A Beginner's Thoughts on 3D Printing: Fear not and onwards!

Despite 3D printing technologies becoming known to us around a decade ago (it was invented much, much earlier though, like in the 1980s), for many people it is still rather new and distant (we don't really see a 3D printer on a daily basis). Many turn away after looking at the printer's dauntingly long setting page. There are just too many specifications to be "set". However, I assure you, there is absolutely nothing to fear about. Yes! Nothing to fear! Why? Then come closer, and listen to my tale of me and 3D printing...

A long time ago, in an apartment far far away..."3D printing? You can build literally everything with this?! And at home?! Count me in!" Yes, my motivations to board this ship were a piece of CCTV news and a candid heart for science. I immediately started trials with all I had; the application 3D Builder which allows you to cut and merge shapes to get the final "sculpture," but I never had the chance to get my hands on a printer to test my ideas. After years of preparation in front of my screen, Shapiro Design Lab's workshop at U-M gave me the long-awaited opportunity. 

"Wow, the setting page is lonnnnng......"

That was my first thought when I embarked on my first print in the Shapiro design lab. Let me be honest here, I was a little surprised. There is a value for the support angle, shape, numbers, rafts, skirts, brims, hop distance and, well, you get the idea. It is very long. However, just as I was struggling to figure out the settings, our amazing lab staff came to my rescue. It turned out that over the years members of the 3D printing community had figured out a set of equations to calculate each value and all we need to do is to watch, only intervening when settings go wrong (the machines aren't perfect after all). To summarise, the process of 3D printing is: import your model, check if anything looks wrong, check if the settings are desirable, and click print. Simple and straightforward, nothing to worry about. With some twists and patience, I cheerfully returned with my first ever 3D print. Though it was just a simple piece from Thingverse, an online community for 3D printing and design enthusiasts, it is a critical milestone in my 3D printing career.

Thank you for bringing me into this field! And thank you U-M for presenting this opportunity!

To those who are still pondering whether to join the greater 3D printing world: fear not and onwards!


White 3D Printed Fox Character
Fox character 3D printed in white filament