Is a 3D Printer Hard To Use & Learn?
At 3DSourced we’ve covered everything 3D printing and 3D since 2017. Our team has interviewed the most innovative 3D printing experts, tested and reviewed more than 20 of the most popular 3D printers and 3D scanners to give our honest recommendations, and written more than 500 3D printing guides over the last 5 years.
- 3D printing basics: 3D printing is not hard to use or learn. You need a 3D printer, a 3D model, and a 3D slicer software to print your objects.
- 3D modeling options: You can create your own 3D models using software like Tinkercad, or download premade models from online platforms like Thingiverse.
- 3D printing tips: Choose high-quality filament, such as PLA, for better results. Ventilate your printing area or use an enclosure to avoid fumes. Follow online tutorials or take classes to learn more.
- 3D printing fun: Join online communities of 3D printing enthusiasts, experiment with different designs and settings, and enjoy your printing sessions.
I often see beginners asking how difficult 3D printing is to learn, and it’s a major worry for brand-new makers looking to buy their first 3D printer.
The truth is, a 3D printer is not hard to use or learn. The software (known as 3D slicers) are very easy to use, and 3D printer kits can now be assembled within 20 minutes.
There are some times when you’ll need to have patience, such as when troubleshooting if something does go wrong with your 3D printer, such as a clogged nozzle, warping, or first-layer issues.
But overall, 3D printers are easy to learn, fairly simple to use, and do not have a steep learning curve.
Designing 3D models for 3D printing is the trickiest part, but you can download pre-made models and print those if you don’t have any 3D design skills.
Why is 3D Printing so Hard to Learn?
3D printing is difficult to learn mainly because the 3D modeling stage requires architectural, geometric, and visual art skills. It also takes some time to wrap your head around printer calibration and best practices for specific printing materials.
Fortunately, there are a few tips and techniques that can make 3D printing fun and easy, even if it’s your first time using a 3D printer. Let’s dive into some of these.
How To Make 3D Printing as Easy as Possible
With the right advice, 3D printing shouldn’t be hard for anyone. Here is how you can make 3D printing incredibly simple.
Buy an easy-to-use 3D printer
Not all 3D printers are the same. Some are created to work on complex projects, making them a nightmare for beginners. They often use 3D printing technologies that require extra caution and practice.
FDM 3D printers are the simplest to use for beginners, though resin printing has become far more accessible over the last few years. FDM printers and their software are ideal, as many of the best settings are automated to save you hours finding the right settings or troubleshooting printing problems.
Some beginner-friendly 3D printers include:
Some features to look out for in an easy-to-use 3D printer include:
- Ease of assembly
- Simple 3D printing software
- Automated features such as bed auto-leveling
- Large online community of users
Use simple software
There are two main types of software you’ll be using:
- 3D modeling software: if you’re designing your own models before printing
- 3D slicer software: for slicing the model so you can 3D print it in layers
3D modeling is the process of using 3D modeling software to create a digital model of the 3D object you want to make.
When you’ve finished creating the model, you can save it onto a USB stick and plug the stick into a 3D printer (or transmit via WiFi if your printer has it).
There’s a bit of a learning curve with any 3D modeling software. But some software is easier to learn than others. It still doesn’t mean you should settle for software with only basic functions just because it’s easy to use.
The best 3D modeling software for beginners is Tinkercad. It has a simple user interface that lets you drag and drop multiple basic shapes to create a 3D model, just as you would with Legos. Even kids find it easy to play with, so it’s no surprise that it’s the most common 3D modeling software in schools.
From there, your 3D slicer handles the settings you print with, such as how tall each layer is when you print, how fast you 3D print, and many other settings.
The most user-friendly slicing software is Cura, with built-in settings for most printers so you don’t need to adjust anything if you’re unsure what they do. To learn more, we also have an article on the best slicer settings, as well as a list of the best 3D slicing software.
Download premade models
Mastering 3D modeling puts you miles ahead of most 3D printing enthusiasts, but it requires plenty of time and experimentation.
