Getting started with 3D printing

Now, before you ask yourself if we're going to build a 3D printer here, I have to disappoint you. This series of bloggers will be able to deal with the experiences and some of its knees with various programs.

I myself have only recently, January 2021, a 3D printer of the brand Anycubic. It is an entry-level model, but it is sufficient for the most common prints. Therefore, this blog series will be primarily a kind of experience report, a tutorial in 3D printing and their programs, as well as the learning curve from me. Look forward to what I have learned since January 2021, modified and extended to my printer. After and after, some programs I have used for my printer will be presented. A core topic will also be the connection of a Raspberry Pi's with the printer.

This blog series deals primarily with so-called FDM printers. FDM stands for Fused Deposition Modeling, that is, the modeling in the melt layer process.

The first touch with the 3D printer

Leveling, slicing, gcode or filament are just some (specialist) expressions that you read in connection with a 3D printer. Admitting, you start with the topic of 3D printing (he), you probably feel like a bloody beginner within the first 5 minutes. As a technology-savvy author, I too didn't go any other way. With my first printer, an Anycubic i3 Mega S, I found a cheap, but good 3D printer, but that brought me to the same situation as mentioned above.

3D printer from the author with some accessories

Figure 1: 3D printer from the author with some accessories

Depending on the model and the manufacturer, the assembly is simple or difficult. In the case of my 3D printer, the setup was done quickly with 8 bush-screws and three cables. However, there are other printers in which the structure is much more complex. Here, the motors, the frames and other electronics must be mounted and connected. It is important to note that you are working with 230V mains voltage and actually need a corresponding training. On the other hand, there are professional equipment that is completely ready for you to arrive. If, depending on the model, you have assembled the printer, it may be necessary to take further steps up to the first pressure.

Preparing the 3D Printer

If you have a problem with printing, the first comments are in forums that you want the heatbed to be leveled properly. Heatbed refers to the printing plate of the printer, see Figure 2.

This process has to be done with the most favorable printers directly after the setup. However, there are 3D printers in the higher price segment, which are completely prepared ex works and do not have to be readjusted afterwards.

Heatbed by Anycubic i3 Mega S

Figure 2: Heatbed from the Anycubic i3 Mega S

The heatbed has its name, since it is not a simple moving surface, but a pressure bed which can be adjusted in the surface temperature. This can be applied to temperatures up to approx. 70 °C, which depends on the nature of the filament and other factors.

The leveling refers to the distance between the print head and the heatbead. To be more precise, the distance between the nozzle that is bolted to the hostage and the heatbead should be correctly adjusted. What is a hostage again and a nozzle again? The Hotend is the part of the printer, which brings the print material, the so-called filament, to the temperature in which it becomes liquid. At the end of the Hotend sits the Nozzle, the top or Nozzle with which the heated filament is brought to the heatbed, see Figure 3.

Hotend with Nozzle

Figure 3: Hoend with Nozzle

This is done under pressure, since the so-called extruder pushes the filament into the hostage. Extruder refers to a device which "picks up" the filament and leads into the high end via hoses, see Figure 4.

Extruder at the frame of the printer

Figure 4: Extruders at the frame of the pressureHe

So if you talk about the leveling, it is simply meant that the distance between Nozzle should be adjusted to the heatbed. For this purpose, the Hotend is positioned at the home position, i.e. the point {0,0, 0} in the coordinate system of the printer via the corresponding menu entry. Previously, a thin sheet of paper is placed between the Nozzle and Heatbed and, after reaching the "Home" position, it will deactivate the motors for all axes. Depending on the manufacturer, it is recommended to control certain points on the heatbed and adjust the distance by means of the adjusting screws under the heatbed. There are many answers to this on the Internet, when it was correctly leveled. It was enough for me, if the leaf between heatbed and Nozzle, scratched lightly, leaving the heatbed to 60 °C heat.

In the last paragraphs alone, you have probably read various technical terms and, if necessary, the head smokes just a little bit. It was similar to me. But be reassured, the learning curve is steep, but many terms keep up again.

The first print

The above-mentioned procedure lasted for me at 45 minutes. Precisely because the level plays an important role for all prints, it should be done very conscientiously at this point. Before the question comes up, the leveling has been repeated very often by me so far to achieve the best result.

