3D printers - getting started

This topic is closed.
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts
    Internet Fact Checker
    • Dec 2002
    • 21158
    • Katy, TX, USA.
    • BT3000 vintage 1999

    3D printers - getting started

    I'm curious about 3D printing.

    What are some entry machines
    Are they standardized - files, control software or is every one different
    What is a price range for a decent machine
    How big a work size do you need
    is it noisy or smelly or smoky? I cant use my small laser carver indoors, it spews very fine smoke dust it would stink up the house my wife has nose like a bloodhound. It sends my dylos particle counter in the garage through the roof... hits 9000 x100 particles per cu ft when a still room has 130 x100 particles per cu ft Using the table saw, router or miter saw without DC on only makes it hit 2000 or 3000 x100 particles per cu ft.

    What are some brands to look at.
    MLCS has Flash forge adventurer. any good?
    Why are some enclosed and some open frame? Smoke, noise, etc?
    Are build times measured in hours sometimes?
    Last edited by LCHIEN; 01-30-2023, 05:18 AM.
    Loring in Katy, TX USA
    If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
    BT3 FAQ - https://www.sawdustzone.org/forum/di...sked-questions
  • dbhost
    Slow and steady
    • Apr 2008
    • 9270
    • League City, Texas
    • Ryobi BT3100

    I work with open source, so open source designs tend to be more of my thing, and then tend to be less expensive as they are honestly oreinted around tinkerers... My printer is a Voxelab Aquila which is basically the same thing as a Creality Ender 3, almost all of the compoents are the same, just slight variations in firmware.

    The 3D designs are exported typically to and I don't kjnow that the format neame stands for, but .STL files, those .STL files get imported into slicer software that you have to configure for your printer. My printer MFG has their own slicer software called VoxelMaker, but they actually recommend the industry standard Utilimaker Cura. You simply import the .STL file you want to print, orient it the way you want, set your adhesion / fan speed settings (this takes some getting used to) to where you want, and then slice, it will save a file that is basically the instructions for your printer, and then take the micro SD card from your computer you saved those slice files and stick it into your printer, and then print it out....

    It should be noted, I printed a LOT the first 4 months I had my printer, including a custom print I am waiting until next month to use (A pot for planting lillies that I am going to place on Debi's grave).

    You will likely find you go through an obnoxious amount of filament for the first few months. It isn't fast.
    Last edited by dbhost; 01-30-2023, 11:05 AM.
    Please like and subscribe to my YouTube channel. Please check out and subscribe to my Workshop Blog.


    • nicer20
      Established Member
      • Sep 2007
      • 365
      • Dublin, CA
      • BT3100

      Loring, glad to hear you are considering 3D printing. I am new to this but let me share some stuff I have picked up from jumping into this since the holidays.

      First there are two classes of machines in general -

      1. Inexpensive (starting $200 - $300 range): The Creality Ender 3 (one I bought is Ender 3 V2) and Voxelab Aquila (Dave has) are in this class. Creality Ender 3 is an open source machine that has spurred a lot of companies like Voxelab to have clones of their own. These are pretty much identical machines.

      The important characteristic of these machines are - they are not a consumer electronics device that will work smoothly right out of the box and continue to do so. These are tinkerer machines that needs involvement in building & in maintaining them as much as they will be a tool for 3D printing.

      2. More expensive machines in $800-$1000 and above range that are more like work right out of the box & continue to work more flawlessly. Also, come with better customer service etc. I do not have an extensive list here because I primarily focused on the Category 1 for many reasons including justifying "cost of hobby". But for your investigation here are a couple of names - Prusa MK3S+, Bamboo Labs etc.

      Knowing you and your tremendous prowess in making and fixing things I am sure you will easily navigate waters in category 1. It is a category (especially the Creality Ender) is a huge community support in every possible area (hardware, software, materials etc.) and on every possible platform (reddit, facebook, discord groups etc.). These machines also have plethora of upgrades from the manufacturers themselves, 3rd party and aftermarket improvement makers.

      Like I said, for me the machine building and tinkering with it is as much of a fun as the 3D printing itself.

      I think at least I have whetted your appetite enough to look into this

      Please feel free to DM me if you need any info or any way I can help with my limited knowledge.


