Printing for the first time

Hi;

I’m new to 3D printing, and am getting ready to print my first model. Before I do that I’d like to confirm my understanding of how my laptop is going to interact with my printer (which I haven’t bought yet, wanted a complete understanding of the process before I did so).

I first need to cut my .stl model into slices using Slic3r (any instruction manuals or tutorials on how to use Slic3r?). Once that’s done, I’m going to take Slic3r’s output and load it into a printer control program (the one I currently have downloaded is MatterControl). MatterControl will direct the actual printing.

Do I have that about right? Again, this will be the first time I’ve ever done this, I just wanted to confirm I had my process right.

Thank you.

The STL file is the geometry of your part. Lets say you wanted to print a hollow box. The STL has the walls and floor of that box as geometric reference coordinates. The Slicer program (usually slic3r or cura or one of the other ones) then takes that STL file and renders a gcode coordinate motion path for your 3d printer extruder. It literally tells the extruder “from your starting point, go 100mm that way and extrude x amount of plastic, then go here, then go here, etc.”. You can see how that coordinate system works if you open up one of the .gco gcode files in a text editor of some sort. From there, your printer control software (in your case matter control) reads that gcode file and applies any printer specific setting information that you have set and executes the file. Since 3d printers almost always print in layers, or slices, thats why generating the gcode file is called slicing the .stl file.

Using slic3r is really easy. You install the program, download a printer configuration file that matches your printer type and most importantly nozzle size and what plastic you will be printing. For example, to print ABS plastic on a Taz 5 you would want a Taz 5 ABS 0.35mm nozzle printing profile, probably the medium quality one. if you wanted to print with a 0.5mm nozzle, you would grab one specific to that nozzle size. PLA plastic you would grab the profile specific for that plastic, etc. The various quality levels refer to print speed and final output quality. A high quality profile is set to make smaller individual layers or slices, so you get better resolution but it will take much much longer to print.

There are a few other options as well. Generally you will have one profile set to generate support material for prints that could not be printed without support, and another without support. You may have one with a Brim layer turned on for better bed adhesion. , or a skirt turned on for printing taller thin walled objects prone to printing.

You will also want to change the settings in the nozzle profile. Basically you just need to tell it what the actual diameter of the fillament you are printing actually measures with calipers (3mm fillament can range anywhere from 2.85 to 3.12mm in diameter and it wildly affects the quality of your final print if that isn’t set correctly)

You will typically have about 5 or 6 different slicing profiles, with one of them being your general go to printing profile. Inside slicer you just drag the model into the positioning area and make sure it is positioned in the middle of the bed and correct side up, rotating or adjusting it as needed (you can also scale it in there). You then go to the slicing section and tell it which profile to use, which nozzle settings file to use (or use the defaults from your last print job) and hit “generate Gcode”

Here’s a video of what most of the slic3r settings do. Its a slightly older version of slic3r but pretty much every setting in there still does the same thing they did in the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1HPeovBclc He is using the repetier host controller software, which is what I actually use as well. That has Slic3r embedded into it as a module, so you end up with a single gcode generation and control interface. Takes a bit of work to get it set up and tuned in, but I find it to be worth it. The newer versions of repetier host don’t seem to like the TAZ so I am actually using an older version of it, but it worls well.

Welcome to the forum!

The STL file is the geometry of your part. Lets say you wanted to print a hollow box. The STL has the walls and floor of that box as geometric reference coordinates. The Slicer program (usually slic3r or cura or one of the other ones) then takes that STL file and renders a gcode coordinate motion path for your 3d printer extruder. It literally tells the extruder “from your starting point, go 100mm that way and extrude x amount of plastic, then go here, then go here, etc.”. You can see how that coordinate system works if you open up one of the .gco gcode files in a text editor of some sort. From there, your printer control software (in your case matter control) reads that gcode file and applies any printer specific setting information that you have set and executes the file. Since 3d printers almost always print in layers, or slices, thats why generating the gcode file is called slicing the .stl file.

Using slic3r is really easy. You install the program, download a printer configuration file that matches your printer type and most importantly nozzle size and what plastic you will be printing. For example, to print ABS plastic on a Taz 5 you would want a Taz 5 ABS 0.35mm nozzle printing profile, probably the medium quality one. if you wanted to print with a 0.5mm nozzle, you would grab one specific to that nozzle size. PLA plastic you would grab the profile specific for that plastic, etc. The various quality levels refer to print speed and final output quality. A high quality profile is set to make smaller individual layers or slices, so you get better resolution but it will take much much longer to print.

There are a few other options as well. Generally you will have one profile set to generate support material for prints that could not be printed without support, and another without support. You may have one with a Brim layer turned on for better bed adhesion. , or a skirt turned on for printing taller thin walled objects prone to printing.

You will also want to change the settings in the nozzle profile. Basically you just need to tell it what the actual diameter of the fillament you are printing actually measures with calipers (3mm fillament can range anywhere from 2.85 to 3.12mm in diameter and it wildly affects the quality of your final print if that isn’t set correctly)

You will typically have about 5 or 6 different slicing profiles, with one of them being your general go to printing profile. Inside slicer you just drag the model into the positioning area and make sure it is positioned in the middle of the bed and correct side up, rotating or adjusting it as needed (you can also scale it in there). You then go to the slicing section and tell it which profile to use, which nozzle settings file to use (or use the defaults from your last print job) and hit “generate Gcode”

Here’s a video of what most of the slic3r settings do. Its a slightly older version of slic3r but pretty much every setting in there still does the same thing they did in the video > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1HPeovBclc > He is using the repetier host controller software, which is what I actually use as well. That has Slic3r embedded into it as a module, so you end up with a single gcode generation and control interface. Takes a bit of work to get it set up and tuned in, but I find it to be worth it. The newer versions of repetier host don’t seem to like the TAZ so I am actually using an older version of it, but it worls well.

Welcome to the forum!

Thank you, piercet! Any idea where I can download the printer config files? Looking for one for a Lulzbot mini printing 3mm polycarbonate.

You will likely have to make one. Start with the lulzbot 3mm abs mini profile on lulzbot.com then increase the nozzle temp to 260c and the bed temp to 120. For bed surface you will want polypropylene tape I think.

You’ll want to set the hot end to 290C. Copy the start and end GCODE from this profile: http://download.lulzbot.com/Mini/1.0/software/cura/profiles/polycarbonate_fast_mini.ini otherwise your Mini will not probe the bed, and you’ll encounter much more difficulty. You should be able to transfer the various config settings over to your new Slic3r profile, by hand (layer height, speed, start/end GCODE, wall thickness, perimeter counts, etc).

For new users we strongly recommend using Cura, and the tested and confirmed profiles available. Polycarbonate isn’t the easiest filament to use. If you don’t absolutely need the high-temperature deformity resistance characteristic, I’d use an easier filament.