Hardly was the leveling done, I wanted to see, of course, whether everything was correctly adjusted. Many printers supply an SD card with a pre-made gcode file for the first print. In my case, this first file included two little owls sitting on a tree stupe.

This is selected via the touch display and the pressure can start, see Figure 5. Before that, one still has to lead the filament into the extruder, since otherwise nothing can be printed.

Selection from the first print

Figure 5: Selection of first print

After about 1.5 hours I finally had the finished figures in my hand.

It should be noted with FDM printers that Heatbed or Heat up and then cool again. Therefore it takes quite a long time until you can take the finished part of the heatbed, since the adhesion to the cold heatbed is no longer so strong.

How does the 3D printer work exactly?

The principle behind a 3D printer or FPM-Printer is quite simple. The three axes X, Y and Z are used to position a position, respectively. Distance in the pressure chamber-or run. Depending on the position, a defined amount of filament is pushed out of the nozzle. In order for this to work, the printer needs several things:

  • Exact details of what he is supposed to do.
  • The exact position of the tool point, the nozzle, in the coordinate system of the printer.
  • During the ride of the Nozzle the exact indication of the position in the room.

So-called gcode is required for the track or the position to which the nozzle is to be driven. You can imagine them like some kind of program. If you take a closer look at this gcode, you will see similarities to a CNC control system, such as those used in industrial CNC lathes and milling machines. The gcode specifies line by line exactly what the 3D printer has to do. Be it the fan of the Nozzle to turn the extruder Filament, or to drive a certain distance. These commands are detected by the firmware of the controller, usually a Marlin firmware, which then converts these commands accordingly. An overview of all gcodes, you can on the Marlin homepage See.

The first point of the list has already been clarified, although it has not been explained in more detail how to get to the gcode. You will learn more about this in the next post. Still the question remains open, as the printer now "knows" where the print head is in the room.

This is done in two stages. When you start a print, the printer first drives the urp coordinate, 0,0,0. Say all three coordinate axes drive the so-called zero point. This is usually secured by one or more limit switches, which trigger the heatbed or the hotend as soon as you reach the zero point, see Figure 6.

Y-Axis End Switch

Figure 6: End switch for the Y axis

This means that the controller has a reference from the printer. In the second step, the installed stepper motors are used, see Figure 7.

Stepper motor of Z-axis (bottom) and X-axis (top)

Figure 7: Stepper motor of the Z-axis (bottom) and X-axis (top)

These synchronous motors can be controlled step-by-step, with no position feedback being present. An encoder or The printer does not exist, so the controller from the printer assumes that the correct position has been taken. That may be scouring right now in the first moment, but the stepper motors of 3D printers are very accurate. So that the motor gets the correct position, so-called stepper motor driver modules are used. This controls the stepper motor exactly.

In most cases, a 3D printer has 5 stepper motors:

  • One for the X axis
  • One for the Y axis
  • Two for the Z axis
  • One for the extruder

The question, which may be now, why the Z-axis needs the two stepper motors, will be answered if you look at how the X-axis is installed at the printer, see Figure 8.

X-axis position

Figure 8: Position of the X axis

The X-axis has two rails, on which the Hotend is fixed or fixed. Loose bearing is mounted. As it goes over the entire area of the heatbed, both sides have to be correctly positioned correctly so that the Hotend does not hang. In the case of Anycubic i3 Mega S, this is solved by two threads, which are bolted to the stepper motors, see Figure 7. So I think it is also clear why two stepper motors are necessary for the Z-axis. In the higher price segment, there are other solutions, but most entry-level models use the procedure presented here.

Is it worth a 3D printer at all for me?

The most important question that is likely to be asked is whether it is worth buying a 3D printer at all. I also thought about it for a long time and had a lot of thought. However, just as a so-called maker and for my children, the decision to buy a 3D printer has failed.

Well noted, this post shows only the beginning in the world of 3D printing and may have scared you off. But once you get into the subject and do not shy away from the steep learning curve, 3D printing is fun and you start to construct smaller things yourself. So the question is not whether you need a 3D printer as a future maker at all, but why you do not have one yet. Many of our authors have one of their own at home and design casings or parts for your blog posts for their exciting contributions.

