To earn something on the side, some people write, others edit, illustrate, tutor or do something else they are good at and enjoy. A virtually untapped market is 3D printing. With a 3D printer, you can almost print anything and sell it online. Whether it’s animals, flowers, cars, boats, vases, signs, whatever you can think of.
Depending on the kind of printer you have, you can print something in small, medium or large. If you print in colored plastic, your work is done, if you print in white plastic, you can paint your creation in whatever color you or your client wants. A white cat, a black dog, a blue bird, a red rose, a gold vase, a silver cup, anything and everything goes.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
When the first 3D printer came on the market, it was not for everyone’s pocket. In due time the machines became more affordable though and so did the plastic.
My adventure in 3D printing started some three years ago. I happened to be browsing one of my favorite sites for discounted items and came across a 3D printer called Tevo Tarantula for a very reasonable price. I bought it even though I had no experience in using a 3D printer. I had a vague idea how these printers work but other than that I was totally clueless. While I waited for my printer to arrive I watched countless videos on 3D printing, tutorials, reviews, you name it, I watched it.
When I was notified that my printer had arrived, I couldn’t wait to get home and get started. When I opened the box a rather unpleasant surprise awaited me though … the printer was not assembled. The ad had stated ‘Some assembly required’, they should have said ‘Full assembly required’. To make matters worse, the accompanying instructions were minimal, to say the least. Online I found a video on how to assemble this machine and a few hours later there the machine was, ready to print.
While the machine was ready to print, I was not. The next step was to download the necessary software that would send model prints from my computer to the printer. Also not to be underestimated because there are numerous settings. Chose the wrong setting and the print is a flop. More studying to do on my part.
After hours of reading, watching videos, I was ready to give it a go. To say that my first prints were frustrating would be putting it mildly. There was a lot of frustration, hair pulling and I even reached the point that I wanted to give up.
Other than print setting and temperature control, I had to learn about the various types of plastic for 3D printing. PLA which is more typically used to ABS, TPU and various others. PLA is the cheaper of the two, a 2 lbs reel costs in the region of $24. Depending on the brand and the quality of the plastic, the price can be a few dollars more. One reel goes a long way though, depending on what is printed, the reel is good for dozens of pieces.
With 3D printing you basically melt plastic which is fed through a tube to a hot end unit and depending on your plastic, you need to heat up to a constant 410 degrees F (210 degrees C). Once the unit is hot enough the plastic is pressed on the printing bed and the printer prints layer by layer.
One of the frustrations is that the bed must be perfectly level and the first layer has to be 0.2mm between the bed and the nozzle. If it’s too far off the plastic will not stick to the bed, if it’s too close the nozzle will clog. When you get everything just right, the print quality is amazing.
With 3D printing, you need to have a lot of patience, not because quite a few things can go wrong, but printing also takes time. Depending on the size of an item, printing can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 21 hours if not more.
Once you get going, you’ll find there are hundreds of models that are free to download, you can pay for a particular design, or design something yourself.
If you’re thinking of getting a 3D printer, remember you’ll have to have patience, patience, and more patience. Expect that issues that will arise and there will be times of frustration. Fortunately, there are dozens of support groups online that can provide you with tips and advice.