Remember when having your own personal printer at home was a big deal? If you were born after 1990, probably not. But these days printing has evolved. Now you can do so much more than print out documents and color photos on your home printer. With the introduction of 3D printers to the consumer marketplace, you can now create 3D objects in virtual space on your computer and send the file to a machine to be printed into 3-dimensional existence. If you’re a fan of sci-fi shows like Star Trek, the replicator might come to mind. Of course, as a beginner you may be excited to try 3D printing, but understandably concerned about the price tag and the learning curve. Fear not; prices are coming down and with plenty of online tutorials, forums, and some trial and error, novices can quickly learn to create beautiful, practical, and incredible 3D objects with a¬†3D printer. Here are some tips to get you started.

  1. Start small. If you’re not sure how much you’re going to enjoy 3D printing and you don’t want to splurge until you know your level of commitment to a new hobby, it’s probably best to start small. The good news is that 3D printing has become so popular that you can now get small, consumer models for just a couple hundred dollars (not including printing materials). Of course, larger, more complex 3D printers could cost you several thousand dollars. But if you get really into your 3D printing projects you can always upgrade.
  2. Pick your medium. There are many different kinds of materials you could choose when you start printing 3D objects. You’ll probably want to make sure your equipment is rated for certain materials before you purchase them, but you could end up using a variety of plastics, bio-resins, metal, ceramics, and even gypsum. The objects you plan to make could also play a role in the materials you choose, so some amount of planning is advisable.
  3. Try templates. You’re not the first person to try out 3D printing, so you don’t necessarily have to rely on trial and error to get things done. There is no shortage of templates available online to get you started creating 3D objects with your printer. Some are produced by 3D printer manufacturers while others have been designed by users. And with a little searching you’re bound to find plenty of projects to try (or modify), not to mention some that you probably never even thought of.
  4. Break up big projects. Any time you’re creating a large or complex project it’s a good idea to break it up into smaller sections that you can print and assemble after the fact. The last thing you want is to spend hours printing a large piece only to have something go wrong just before the printing process is complete.
  5. Check your equipment frequently. Whether you’re using a TriMet¬†scanner to make 3D models or you’re adjusting your 3D printer, it’s always a good idea to make sure your equipment is clean and properly calibrated.