Frequently Asked Questions

To start 3d printing you will need a 3d printer, a spool of plastic (called filament), a slicing software and an STL file.

STL File: An STL file is a triangulated 3d file which can be exported from most design programs (Solidworks, Autodesk etc.). You can think of the STL file as the blue print of our 3D print. Of course if you have no design experience you can download many STL files freely from the internet.

Slicing Software: Slicing software is the software we use to tell the printer what we want to print, what material, how fast we want to print and what orientation. The complexity of this software can vary but generally many programs will have a basic and expert mode designed for different levels of experience. Once you have chosen your settings the software will 'slice' the stl file into a file type your 3d printer can read.

No, slicing software is specifically used to choose your printing parameters and settings. To create an STL file you can either one of the many paid or free design programs available or download STL files freely from the internet.

Unlike some other manufacturing tools, 3D printing is certainly easier to get started with and as the technology has matured it has become more accessibe. How easily you pick up 3d printing will certainly depend on the printer you use and material you want to print with and we find this is a good comparison between kit 3d printers and desktop 3d printers.

Desktop 3d printers are designed as a tool to work out of the box with little modification required and the software included is generally tuned for the printer. Kit 3d printers typically require a higher level of knowledge to start printing, requiring the user to understand the mechanics behind the 3d printer and more tinkering / modifications are required. Slicers provided with kit 3d printers are generally generic so users will need to create their own printer and material settings from scratch.

If you are interested in the 3d printer as your hobby, the kits can offer a great platform for modification and customization and tinkering. For users interested in a tool to print parts, we recommend avoiding kits as desktop 3d printers are certainly the easiest way to just start printing out of the box.

There is no exact answer for how fast 3d printing is as the speed will certainly vary depending on the settings used and size of the item.

3D printing can’t compete with the speed of injection molding, and depending on the size and resolution chosen, some items can take between a couple of hours to even a few days. Most of the projects we print take between 2 to 12 hours.

One of the benefits of 3D printing and additive manufacturing is that parts can be printed with an internal structure (infil), minimizing weight and material usage. This means how much material your 3d print uses can be defined depending on your infil percentage.

Once you have prepared your STL file for printing, the slicing software will estimate how much material is required. A single print could require between 5 to 30 grams or even up to a full 1kg spool depending on the size and infil chosen.

Today, 3d printing technologies are used in such a wide variety of applications to print everything from durable cars and bridges to end use products, replacement parts and even jewellery and toys.

Click here to learn about the applications of 3d printing.

Realistically the best 3D printer will vary depending on materials required for your application as not every 3d printer is equal. Here are our tips when researching your 3d printer.

  • Decide what materials you want to print before researching printers. If you are not sure what material is best you can read through our filaments page or contact us to discuss your requirements. In the printer specifications, manufacturers only detail if the material can be printed and don’t cover what sizes can be achieved or the reliability to expect.

    Many materials will require specific printing environments so it is important to purchase a printer that will print the materials at the sizes you need. For example to print strong materials like ABS a heated bed is required but to print medium sized parts without warping an enclosure will be required. To print parts that fill the entire build volume a 60°C chamber temperature is required so a printer with a heated chamber will be required. On a technical level almost any printer with a heated bed can print ABS but those machines may struggle to print ABS parts that fill half or even a quarter of the build volume without warping into the extruder and jamming.

  • Layer height resolution shouldn’t be the deciding factor when purchasing a printer. Some printers are capable of printing down to 0.05mm (50 microns) but what many users don’t know is that printing at 0.05mm layer height will take four times as long as printing at 0.2mm. Layer heights like 0.15mm and 0.2mm are the most popular because they offer a great resolution with reduced print time.

PLA is generally regarded as the easiest material to 3D print as it has a wide printing range, has very little requirements can be printed at large scales with a room temperature environment. Desktop 3D printer owners will typically start printing PLA for this reason.

Some industrial machines are designed to maximize heat within the printing chamber, in this case high temperature materials like ABS are also easy to print.

3D printing has come a long way with so many strong and durable materials available. Some materials offer excellent durability and toughness while other materials offer excellent tensile strength or stiffness. There is no single answer for this question as the definition of strength depends if you are looking for tensile strength or impact resistance.

Visit our materials page to learn about the wide range of materials available or contact us.

Of course! Not every printer is capable of printing high temperature plastics reliably. 

If you are looking for a strong PLA filament which prints with the exact same settings as PLA, PolyMax™ PLA is a tough PLA with superior toughness and ductility. Infact PolyMax™ PLA is tougher than ABS!

If you require a material that is stronger than PLA, prints easily but don't mind printing with a higher nozzle temperature, nylon is an excellent material. Specifically PolyMide™ CoPA is a nylon which prints incredibly easily with excellent dimensional stability. The key to the great user experience behind this material is Polymakers Warp-free™ technology which ensures parts don't warp or crack while printing.

A heated bed expands the materials your 3d printer can print. Specifically some materials will require the bed heated to 70°C, 80°C, or in some extreme cases about 120°C to print. The heat improves adhesion between the first layer of the print and the bed to ensure the print doesn't move during printing.

Heated beds are benefitial when printing almost all materials, even those that don't specifically require a heated bed.

An enclosure prevents drafts from irregularly cooling the part during printing, protects from dust and ensures a safer printing environment, preventing people from touching the printer in operation. 

The most important benefit of an enclosure is when combined with a heated bed. The enclosure traps heat from the heated bed increasing the environmental temperature allowing users to print larger parts in the high temperature plastics like ABS and PC.

A heated chamber is the next step up from an enclosure, a requirement for users seriously printing high temperature plastics at any size without warping or cracking.

With a heated chamber users can perfectly control the environmental temperature inside the printer ensuring a consistent and even temperature to prevent warping and cracking.

It is possible to print metal on desktop and industrial 3d printers but there are some very key differences.

For desktop machines (FDM) there are metal filled filaments which are plastic like PLA with metal powder infused into the filament. When printed the parts matched the look, weight and feel of real metal but unfortunately with these materials the strength of the material is incredibly weak and brittle.

If you want to print parts in metal with an FDM 3D printer, we recommend printing in PolyCast™ which has been specifically designed for metal casting.

There are 3D printing technologies to print metals with their associated mechanical properties. These machines are intended for industrial use and the entry level cost is certainly significant.

Need Help?

Dont know where to start? Or which filament will suit your application?

We have a broad range of support options including Telephone Support

  Contact Us