How to Print a Simple Cube on Your 3D Printer - dummies

How to Print a Simple Cube on Your 3D Printer

By Kalani Kirk Hausman, Richard Horne

This is an exciting moment, but don’t get overly ambitious for this first 3D object. Instead of jumping in with a complex object at this stage, try printing something easier — like a simple cube.

You can print cubes to test all sorts of things, including materials and settings; they’re a great way to check things out. They don’t take too long to print and can show you how settings such as Infill and Solid Layers change the way an object looks.

You can download a simple 20mm cube (20mm x 20mm and 10mm high) from Thingiverse.

To print it, just follow these steps:

1Load your cube object into Slic3r.

Select an Infill of 20% and 3 solid top and bottom layers.

2Export the G-code and then load that G-code into Pronterface.

Pronterface shows the object loaded in the middle of the virtual print-bed. You can click the object and scroll through the various layers. Above you can see the base layer with a ring around it.

This ring is not part of the object being printed; it’s added by Slic3r as the first part to be printed, which primes the plastic flow of the extruder before the object starts to print. The middle sections show the hexagonal infill and (finally) the solid top surfaces. You’re now ready to print your first object.

3Set your print-bed and hot-end to the required temperatures for the material you're printing and allow the printer to reach temperature.

This is always a good idea, but if you forget to do this, the G-code will do it for you.

4Manually extrude some material.

This is done to check that everything is working correctly and to home the printer axis.

5When you're at print temperature, press Print.

After a slight delay while the G-code checks and stabilizes the temperatures the print head moves to the middle and starts printing your cube, usually with a border outline to start the flow of plastic. While the first border is being extruded, look to see whether the plastic is sticking; make sure that the print head is not scraping across the surface and is not too far away.

One of the trickiest settings is the correct distance of hot-end nozzle over the print-bed. Here the printer has completed two perimeters. Note the slight ridge; the infill will look solid and have similar ridges. For the first layer, you shouldn’t see any gaps between the individual extruded lines.

If you’re not seeing a good bond of the plastic, stop the print and adjust your nozzle head a fraction closer. If material doesn’t escape and you see the flow stop and start or if you’re seeing a lot of material squashed out and the nozzle being dragged through the plastic, the extruder is a little too close. Move the nozzle head away from the build bed.

6When your cube is finished, measure it and confirm it measures as close as possible to 20mm and 10mm high.

If it has printed significantly larger or smaller — for example, if it measures 40mm — the number of is probably set incorrectly for the Z and Y axes. Work out the new value by performing the same calculation you did for the extruder. For this to be useful, be sure you mark and remember the orientation of the cube when it’s printed:

The distance from front to back of the cube on the build-plate is the Y measurement.

The distance from left to right is the X axis.

New users most often find that the Z axis is more likely to be set incorrectly. That’s because many RepRap 3D printers use similar belt-and-pulley drives for X and Y, but different machines may use quite a range of threaded rods, belts, or lead-screws for the Z-axis motion.

7Check that your cube corners are nice 90-degree right angles.

If they aren’t, then check to make sure your X-axis carriage is aligned straight across the moving Y axis.

You should now be able to print more objects and start exploring the capabilities of your 3D printer. It takes time to learn the different speeds, temperatures, and settings required for printing different objects. The best way is by experimentation; many factors influence different 3D printers in various ways.