ton of misprints. So, I thought I’d share those things here, in case they prove useful to you all.

As a disclaimer, these things may not apply to all 3d printer models. I can only speak for my own experience.

To understand the below you’ll need to have a very basic knowledge of the 3D printing process and terminology.

  1. At the same time you order your printer, order a tool for removing prints from the print bed – they look like little spatulas or palette knives. Also get a stand to hold your filament reel.
  2. If you don’t know anything about digital modeling or 3d design, Tinkercad is a great place to start. A level up from Tinkercad is 123D. If you want to try out your printer without any design work first, check out the models for download on Thingaverse.
  3. When designing, keep in mind that minimum print width is 1mm. Anything smaller than this the printer will attempt to print, but your model will be weak and possibly full of holes. If you download something that is already only 1mm wide and scale it down in your printer software, just remember it will get thinner. Instead, import into a design software and rescale from there.
  4. If your print isn’t sticking to the print bed and increasing the print temperature isn’t making a difference, put down strips of standard blue painters tape to cover the print bed. On top of the painters tape use a glue stick, then begin your print again. It works like magic.
  5. If your printer allows for loading filament externally or internally, always opt for external. It makes it much easier to load, switch out and fix jams.
  6. For my specific printer, if I use a raft with an item that has a solid base, I can never remove the full raft later. Thus while I always elect to use wave bonding, I only use rafts on items with walls and no floor.
  7. Support material is meant to be removed from the print after it finishes printing. Anything support material connects to that is thin is liable to break when ripping off the support material. Select this option sparingly and only when you feel the print won’t come out correctly otherwise.

My current supplies (affiliate links):

A couple more tips:

  • Both enamel and acrylic paint will work with 3D printed plastic. You may need to coat the acrylic paint after with a matte medium or varnish as it can scratch off.
  • Your print will have a bit of texture from the layers of plastic. I have not tried this myself, but have read that the best way to get a smooth print is to dip it in resin.

Find me on Thingaverse here.

Please do let me know if you have any questions. I’ll do my best to answer or point you in the right direction.

7 thoughts on “7 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started 3D Printing

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    1. Yes. Although mine is a less expensive model. While still pricey as most 3d printers are at this point, I believe eventually I’ll break even in a sense. For my photography I use lots of small, plastic things. Now, instead of searching for exactly what I’m hoping for and purchasing it, I can design and print something much more precisely right. Does it stop me from purchasing any new toys/props? No, but it’s allowed me more freedom in my photographic work for sure.

  1. Yep, 3d printing can be a lot of fun. We were doing it at my old job, possibilities are endless… At least if one can afford to play with it, it’s not exactly the cheapest hobby…


    You have tiny typo, site is thingiverse (if that is what you meant)… Lots of great stuff there!

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