5 Tips and Tricks to Using your 3D Printer more Efficiently and Effectively

5 Tips and Tricks to Using your 3D Printer more Efficiently and Effectively

Managing prints, adding multiple colors, and reducing your print times. Get the most out of your 3D printer!
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Managing prints, adding multiple colors, and reducing your print times. Get the most out of your 3D printer!

1.Start with a Sketch

For those that don’t have much design experience or haven’t worked with a 3D Printer before, this is the best way to showcase how a 3D Printer really works! It’s also one of the easiest ways to get started and gets those creative juices flowing!  

Students start by creating a 2D one-color drawing on paper and any areas that are completely coloured in will be where the 3D Printing material, called filament, will be laid down to create the 3D printed object! Start with a flower, a geometric shape, an animal, or have the students learn how to cursive write their name in bold letters. Or if it’s around a holiday, pick an easy drawing for students to doodle related to that holiday: 

Christmas? Draw your own Christmas tree ornament.

Easter? Sketch an Easter bunny or basket.

Halloween? Create their scariest monster!

Thanksgiving? Draw a hand turkey. 


By having the students create their very own drawing to have 3D printed, it’ll get them more excited about learning the process of 3D printing and introduce them to the first step of the engineering design process.  

Once the drawings are completed, simply take a photo of the image, and convert it to a .svg file. There are free online converters that you can use to do this such ass https://image.online-convert.com/convert-to-svg , or if you have access to Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, you can use these programs to save the photo in the proper file format. Next, login or create an account on Tinkercad which is a free, easy-to-use web app for creating the 3D printing file needed for the printer. Here, you’ll need to import the .svg file into the design space and adjust the size and height of the object you are going to print. (Note: keep in mind that the thicker and larger the object, the longer the print will take.) Follow the instructions here for more help. Lastly, click on “export” and you will be prompted to send your model directly to your MakerBot to be printed. Now, let your students watch as their drawings come to life!


2. Add Multiple Colours to One Single 3D Print

Printing in more than one colour can make your 3D Printed objects come to life and allows you to challenge your students to take their 3D prints to another level!! Whether you want to create a duo-toned name plate with your school’s logo, or create a more detailed design with multiple colors, you can make it happen. It can be a bit tricky to get right, because essentially, you are overlapping multiple 3D printing files on top of each other and a lot of the time, you can run into errors with the print if they aren’t properly overlapped. 

Thankfully, there’s an easy way to get around that with a little help from the Pause feature on your MakerBot. You can pause your print at different heights as the 3D Printer prints each of the layers to swap out the printing material to a different colour. This feature also allows you to add in magnets directly inside your 3D printed object or even wires and beads. 

To utilize this feature, you’ll want to pre-plan how you want to use the Pause feature to either change the color, add the material to be sealed inside the print, or secure a material in place at a certain height. All three of these options will require you to watch the print as it’s going so that you can pause it at the correct layer. Once you begin your print in the one colour and material, you’ll have to watch the print until the desired layer begins where you want the new colour added or where you want to place the added materials such as a magnet. As soon as you are at this point, you’ll need to pause the printer. If you have a Replicator, you can automatically set the height you want the printer to stop at using the Z-Pause feature where the “Z” indicates the height to stop. Then, if you are changing the color, you’ll need to unload the filament and reload the next color. You can resume the print again as normal to finish off your object!

This can take some trial and error to get right and an alternative to having to switch out the colours or filament while printing is to simply paint the 3D object once it’s completed, but what’s the fun in that? We’re all about problem solving, trial and error, and learning through both failures and successes!! So, give this one a go and let us know how you make out!


3.Managing Prints and Maximizing your Printers’ Build Time 

When it comes to 3D printing, if you don’t have multiple printers in your school or makerspace, there’s a potential for there to be a bottleneck in the projects that are in line to be 3D printed. Especially for those larger items that can sometimes take up to hours to print! If you have a lot of students and you want to make sure that they have a good amount of access to the printer, there are a few steps that you can take to help maximize your 3D printers’ use. 

First, you’ll want to make sure that you are managing the files that are being sent to the 3D printer, and you can do that using the MakerBot CloudPrint. Within CloudPrint, there is a tab for your Workspaces, which ca be used for the different classes that are using the 3D Printer(s). Within each workspace, you can authorize different access to different printers. For example, if you have more advanced users, you can allow them to use the MakerBot Method printers, whereas more novice users could have access to only your Sketch printers. Within CloudPrint, you can also give students limited access that only allows them to submit projects to the printer without the authorization to print the project. Alternatively, there is a URL that can be used for users to submit projects to the printer as well.

In CloudPrint, there is also a tab called Apartment Printers where you can see what’s on the build plate of the 3D printers and see the status of the prints. It shows you if the print is completed and if the build plate still has the object on it or if it is free to start the next printing project. It also shows you what jobs are in the queue for each of the printers and will allow you to start the next project remotely. This allows you to manage prints to start the projects without having to physically be in the room or pushing prints that are really long to the end of the school day to print overnight.


4. Estimating Print Material for the School Year

When you are trying to determine how much material you will need for the year, it can sometimes be challenging to predict. You’ll need to consider how often you’re going to be printing, how many students are going to be using the 3D printer, and how big the projects are. However, to get a better understanding of which 3D printers are being used the most or determining how much material you are using for various prints, you can access the “Workspace Print Jobs” within CloudPrint where you can download the recent history. Keep in mind that you can only download the history from the last 30 days. 

As a best practice, download the full workspace history on the 1st of every month so that you can calculate how much filament you went through at the end of the school year. If this data isn’t readily available to you or if you forgot to download the information, you can get a rough idea by multiplying the last 30 days of usage by the number of school months in the year to get an estimated figure. This should give you a fairly good estimate of what you’ll need for the following school year. 


5. Reducing the Print Time

Other than managing the 3D printer projects through CloudPrint, there are a few other things to consider to help reduce the printing time of projects:


a. Move Objects Closer Together

You can drastically reduce the print times of your projects by moving objects as close together as possible. The further apart the objects are, the further the extruder has to travel for every single layer. So, by moving them closer together, you’re reducing the required movement for that extruder. On this same note, if you have multiple small projects that can fit together on the build plate, try to maximize the space by putting the objects as close together as possible without having them overlap and then run the project overnight to have your objects printed by morning!


b. Reduce the Size

Another consideration to save time with your prints is to reduce the scale of the 3D model. Consider if the size is important for what the project entails or can the size be modified to save on printing time. Not only will reducing the scale save time, but it will also save on printing materials. 


c. Review the Models

When students are submitting projects to be printed, as a best practice, you should always review the print before you start it. Is there any excess material that can be removed? For example, if your student is printing a name tag, can you reduce the height and thickness to remove material and save time? Every minute is going to help as you only have a limited amount of time in school with students, so you want to maximize that time. You will also want to review projects for print failures. This can happen if models were inadvertently submitted with gaps in the model.  For example, if a student is printing a 3D model of their house and the roof is not attached, it will cause a failure halfway through the print. 


d. Establish Constraints

For large class sizes, giving students constraints can help you budget or estimate overall print times for that class. These can be design constraints limiting the overall size of the project such as setting the maximum width or height (i.e. 2 inches) or it could be setting a printing time constraint (i.e. maximum 1 hr print time).



For more information on using your 3D Printer, download a free copy of the Educators Guidebook to 3D Printing

or more information on different 3D Printers, click here.


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