      • cwsmith
        Veteran Member
        • Dec 2005
        • 2745
        • NY Southern Tier, USA.
        • BT3100-1

        Hi Loring,

        I am just starting to get into 3D printing myself. I'm short of time at the moment but I'll address the issues tonight, at least as much as I know. A great place to look is on YouTube. Hundreds of posts on that subject, but my favorite is Aurora Tech (https://www.youtube.com/c/auroratech). I find this young lady not only charming, but highly informative with the weekly posts that she does with her kid brother.

        I was being helped with by a very nice fellow over on the Ridgid forum, but that was abandoned at the beginning of this month by Ridgid. Unfortunately "Bob D" passed away back in November. I did copy most of that thread before the site was shutdown.

        Because of Bob's help, I ordered a Prusa MK3S Mk2 printer along with their enclosure. Prusa is located in the Czech Republic and their machines have been top rated for a few years now. Basically their highly dependable, and more reliable with less tinkering. My Prusa packages are still sitting in the boxs and are waiting in my shed for my grandson and I to assemble. That hasn't happened yet, and I'm frustrated by the delay in his enthusiasm; I'm about to just plunge into this by myself.

        You asked about the enclosure need. Many filaments smell, and some, especially ABS put out harmful odors. The enclosure contain that to some degree. On my Prusa enclosure, I ordered it with a filtering device. The enclosure also protects the printer from dust and during operation protects the object that you are printing from sudden temperature changes and air movement that would adversly effect the model during the build layering.

        Price? They are all over the place, as is quality. The Prusa is competively expensive. My total expense for the Prusa kit (it comes in both a 'kit' as well as pre-assembled [$300 more]) and the enclosure, was just less than $1,500. That was with shipping, customs, and taxes. The build area is 8 x 8 x 10 inches. All the parts are what is referred to as 'open source'. You can buy a number of 3D printers for far less. I ordered the Prusa on Bob D's recommendation because I'm more interested in producing objects like parts, than I am having something that needs to be fiddled with all the time. We shall see how that pans out!

        I check back in later this evening and see what questions I can answer.

        Have a great day,

        Think it Through Before You Do!


        • cwsmith
          Veteran Member
          • Dec 2005
          • 2745
          • NY Southern Tier, USA.
          • BT3100-1

          Hello again Loring,,

          The questions you asked with my answers:

          What are some entry machines:

          Everybody has an opinion, so here is a link to start with: https://www.pcmag.com/picks/the-best...ne6Y2l&tes t_variant=a
          You could just go and Google the subject, "Best low cost 3D printers" and you'll get a number of links with reviews, opinions, tests, etc. It's like a never ending list.

          When I started looking about five or so years ago, it was almost overwhelming. I'd look on YouTube via the many stories and recommendations and found so many machines, trade shows, recommendations, video demonstrations, etc. Too many were fake, products that never made it to market or were way out of my price range. I checked local and found only two electronic stores that carried them, very little support though; and now both stores are closed. We also have a place here called "Maker Space", which is basically of hobbyist with lots of time and money on their hands. They have everything from 3D printers to wood and metal working tools. Problem is that membership cost's $50 a month and their hours are restricted.

          Are they standardized - files, control software or is every one different : In my opinion they're standard only to the point of types and honestly I can't really give you a specific label for each. The most common is the kind that uses a frame that provides for the extruder to move horizontally above the build table, and at the same time elevate veritically for the next line to be printed. At the same time the bed on which you are printing moves back and forth. The total movement is along the X, Y, and Z axis. Even asking the question on Google, you'll get different answers: https://www.google.com/search?q=3d+p...1SQJL_enUS849U S849&oq=3D+printer+types&aqs=chrome.0.0i51 2l10.6858j1j15&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

          Regarding file formats, I think that all 3D printers require the *.STL file format. You can produce that with many different programs and there is a growing list of those. But once you produce a 3D drawing, you must import it into a "Slicer" program. The Slicer is a software program that reads the STL file and sets it up so the particular printer will know how to instruct the printer to not only position it correctly on the printer's build plate, but also allow you to instruct the printer from everything from print layer height to the amount of fill density, thickness, etc. The printer basically has a digital controller which interprets your file, sets the parameters of the actual print process, etc. Many printer mfg's provide a "Slicer", but there are also 3rd party slicers and in many cases, like Prusa, their Slicer software is useable on other printers.

