Now that I have assembled and tested my Ender3 v2 (ie, can power on and move), finally it’s time for preparing first 3D printing.
There are several steps to ensure successful try:
- Have 3D digital (CAD) design file ready. There are 3 methods to be able to get your hand on 3D design:
- Download 3D design from portal like www.thingiverse.com or www.YouMagine.com.
- Create your own by using 3D modelling software.
- 3D Scanning existing physical objects.
- If the 3D design file not already in .STL file, we need to convert or export that file into .STL format that is readable by Slicer software like Cura or Slic3r.
- Feed the .STL file into the slicer software. This is where we configure all the settings for successful prints by 3D printer.
- Then proceed with ‘slicing’ the design into .gcode format that is readable by 3D printer. Slicing is the process of breaking down the 3D design into very thin layers for 3D printer to follow and be able to print out successfully.
So these are the steps in real-life:
To have 3D design ready (getting .STL file)
If you do not have any 3D design file ready, you can search and download one from www.thingiverse.com- which is what I did. This is the easiest thing to get your hand on a 3D file if you don’t have previous experience. I went to the site and searched for something simple to print. In this case, I searched for a ‘Hello World’ key chain. There are a few designs there, I selected this particular design as it looks simple enough when preparing for first printing with my Ender3 v2.
Click ‘Download all files’ and save into your selected location. The files downloaded almost always in .zip as there are usually a few files in the download. Once saved, unzip the files and you need to locate the .STL file- which is usually inside ‘files’ folder. Now that we are certain we have .STL file, we can open the Slicer program.
Slicing STL file by using Slicer (converting .STL into .gcode)
There are a few Slicer out there, but I am using Cura- the software recommended by Creality to be used for Ender. Besides, Cura already has settings for Ender 3- all you need to do is to select the printer. It is available as free download from Ultimaker website.
Once you have Cura installed, open it and then open the hello world keyring .stl file that was downloaded earlier. When you open the file, for some reason it scales to 10,000% of its original size. Don’t worry about this as we can re-size any 3D object in .stl format right from Cura.
To resize file, you need to make sure you click on the object and that the object is active. If active, a few horizontal menu on the left will appear. Choose the ‘Scaling’ option. Here you can define the desired size- either in milimeter or as percentage of the original design- and select the new size is to be applied uniformly across all x-, y-, and z- axes or only for specific axis. In this case, I selected x-axis to be 50mm, with uniform scaling. I reviewed Standard Quality and as beginner, I don’t know what they exactly mean but it is printable. So I’m just quite happy with that. Now we are almost done preparing for first printing with Ender3 v2.
3D printers do not understand .stl file. That object’s .stl file has to be ‘sliced’ into very thin layer so the print head can deposit the plastic materials at the correct place- and then building another layer on top of it- and then again- until the object finishes printing. This file that contains ‘layering’ information is in .gcode format. It is the format that 3D printer can understand. And this what slicer software is supposed to do: to convert .stl to .gcode.
For this particular key chain, I am quite happy withe size, so to generate the .gcode, I would simply click the blue ‘Slice’ button at the bottom right. If this is your first time preparing for 3D printing, I suggest to use the default values. Once slicing process completed, it tells me it would take 13 minutes to print out the keychain. Once I’m OK with that, I would then proceed to save the .gcode file into my micro SD card, which I can simply insert into the printer to read the file.
And once I am done preparing my file for 3D printing, I am now ready to print my first print!