3D Printing - Just Do It Already, Ok?


Active Member
I thought I would document a little of my very newbie experiences with 3D printing. I'm having a ball with it and sometimes you just need a little push to try something new.

My wife surprised me this last Christmas with a Printrbot Simple Metal. This is $600 assembled ($539 kit) on Amazon. She knows nothing about printing but knew I wanted at least a 6x6x6" bed, wanted to spend around $500 and wanted decent reviews, which this one has.


Having no experience with 3D printing, it's hard to say how this stacks up against others, but so far, I'm really happy with it. There was zero assembly to do with it and you could get started on your first print fairly quickly. (Watch the large bundle of cables though as mine caught the Y motor and jammed it briefly!)

The fun (or frustrating part) is the software. Note that nothing comes with this printer, not even instructions. The Printrbot site contains all of the instructions, usually in the form of videos, that you will need. Printrbot recommends using Repetier, a freeware piece of printing software that has Slic3r built in. (Slic3r is the software that takes your 3D model and "slices" it into the layers that will be printed.) Somehow, I got one decent print out of Repetier, then the rest kept coming out like crap. The large TARDIS in the picture below was the last thing I printed in Repetier. It literally has the consistency of Shredded Wheat as the layers of filaments are not melting into each other. I could crush it in my hand if I wanted. Thus, I don't use Repetier any longer (although I do keep it ready for a few uses) as I switched to Cura, another freeware printer utility. Cura has been making spectacular prints for me. However, it's interface sucks so when I need to do manual operations like "homing" the X,Y and Z coords, heating the filament to push several mm through the extruder, etc, I kill it and go back to Repetier.

Here are some of the things I've printed.


The small round coin in the front (which is a Mandalorian coin but you won't be able to see it in the pic) was the first Cura print I made and it sold me. It's very solid with nice, clean lines. I then did the dragon, which took about 2 hours. Also, very solid compared to Shredded Wheat TARDIS. I know that it's just gcode settings and Repetier can be adjusted but I haven't hit it perfectly yet. The hardest part about this printer is setting the Z axis height and the help videos from Printrbot aren't very helpful. I've made some other assorted things like knobs and wrenches, batarangs, etc. Note that there have been plenty of printer fails along the way! Fortunately, not a lot of waste though. The first "OMG" moment was when I found a .STL file for a Nintendo DS stylus and printed one to replace what my daughter lost. The printed piece fit PERFECTLY into her DS. It looks like the original stylus.

I printed this out for my boy, who is a big fan of The Flash (and this is the RPF, after all), and we decided to do our first paint test to see how PLA plastic holds up. I didn't have any white primer, so I started with a white primer / paint. I had gray primer, but I really didn't want a dull base coat. I then did a spray metallic gold but it wasn't shiny enough so I did one coat of Testor's metallic gold. It came out pretty nice, we think. I could have sanded better but this was a test. It's really tough to see what you need to sand on the clear filament. By the way, you can purchase all different colors of filament so I could have done this in yellow, if I had that color.


The printer comes with a small amount of PLA, which we used pretty quickly. I purchased a new roll from Amazon for $30 which was HUGE. One of the great things about 3D printing, is the amount of things that you can print FOR your printer. The Printrbot Simple Metal does not come with a spool holder. So, I looked up some different variations, and found this project on Thingverse. It uses 5/16 bolts through roller skate bearings to spin the spool as the motor pulls it. I printed out the base which attaches perfectly to the two vertical support posts and added the hardware I got from the hardware store. This has been instrumental in allowing me to do "walkway prints" where I don't have to babysit the filament so it doesn't bind or kink.


The big project that I'm working on now is the Infinity Orb from Guardians of the Galaxy. It's 6 pieces (excluding the stand or stands, depending on how I want to go with this). I have four of the pieces done here.

IMG_4966.JPG IMG_4967.JPG

This represents 24 hours worth of solid printing. There are 2 inner pieces, 2 outer, and 2 rings. I printed the outer piece today and it took 13 hours. Yikes. I'll probably begin primer and paint on half of this tomorrow while waiting for the remaining 19 hours to print.

Aside from there's a couple of tools I would highly recommend you getting, pictured below.


I don't know how I've lived without a digital caliper for so long. $17 on Amazon. No brainer. You need this to test the thickness of your PLA throughout use. I haven't seen it yet, but I'm hearing that filament varies in thickness throughout a roll. The middle is a long, flat razor called a "tissue blade" (Amazon). I stole it from my wife who works with clay. This is terrific for getting the piece off of the tape when it's done printing. Some of these prints can be really difficult to remove depending on how much surface area touches the bed and how fragile the upper piece might be. By the way, you MUST put blue painter tape down on your bed to keep from scratching it up. And to help the printed piece stick to the bed, rough the tape up with sandpaper or acetone. Works like a charm.

Lastly, you MUST get a dental pick. When you begin any print, there's a chance the filament will glob. That glob WILL dry, and then become a wrecking ball swinging around your piece. The first couple of layers are critical and if any of that moves, there's nothing you can do but clean up and start over. I've gotten pretty good at using this, when I start a piece, to pull the globs away before they dry.

Alright, that's all. I'm happy to answer any questions and would love any guidance from you pros. I hope this didn't bore you but I thought it might be helpful to the fence sitters. I'll post updates to my Infinity Orb.




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Sr Member
very cool! :) I wanna get one next year. I am in the process of teaching myself Blender. And I know nothing about the interface program to prepare the models for printing... I am happy for you. That is an awesome gift. I can't wait to see the orb finished. keep up the great work! :)


Active Member
Hey Cadeus,

I'm working on Blender myself. If you use Cura, there really isn't an "interface program". You create your design, then save the file as an .STL. When you load into Cura, it does the slicing and prints. I have done a few basic geometrical pieces to test the flow and it works great.



New Member
thanks so much for this post. i have been considering the purchase of a printerbot for some time now. always great to hear from those with first hand experience. would love to see more of your finished projects in the future. cheers



Well-Known Member
Thanks so much for this very detailed post. As many others, I too am looking to invest in one of these, but not knowing whats good and what is not, has been holding me back. I will probably end up doing the "jump into cold water" method and hope for the best. :)


New Member
Thanks Mark for posting this, its nice to have info on different machines.
I have a Makerbot replicator 2, and although i get great prints now after $2100 for the machine and 2 years of modding and another $600-800 dollars I would not buy one again.
The prints your getting are nice for the amount of money you spent for sure.
I am getting ready to buy a new RP Machine gonna go with full spectrum lasers new machine as it has the best looking prints this side of $3,000.
Good luck with your new 3d printer and happy printing!
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