5 Life Lessons my 3D printer has taught me

I never thought my 3D printer was a wise one, but it turns out, I was wrong. The little guy has taught me some key concepts to living life successfully.

  1. The first prototype will never be the last. Keep on trying, baby!

No matter how hard you try, no matter how many times you make sure that all of the measurements are correct, the first try will never be the last. Maybe it’s because I have a cheap dual extruder printer, (the two nozzles create double the problems) but I am convinced that there is simply no way to get it perfect on the first try. Even if you’re an extremely experienced engineer. A 5+ year 3D printer. Even if you do get all the measurements right, there will always be something to improve, add, or subtract. So even if I know that my measurements aren’t all the way correct, I tend to print anyways (as long as it’s a fairly small piece) because I know a completely different design flaw or problem will probably come up. This relates to real life and making prototypes, or making anything really - the first go won’t be perfect, so what’s the point spending numerous hours trying to make a perfect plan before actually doing anything? Like Nike, Just Do It! Get the ball rolling, and perfect the spherical shape at the end. It works. I promise.

2. Great things take time — a looong time!

This deals with two settings - infill and layer height. Infill makes your print stronger/heavier, 100% infill means every millimeter of your print is plastic filled, the usual 15–20% means that there will be a honeycomb or diagonal pattern to save time and plastic. The first time I used a 3D printer at a co-working space in San Francisco, I used 50% infill, I didn’t know any better. I wasted a lot of plastic and even more of my time. It took about 5 hours to print, when I should’ve used 10–20% infill and it would’ve taken half the time or less. That print is pretty heavy and very strong though, definitely more professional than it needed to be! Layer height is a big one, this makes your print look professional or prototypical (smooth or jagged). The most common layer height is probably .20 mm. The smaller you go, the smoother the print looks. An analogy that may or may not work for you - say that you have one pre-cut loaf of bread and then you take two loaves of pre-cut bread and smush them down to be the same height as the other loaf of bread, which will look more uniform? The two smushed loaves, you’ll be able to see each piece of bread better in the single loaf of bread. Now back to 3D printing, say you have to print something that is 20 mm tall, you could use .10 mm layer height or .20 mm layer height. The .10 mm would take almost twice as long since it has to create 200 layers, while the .20 mm only has to lay down 100 layers. The .10 mm layer height will make the print look much more uniform and professional, but it will take twice the time. Just like in life, great things take time, baby!

3. You need some support! But too much will leave you scarred…

Couldn’t get the supports off of this desk drawer, so it’s living with some battle scars

If printing something with overhangs, support is crucial. Every 3D printer dude knows this. If I was to print a mini-version of myself with my arms wide open standing in a T-position, my arms would need support plastic under them to print out correctly. In the example to the left, the bottom of the knob wouldn’t have been able to solidify without the supports. The nozzle can’t just extrude the plastic and have it rest and solidify in the air - it needs some surface to rest on. So just like in life, you need support from the start to be successful. However, there is a caveat, if you have too much support, then it can be extremely hard to get rid of it - leaving battle scars on the prints. There always comes a time where you gotta figure out life on your own, and while you need support at the beginning, you also gotta learn to live without support, otherwise no growth would happen!

4. Raft (Solid base) is sometimes critical to a good print.

Rafts can be a critical part of your print, especially when dealing with new brands of printing plastic, since the ideal extruding temperature is somewhat unknown. Rafts are a little outline and a base for which your print sticks to. A raft helps minimize issues, it creates a better environment for the bottom of the print - because when issues happen, they usually happen at the beginning of the print. So 3D printing is a microcosm for life, when you have a solid base, success is more probable. Rafts also make getting the print off the printer a much more enjoyable feat than removing it without one. Without a raft, many times I have screwed up/bent a print of mine while trying to take it off. Just like supports though, if your raft is too close to your print it can make getting rid of it extremely hard. This may be a little contradictory, but I relate it to not becoming extremely immersed in the limits of your industry, because if you get stuck on what is “possible”, then you can’t see all the other possibilities, or what’s “impossible”. “Intelligent people need a fool to lead them.” - the great Jack Ma.

5. SILENCE IS GOLDEN!!

I do not have any children yet, but I can imagine that the feeling would be similar. Constant noise can’t be good for the human mind. Maybe it’s because it’s an annoying machine, but it’s just too much stimuli. On the days I print for 10–12 hours, that constant beep-bop-beep-bop sound coming from my printer really gets to me, it makes me go crazy! When one of my Aunts was watching it print, she said “Oh wow that sound is so relaxing it’s making me fall asleep.” Ew. I stared at her in complete disgust and didn’t say a word. It comes to a point where once I’m done printing I just sit in my room in silence for a few minutes and let out a long exhale. Ahhh, silence! Finally! That feeling is pretty great. I’ve always enjoyed silence, but now I truly, truly cherish it.

Hope you could learn some life lessons from me without having to go buy a 3D printer!

Peace and love,

Zach Olmstead

Product Developer

Double Zero Games

www.doublezerogames.com