          What is a price range for a decent machine: From my very limited experience, prices range from three or four hundred dollars and up. Many are in kits that you assemble yourself and all are subject to personal opinion, with or without experience. Check out the link I gave you earlier for Aurora Tech and look at her many videos. There are so many opinions and videos out there that it's really astounding.

          How big a work size do you need: It depends on what you want to print. If you're looking forward to making machine parts, replacing those things around the house that break and no longer can be found on the market, you probably don't need anything really in the way of a large build area. But if you're going to make the crazy art objects and toys that you often see, the size of the built can be rather large. The build size on my Prusa is 9.84 x 8.3 x 8.3 inches. That's probably smaller by an inch or two with other popular printers today. But remember, 3D printing today is basically plastic and so parts can be glued together. For example, many printers (if not all) would allow you to take a larger object and print up or out to a specific point and then halt the print, remove the object, and then start a second print to continue the object size. For example, you could have an object (like say the Eiffel Tower, in which you could program the print the bottom, and then stop at layer 400 and then start again at layer 401 which would print the top, which you could then glue to the bottom piece.

          Is it noisy or smelly or smoky? Yes and Yes. It depends on the printer of course, like almost everything else, the design and quality matters a lot. Also the maintenance, lubrication, motor quality, etc. etc. Having a good enclosure helps, but I don't think I'd locate my printer next to the bedroom, living room or kitchen. Smoke, I can't say that I've seen that reported, but remember, you're melting plastic. Some plastics, like ABS, will emit noxious fumes, others not so much. It's like woodworking, some things are annoying (especially to spousesd) and others not. Of course we're talking about extrusion printers. Resin printers (where the print is actually formed in a liquid bath of resin, are even more noxious, or so I've read.

          What are some brands to look at. Dozens of brands worldwide. Look at the links I posted above and please check out YouTube.

          MLCS has Flash forge adventurer. any good? I don't really know. "Flash Forge" has been around for several years and so I imagine they are right up there in the ratings.

          Why are some enclosed and some open frame? Fumes of course are something to consider, but more importantly is the need for containment so that the surrounding area doesn't effect the quality of the print. You are melting a thin line of plastic filament and the temperature consistancy from the point of the heated nozzle to that of the build plate must be consistant. If the build plate temperature isn't just right, the extruded filament won't stick and may come undone from the model you have been printing. Open a door, window, have someone walk by, get too close and that air movement in the room to lower the temperature, messing things up. Likewise you don't want dust or other intrusions into the print area.

          Likewise, you don't want to be smelling the heated filament, have your favorite pet or even your loved ones, get too close, interfere, etc.

          Some manufactures also sell enclosures and of course there are third-party enclosures. You can also build your own and there are plans available, or you could just wing it on your own. One plan that I know of utilizes a table that can be purchased at Ikea. (I'll have to look for that and give you a link, if you'd like.)​

          Are build times measured in hours sometimes?​ The bigger or more intricate the build, the more time it takes. Depends on what your printing of course, I think 3D printing should be thought of in hours, not minutes.

          3D printing will have it's challenges, but there are also safeguards. A good enclosure is part of that, as it contains the print process, helps regulate and stabilize the print environment. I also don't have hours to spend watching, so my printing needs are going to be small objects, parts I imagine. My printer is going to be located out in my workshed where I don't have to worry about odors and noise. But still there will be times when I can't be there watching the process. So I'm planning on adding a camera with which I can monitor the print progress from my phone. Hopefully the Prusa will be reliable to allow that kind of confidence. One challenge I have is that my in-house router isn't strong enough to receive in the shed. Getting a signal booster or repeater will be essential.

          Hopefully in the next week or so I can start building my Prusa. If the grandson, (soon to be 24) doesn't find the time, I will proceed on my own. I bought this fully with the idea that him and I will work together. But he recently changed jobs and his focus appears to be drifting.

          I hope that I've answered some of your questions. I am only just beginning to learn. Here's a link to the Prusa website: https://www.prusa3d.com/product/orig...YaAkipEALw_wcB

          It may well be more than you are looking for, but it does provide some additional information.

          I hope this helps,

          Last edited by cwsmith; 01-31-2023, 10:28 PM. Reason: additional info
          Think it Through Before You Do!


          • LCHIEN
            LCHIEN commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks CW, for spending the time for your informative answer.

          • cwsmith
            cwsmith commented
            Editing a comment
            You are always welcome Loring.

            Hope your week is going well,