3D printing: A quick guide on how to get started

3d printing colordul cathedralI don’t like using the word “disruptive” much, especially since living in the Bay Area I feel like it’s thrown around way too often to describe things that may barely make a ripple in the life continuum pond. But this time, I think “disruptive” is exactly the word I’m looking for to describe the shift that 3D printing is and will continue to bring to our lives.

The presentation by Paul Spaan at the Bootstrapper’s Breakfast Meetup in Mountain View today focused on the past, present, and future of 3D printing. Equipped with a variety of 3D printed objects as examples, Paul explained how it is becoming increasingly easier, and cheaper, for the general public to print their ideas, products, toys, and dreams in 3D. The applications of this technology are truly far-reaching and they span: prototyping, medicine, fashion, home building, jewelry making, chocolate manufacturing (yum!) and even Outer Space tooling just to name a few.

So what does it take to get started? How can you play around with the technology and print your first 3D object? Here are a few simple tips and pointers as suggested by Paul.


First of all, you will need 2 things: (1) A 3D printing template file or a software tool that allows you to create an image of the object you’d like to print and (2) A 3D printer and materials (duh…)


3d printing red bracelet(1) A 3D template file or 3D design software tool
For beginners, online 3D templates are a great source of ready-made 3D designs. Websites like Thingiverse allow you to download a free design of your liking and get 3D printing without delay! Templates are created by amateur or professional 3D printers and they are a quick and easy way to get you started without too much prep work.
More sophisticated users might enjoy drawing an object from scratch using one of the many free CAD software tools available online. SketchUP, 123CAD, and TinkerCAD are all great choices.


(2) A 3D printer and materials
Although 3D printers are now much more affordable than they used to be, the entry level consumer models such as the Cube (also available at Staples) will cost you around $1500. For beginners, a practical alternative is finding a friendly local 3D printing provider and utilizing their equipment and space to bring your project to life. In the Bay Area, try one of the following:
1- Spaan Enterprises – Paul’s 3D printing services in Fremont – local, definitely friendly, and full of expert advice – http://www.spaanenterprises.com/3D-Printing.html
2- TechShop – a workshop and maker mecca located in Menlo Park, San Jose, and San Francisco. Membership, 3D printing class (both required) and materials = roughly $250 – http://www.techshop.ws/
3- Sunnyvale Library – the first library with a 3D printer in the area! Starting in June, they will let the public use their shiny new 3D printer for free, after a review of the proposed designs. In addition, the Library will also run a series of classes on 3D printing which will be a great way to meet fellow 3D printing beginners and learn the basics – 3D printer http://sunnyvale.ca.gov/Portals/0/Sunnyvale/LIB/3D%20Printing%20at%20the%20Library%20FAQ.pdf and classes http://sunnyvale.ca.gov/Portals/0/Sunnyvale/LIB/programs%20flyer.pdf
4- If DIY printing is not really your thing, you can try using one of the online services that will print your design and then ship it to you. Try Sculpteo or Shapeways

So, what will you 3D print today?

4 thoughts on “3D printing: A quick guide on how to get started”

  1. Pingback: SKMurphy, Inc. » Paul Spaan Offers 3D Printing Show & Tell Fri-May-24 at Mountain View BB

  2. Pingback: SKMurphy, Inc. » Audio: Paul Spaan’s Briefing on 3D Printing at May 24 2012 Bootstrapper Breakfast

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