Confessions of a 3D printing newbie – what not to do

Hi all, Ian has graciously let me join in the fun here. I’m a complete 3D printing novice, who just got their first printer in the mail last Friday.

3D printing is not mature technology – it’s still the frontier of printing technology. And while the Solidoodle is pretty user friendly, making it work is still a bit of a task. So, based on my complete inexperience, here are some hints.

So, first things first – don’t leap straight into printing. The very first thing you should do once everything is plugged in and working is play around with the manual control buttons in Pronterface.

Actually, the very first thing you should do, at least in the version of the software I downloaded, is change the default heater temp for ABS to 200 degrees, and the default bed temperature to 100 degrees. A few people have experienced blow ups when using the default temperature.

If you’ve never printed anything before, start with something really simple. I used a 20mm calibration box, which is one of the examples from ReplicatorG.

It took me about five tries to get one of these succesfully printed. The first three or four goes the print head height was wrong, so I had to adjust the Z-stop screw (at the back right of the case, about 2/3 of the way up).


Here you can see the first attempt on the left, which I interrupted after a couple of minutes. Why?


Because of a very complex process called ‘impatience’. You’re meant to wait until the heated bed temperature reaches about 85 degrees, but I pressed ‘Print’ when it was still only about 60. This meant that the plastic cooled too fast, and the corners lifted up off the print bed. The second attempt, on the right, shows what it looks like if you wait until the temperature is right.

(You also need to wait until the hot end temperature is right as well, but that’s a much quicker thing to heat up).


Here’s my second print (of the Mini Solidoodle) in progress. Again, you can see from the front left that I didn’t learn my lesson, and had started printing too soon again.

But the real problem happened a few minutes later.


You can see that the top layer has been ‘yanked’ backwards. This happened because the printer got a jam in filament spool, and it couldn’t move the way it wanted to. I stopped this print here.

But I wasn’t done being impatient yet. It’s best to wait to turn off the heated bed and wait a few minutes before trying to remove the print, to let the plastic cool and pop off a little. You also don’t want to put the scraper too far under the print. Why?


Because you’ll end up with this, torn Kapton tape. Fortunately I had a spare, so I was able to take this off and replace it with a new layer.

That seemed to be the end of my problems so far. I’ve now been able to print a Dog Bone Cookie Cutter:


And a Penguin:


(OK, I’m still not all the way there – you can see the raft printed onto both of these – you don’t need a raft, but I’d forgotten to turn it off in Skeinforge, and decided to keep going anyway).


3 thoughts on “Confessions of a 3D printing newbie – what not to do

  1. Thanks for sharing this info. My printer has not been delivered yet so I am reading everything I can to get ready.

    How did you know to adjust the Z axis screw and by how much?

    What other things did you discover when starting out?

    It would be great to have a list of adjustments and settings to check before doing a first print.

    Any other tips on using the printer or the software packages?

  2. Solidoodle will be setting the z-stop before shipping, so it’s entirely possible that it’s OK without adjustment – I had to set it because I had to do some repairs from shipping damage.

    Adjusting the Z-axis screw is pretty easy. To start with, get the printer turned on in pronterface. Then slowly adjust the Z-axis to the top (using the ‘Z-‘ buttons in pronterface). Hopefully you’ll reach the stop (where it won’t let you go any further) before the head hits the bed – if it does, back up as you’ll need to lower the Z-stop slightly.

    Then it’s just a case of slowly adjusting the Z-stop – tighten to lower, loosen to raise – until the head is 0.3mm above the bed surface. Easiest way to measure that is with a feeler gauge. You need to lower and raise the bed up each time you adjust the screw, to see the new stop point you’ve set.

    I’ll be posting some new lessons learnt just as soon as I finish the next repair I have to do, to unjam the nozzle.

  3. Thanks Man, really appreciate Your honest incite to what can happen so easily! I have had my printer 2 weeks and have made all the same mistakes. Nothing has every taught me better than a damn good F*** up! 🙂

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