Luckily, there’s a cure for this if you just want to get started quickly — downloading premade models that someone has already modeled and uploaded online. Now you can skip through the mental gymnastics of designing your own model from scratch.
You can find premade models of anything, from action figures to fashion accessories, and common household items. If you’re wondering what you can make with a 3D printer, check out these trusted sites for premade 3D models to get some inspiration. We’ve also written about the 50+ coolest things you can 3D print, with download links for each file.
Use high-quality filaments
Your choice of 3D printing filament can cause either pride or frustration in your 3D print.
The problem with poor-quality filament is that you can do everything right but still end up with a messy print. But high-quality filament ensures that your printer runs smoothly and your prints come out right.
By far, the most popular filament for both beginners and professionals is PLA. It’s an affordable, general-purpose filament that’s compatible with many printers and easy to work with. It’s also biodegradable and comes in a wide range of colors.
But being the most used filament on the planet means there are countless PLA brands out there. Our selection of the best PLA filaments will help you cut through the noise and make an excellent choice.
Ensure there is good ventilation
It’s important to put safety first. 3D printers work by melting plastic filament and pushing it through a narrow nozzle to create an object layer by layer.
This process may release some fumes that can be hazardous, especially if you’re using a filament like ABS.
Good ventilation ensures that you don’t inhale large amounts of these vapors. Before you print, place your 3D printer in an open space that allows enough fresh air in and used air out. If you can, do your printing outdoors.
If ventilation is a serious problem for you, you can switch to an enclosed 3D printer or cover your printer with a DIY 3D printer enclosure. They keep 100% of the fumes trapped away while drastically reducing any noise from the 3D printer.
Get good safety equipment
You can take your safety game to the next level by investing in some safety equipment for your 3D printing sessions. Some items you can add to your safety stack are:
- Nitrile gloves
- Eye protection goggles
What is the Best Way to Learn 3D Printing?
Knowing your way around a 3D printer is a long-term goal. The most important thing is to enjoy your printing sessions while you get better. Here are a few fun ways to learn 3D printing.
Online tutorials help you understand basic and complex 3D printing topics from experts around the world.
They’re available everywhere on the internet. At the click of a button, you’ll find how-to guides, quick-fix tips, and best practices for virtually anything related to 3D printing.
Learning how each of the slicer settings affects your print is one of the best investments of time you can make. We linked to our article on this above, but you can also find hundreds of great YouTube videos explaining them if you prefer video
Attend workshops or classes
Online tutorials are okay, but workshops and classes provide you with real-life 3D printing skills and hidden industry gems.
Whether you want to learn deeply about 3D printers, monetize your 3D printing hobby, or become an expert at printing certain things, getting a structured 3D printing education is the way to go.
Join a 3D printing community
As 3D printing grows in popularity, so does its community. Feel free to join the thousands of 3D printing professionals, hobbyists, and newbies on online platforms like Quora, Reddit, and Facebook.
These communities are usually responsive and supportive when you’re dealing with a printing issue because they’ve probably experienced it too.
As you browse through other people’s contributions on these sites, you’ll find a ton of useful information that you can sometimes add to your own 3D printing playbook.
Experiment and practice
The best way to become skilled in 3D printing is to practice, practice, practice. With time, things will come naturally, and you’ll be able to print almost anything on command.
There’s also a weird level of creativity that comes with experimenting with your 3D printer, so don’t shy away from trying eccentric designs and settings.
How long does it take to learn to use a 3D printer?
It can take a couple of days to learn the basics of a new 3D printer. After a few months of regular practice, you’ll have a good understanding of 3D printing and your printer. For 3D modeling, it usually takes years to become skilled at it.
Why is 3D printing difficult?
3D printing can get difficult if you’re designing your 3D models from scratch. Understanding how printer settings affect printing outcomes also takes time and some 3D printing technologies are relatively harder to use than others, making it difficult for new users to learn 3D printing.
Do 3D-printed things break easily?
The strength of a 3D-printed object depends on the material from which it was made. PLA is brittle and breaks easily. But nylon, PETG, and ABS are generally resistant to pressure and are more durable.