"I wish I knew" Tips When Starting to 3d Print

Calibrate. Speaking mostly to FDM printers here, but the principles are universal.

Molten (well, not technically molten) plastic is going to do what it's going to do. Once it leaves your nozzle, physics (particularly thermodynamics) and chemistry take over and it's out of your hands. However, there's plenty you can do before that point to drastically and consistently give your printer a fighting chance, and calibrating/tuning your machine is one of them.

Not only does proper calibration increase your chances of successful, accurate, and clean prints, they also keep you safe and help mitigate the fire risk that comes with having exposed heating elements.

Here are a couple of resources that have been helpful to me:
I know that now we have more full-featured, hyper-fast printers that come with multi-material systems and automated bells and whistles (they're even competitively priced), but if you're like me and you're still running on the "older" models where automatic bed tramming was a new thing (my first printer, the Ender 3V2, didn't even have that out of the box), proper maintenance and calibration will keep your dysfunctional desk droids performing well. No, it won't be winning any races against the X1C, but you'll have a reliable workhorse.
Oh man, where do I even start? There's so many little details I've learned over the course of using my printer, but I'll stick to the big ones that I use for all my prints.
  • First things first: take the time to think about where you're going to put the printer and other accommodations it's going to need before you actually buy it. Companies often list the printer's dimensions on their websites; use them to measure out how much space it's going to take up. Also take ventilation and ambient temperature into account when deciding as well!
  • Pay attention to whether the printer takes 1.75mm or 2.85mm filament. One will fit in the printer's extruder and is able to be used; the other is worthless without extreme modification.
    • Addendum: printers often ship with their own brand of filament. I highly recommend getting branded filament (eSun, MatterHackers, Inland, etc.) and printing with that instead since the shipped filament is often of low quality.
  • If you've scaled your armor to your body but they don't fit on your printer, use Meshmixer's "plane cut" tool to slice up the parts into smaller pieces. Leads to more post-processing time, but you'll be able to print them in the first place.
  • Some files you could come across might register as having extra or missing faces in the model (this can also happen while using Meshmixer). As a quick fix, opening the .obj or .stl file in 3D Builder automatically detects these issues and offers a mighty convenient "click me to fix" button. This should take care of the issue, but inspect the Preview tab in your slicer to check for any more issues.
  • Be aware of the two types of supports (normal and tree) and which one best suits the part you're trying to print. A chestplate piece I'm currently printing takes 2 days with normal supports. Using tree supports on the same piece adds an extra 15 hours. If you're slicing using Cura, use the Preview tab to see what the print's going to look like and decide for yourself.
I could really go on and on, but I feel that these will be extremely helpful for those of you who are just starting out. Good luck and happy printing!
Meshmixer also has a feature for fixing missing faces and errors, granted it's not good for big errors, but you go into the analysis tab and click inspector. If there's any errors it'll project a lil ball with a line to the error and you can either click auto fix all, or click the ball itself and it'll try to fix it for you

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