View of the next post

Currently you have learned how a 3D printer works roughly and what matters when leveling. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Like me, you want to implement your own projects or get more out of the printer?

I would like to take you on a trip with a 3D printer, explain technical terms and introduce the use of a Raspberry Pi in combination with OctoPrint.

For you to print something, you need gcode, but where does it come from and how do you get interesting parts? Here, too, we are going into this in more detail. First of all, let me introduce you to the so-called Slicer Cura software that I am currently using. Of course, I will also show you where you get interesting print templates and how to make them into gcode.

To conclude, I would like to introduce you briefly and briefly to the software Fusion 360, which allows you to create your own objects. Questions as to why I use which software now are addressed in the respective parts.

So now you are looking forward to soon perfecting your projects not only hardware and software side by side, but also to creating the necessary parts yourself and becoming more and more a professional maker.

This and other projects can be found at GitHub under

Projects for beginners


Jörn Weise

Jörn Weise

was der Spaß kostet und was man braucht hängt stark davon ab, was man mit dem Drucker machen will. Ich habe mir den Drucker geholt um kleinere Gehäuse zu drucken, meinen Kindern über Spielereien zu zaubern und für meine Projekte Bauteile zu erzeugen. Da reichte mir für den Anfang ein Anycubic Mega S vollkommen aus. Damit sind sie bei rund 250 Euro für das Gerät samt Filament. Werkzeug kriegen Sie meist beim Kauf vom Drucker gleich mit. Wenn Sie natürlich den Drucker modifizieren, geht das auch wieder ins Geld und Sie müssen halt wissen was Sie wollen und umbauen. Aber die Grenze nach oben ist offen, je nach Modell und Modifikation. Eine Kaufberatung oder Empfehlung gebe ich hier nicht, da können Sie in einem entsprechenden Fachforum gerne die Frage stellen. Problem ist, jeder hat da so seine eigene Meinung und Sie werden schnell auf diese eine Frage eine riesen Diskussion entfachen. Einfach mal im Netz gucken was es so gibt und welches Preissegment ihnen so vorschwebt. Auch ebay ist da eine gute Anlaufstelle, wobei Sie hier teilweise nicht wissen ob Sie ein Defektsystem bekommen, den der Käufer (wissentlich) verschwiegen hat.

Wolfhard Jording

Wolfhard Jording

Ich habe mittlerweile einige 3D-Drucker. Der Anycubic i3 Mega S ist mein bester. Mein erster Drucker war ein Bausatz für unter 150 €. Da habe ich fast 6 Monate daran rumgebastelt und sehr viel dabei gelernt. Mit OctoPrint habe ich immer wieder mal Probleme. Da bin ich gespannt, was davon im Blog erscheint. Am Raspi betreibe ich eine Sony Gaming Kamera, die ich in einem Spieleshop für 0,49 € gekauft habe. Die wurde sofort erkannt.



Flott und verständlich geschrieben, macht Lust zum Lesen und zu einem Kauf eines 3D-Druckers. Die Frage, die sich mir halt stellt ist die, was brauche ich zum was will ich herstellen mit Möglichkeit nach oben.
Und, letztendlich, was kostet das alles, Gerätekauf und Betriebskosten? Aber, topp Artikel und gespannt ob ich Antworten in den weiteren Artikeln finden.

Ralf Kastmann

Ralf Kastmann

Ergänzend möchte ich auf die Web-App Tinker-CAD: hinweisen, mit der man auf einfachste Weise jede Art von 3D-Modellen kreieren kann. Ich habe alle meine Gehäuse und sonstigen Bauteile für Arduino etc. damit erstellt.
Ich mache seit ca. 2 Jahren 3D-Druck und habe insgesamt 3 FDM-Drucker und 1 DLP-Drucker im Einsatz. Die Lernkurve steigt dann nochmal exponentiell an, wenn man den Extruder und das Hotbed auswechseln muss, weil diese Teile nunmal verschleissen. Aber das kommt sicherlich in eine der nächsten Blogs.
Allen viel Spass beim 3D-Druck, was quasi ein Hobby im Hobby ist.

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