So you wanna get started with 3D printing or you're still undecided if you should.
In this post, I'm going to talk about what you need to know, to get started, what questions you need to ask yourself - featuring the Prusa Mini Plus.
So - getting started with 3D printing - you should ask yourself THE most important question - WHAT do you want to create with the printer?
What is your use-case? Because the last thing I want you to do is to buy a 3D printer and then finding out that it's not the right tool for the job or it's just not what you were expecting.
So there is two kinds of 3D printers in general. There is filament based printers - like the Prusa Mini - which are using a string of material in this case PLA plastic - which is pushed through a heated nozzle and then this material is deposited in layers on a build plate - one by one - a little bit like LEGO bricks - until the final object is printed.
This kind of printer is in general pretty affordable and easy to use nowadays. The use cases are mainly for functional parts and mid-size objects in general.
All kinds of plastic materials can be used but also wood mixtures, carbon fiber enforced materials and even metal composites - so there is a huge variety of materials for all kinds of use-cases.
BUT - this technology also has its limitations mainly being how much detail you will be able to print and how fast you're getting the result.
So if you are fan of miniatures and warhammer add-ons for example or if you're a dentist and you like to print inlay protoypes, there is the second kind of 3D printer that might be interesting for you - Resin printers, which are using fluid material and light to create a print, but this is completely different from a usage point of view and probably not for everyone.
But today we'll talk about filament based printers, which brings us back to the Prusa Mini Plus.
This is a slightly modified version of the Prusa Mini by the way - with a new improved bed leveling sensor - that's why it's called the Plus - but that's all that's different from the original Mini.
This printer is the smallest model PRUSA is making, it can print things up to a size of 180 by 180 by 180 millimeters.
This should be good for most things to print, however the market standard is more around 220 mm of edge length, like the PRUSA i3Mk3, the bigger brother of the PRUSA Mini Plus.
So it can happen that you like to print something that doesn't quite fit into that smaller build volume and you will have to decide whether you split the part or downsize it so it will work.
But on the other hand, this cute version is just going to fit better on a smaller desk and it's a good option to get started and still get PRUSA level quality and support.
Talking about quality, support and price. It's of course possible to buy a printer that is cheaper than this - there is so many options out there.
However, when you want to get into 3D printing, you also have to ask yourself - do you want a device that will just work out of the box and if anything fails are you willing to invest a lot of time and also maybe MORE money to fix issues on your own.
Because let's be honest - Chinese printers are fine - they have great quality. But if something fails - good luck getting official support and getting it on-time.
So if you're doing something that you really need to get done and maybe it's just a hobby but it could also be that you're generating some side income, then it's going to get important that you have a product that is reliable and on the other hand that you have support from the manufacturer.
And that's why PRUSA printers are a little more expensive than the average Ender 3 clone. It's a little bit like - are you an Apple person or a PC guy.
So once you made the decision to buy a 3D printer, how do you actually start using it?
First, you might need to build the printer.
That depends very much if the device is coming as a kit, which means you have to assemble everything yourself or if it's pre-assembled, which requires a lot less effort or it could also be completely ready to go out of the box, so you literally just have to plug in the power cable and start printing.
The PRUSA Mini will require you to invest around 30 minutes to one hour to build it, if you go for the pre-assembled version, which is what I've done here and luckily the manual is really easy to understand and will guide you step by step through the build.
And it also comes with gummi bears to celebrate your progress, which is literally a thing mentioned in the manual.
So your printer is built, what now?
Most of the time, the manufacturer delivers some sample filament or you might also have ordered some additional filament for the printer that you now need to feed into the filament system.
And depending on the printer, this can be as simple as pressing one button and the printer will feed the filament in on its own or it might be a little more work to feed it in manually.
The PRUSA Mini Plus has a very convenient filament loading function, which does most of the work for you.
Now the next thing that almost every filament based printer needs is leveling the bed, and this is really a meme in all of the 3D printing discussion forums. If you're asking for help there, there is always one person to answer with "level the bed".
In case of the Prusa Mini Plus, you have the auto bedleving system doing most of the work for you. You just have to do an initial levling-print and set the desired distance of the nozzle to the surface so your prints are going to stick to the surface. That's just a thing of a two minutes.
So once you've done that, you can actually start printing. Normally, you'll find some sample printable files on the usb stick that the manufacturer gives you with the printer and that is something you can use just to test if the printer is working at all, so I've done that also with the Prusa Mini Plus.
By the way, the print quality of this little printer is actually surprisingly good, maybe I shouldn't be surprised - it's a PRUSA.
Good, you've done a test print, but you actually want to print something that is useful, right? You kinda get, I'm not such a big fan of printing things that have no purpose but standing around.
Truth is - there is so many things to print and most of them are going to be free.
For PRUSA users the best place to look is surely prusaprinters.org, where you can search for 3D models - you'll see in a second why - but there is also thingiverse.com, cults3d.com and many more.
So let's look for something on prusaprinters.org - it's gardening season and I have to remove a lot of weeds already from the garden, so let's search for weed puller for example.
A lot of times, the creators of those 3D designs also upload their gcode files along with the original STL design.
Now if you don't know what the difference is - The STL file is a 3D sketch, you could also call it CAD design file but your printer won't understand it.
So to make it printable, there is a software program that is called a slicer, that literally slices the 3D model into the individual layers.
In the case of PRUSA, it's PrusaSlicer, where you load this 3D design into and then it converts it into something that your printer can understand and that is the gcode.
PrusaSlicer is easy to use because you just have to select your printer model, the material and then you can start slicing your models, basically it's mostly a thing of a few minutes to do that.
So you might find as in this case for the weed puller that you don't have to do that because the provided gcode works with the Prusa Mini Plus. And that means simply download the gcode, copy it to your printer's SD card or the USB Stick and insert it in your printer to start printing it.
Indeed this weed puller came out really nice. And it's actually working - that's why I love functional prints so much, you can literally print your own custom tools that you will otherwise have to buy if they actually exist as product that you CAN buy.
But how about something that utilizes the print volume a bit more? This utility box from Clockspring printed in Prusament PLA came out perfectly so we have some place to store the PRUSA Mini tools and spare parts.
Do I think that the PRUSA Mini Plus is a good printer for beginners? I would say yes, it's actually really easy to build and get started with. Being a bit more expensive than other entry level printers but it's also a bit more Apple than PC.
I'll tell you more about my long term experiences in a few weeks in another video and post.
That has been my super quick introduction how to start 3D printing featuring the new PRUSA Mini Plus. Tell me in the comments what you like to see next on this channel about the Prusa Mini Plus.
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