Getting Started with 3D Printing, the first print

Recently, we got a Makerbot Replicator 2 at work, and I’ve been spending a bit of my free time learning my way around 3D printing.

The initial setup was pretty straight forward. Take it out of the box. Put it on the counter top you are going to use, plug in the power, put the snap the build plate in, connect the tube to the extruder on one end and to the back of the printer on the other end, feed the filament through the tube, and run the startup routine.

The startup routine displays on the little display screen on the printer the steps to start printing your first object, which you select from a few objects stored on an SD card that comes with the printer. Before you start printing, you need to level the build plate. You twist a few adjustment screws on the support below the build plate. It was fairly easy to adjust, much easier than tuning a guitar. We selected a comb to build.

We watched the extruder move back and forth across the build plate, squirting out a thin line of melted plastic. These lines combined, and we ended up with a comb.

This is where we ran into the first problem. The comb stuck to the build plate. After a little experimentation, we discovered that the easiest thing to do is to remove the build plate, by unsnapping it at the back of the printer and lifting it forward. Then, using a sharp knife and a bit of finesse, we finally got the comb off, without much damage to the comb.

The build plate is smooth on one side and frosted on the other. We had the frosted side up. We flipped the build plate over and tried another comb. It also stuck. Apparently the side of the build plate that is up doesn’t seem to matter.

Reading online, I found a lot of people have reported this problem and suggests are all over the place. Some say lowering the build plate a little. Some talk about heating or cooling the build plate, or using a different temperature for doing the build. Others spoke about using painters tape and putting down a piece of paper on the build plate.

I’ve taken to using left over printer paper and taping it on with scotch tape. This works pretty well. For bigger objects, or if I don’t tape well, the paper sometimes lifts up a little adding a little bit of a curve to the object base, but this has been minor.

One of my coworkers later asked how difficult it was to set up. It is probably a little less difficult than setting up a DVD player for your home entertainment system. If you’re comfortable with technology, you should be able to do it easily. If not, you should be able to get a friend to set it up for you.

Of course, setting up a printer, and designing interesting objects are two very different things, and I’ll get into some of that in later blog posts.

Do you have a 3D printer? How’s it been going for you? Have you been thinking about getting one? Do you have any questions about 3D printing?

(Categories: )