How Can You Learn To 3D Print?
3D printing might seem a little intimidating if you’re just getting started. Between the 3D modeling, transferring the model to the printer in the right format, setting up the printer correctly, having everything that you need, etc., it looks like it might be nearly impossible to learn. But the truth is, 3D printing is not nearly as hard as it might seem! If you’re willing to put in some time and effort, we have no doubt you can learn how to 3D print in no time!
But then that of course begs the question: how do you learn 3D printing?
Thankfully, the material necessary to learn skills — including 3D printing — have never been more accessible than they are today. With the internet, pretty much anything you want to know is out there. Including, of course, how to learn 3D printing! So that’s where we’re going to start, by looking at some of the best 3D printing online courses available.
But don’t worry, if you don’t want to enroll in an online 3D printing course, there are other ways you can learn how to 3D print almost just as easily. Other than taking an online course, you can also read books that will teach you how to 3D print, watch YouTube videos from various content creators, and maybe even take an in-person class at your local college
So let’s dive right in! Here are the best ways to learn 3D printing in no time.
Online 3D Printing Courses
Without a doubt our favorite way to learn how to 3D print is by taking an online course. These courses are great because you move at your own pace, get to see actual examples of what you’re learning, and you can rewatch any videos that you need to. Oftentimes, course creators will even make themselves available for questions if you don’t understand something.
These are our top four favorite online 3D printing courses that you should consider.
Beginner 3D Printing Class on Instructables — Great place to start for an overview of 3D printing
We’ll start off with a great resource to get the ball rolling: the Beginner 3D Printing Class on Instructables. We’re fans of this course for three main reasons — it’s taught by an expert and is informative, it’s short so you don’t have to spend a lot of time doing it, and best of all, it’s free!
This quick crash course consists of four relatively short lessons that will cover the general overview of much of the process of 3D printing. With how short it is, you can’t expect to come out of it as an expert in 3D printing, but it’s the perfect way to start your journey.
3D Printing Courses on Coursera — Covers just about every topic of 3D printing
Coursera is one of the best resources on the web to learn how to do just about anything that someone could create a course on. And as you’ve guessed by now, they have some great options that will help you learn 3D printing quickly and effectively. While there are all kinds of 3D printing courses offered, these are some of the courses you can really learn a lot from:
- 3D Printing Applications
- 3D Printing Revolution
- 3D Printing Hardware
- 3D Printing Software
- 3D Printing Capstone
If you take the time to go through all five of these courses, you’ll come out pretty well-rounded and just about ready to tackle any 3D printing project you’ve got your mind on!
Master Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing Course on LinkedIn Learning — Deep dive into the basics of 3D Printing
If you’ve gone through the brief crash course on Instructables above, you’ll likely be left wanting more. And one of the easiest ways to get that more is by taking this six-course master course offered on LinkedIn Learning. With more than 10 hours of videos and presentations, you’ll need to carve out some time to watch them all. But it will be worth it.
When you get done with this course, you’ll have a decent idea of how to do just about everything needed for 3D printing. You’ll know things such as how to create 3D models, how to process them and get them ready for a 3D printer, how to upload to the 3D printer, and more.
Additive Manufacturing for Innovative Design and Production from MIT — Best all-around online course on 3D printing
Coming from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), you’re probably expecting a lot from this course. After all, MIT is without a doubt one of the world’s leading universities on all things technical. And through this online course offered by MIT faculty members, you will not be disappointed.
As you go through this course, you’ll learn just about everything that you can about additive manufacturing in general, including, of course, 3D printing. You’ll learn how to develop a product to fix an issue, what materials to use, how to assess the viability of creating the part, how to use the software and hardware, and more.
If you’re serious about 3D printing, try to get enrolled in this course. It’ll be worth it.
Best Books That Teach 3D Printing
We understand that online courses are not for everyone. Many people still much prefer a good old-fashioned copy of an actual book. And when it comes to learning how to 3D print, there are plenty of great options out there! Let’s take a look at our three favorite books that will teach you how to 3D print.
3D Printing for Dummies
The For Dummies books are without a doubt one of the most recognizable names in the instructional book industry. Going strong since the early 1990s, this series of books has sold well over 200 million copies throughout its lifetime. As the name suggests, these books are written to explain complex topics in such a simple way that even a “dummy” could understand them.
They’ve covered just about everything imaginable in the last 30+ years, and 3D printing is no different! This book was written by Richard Horne, who is regarded as one of the fathers of 3D printing and is a true expert. This is the perfect book to read if you’re just getting started in 3D printing and want to understand the process, learn how to use a printer, and more.
Functional Design for 3D Printing
While the other two books we have listed here are mostly general overviews of 3D printing as a whole, sandwiched in the middle here is our favorite when it comes to really nailing down your designs. If you’ve got some 3D printing under your belt, chances are high that you’ve had some issues figuring out the perfect way to get a product to come out just the way you want it to.
Well, that’s where Functional Design for 3D Printing comes in. As the title of the book implies, this resource focuses on making your designs far more functional. In this book, you’ll learn about the best ways to create support structures, how to increase your working efficiency, the best ways to troubleshoot some common issues, and more.
The 3D Printing Handbook
With a title like that, you probably expect a lot out of The 3D Printing Handbook, and it won’t disappoint! This well-written book is full of schematics, diagrams, and images to really drive the process of 3D printing home. And as a general overview of 3D printing, it’s right up there with the best books available on the market.
This book is perfect for anyone who’s looking at getting into 3D printing, as you’ll have an understanding of the majority of the aspects of the process. With all of these books, however, don’t expect to be an expert from the outset. You won’t be able to read any of these books and then suddenly be 3D printing intricate designs to your heart’s desire. But they’re all amazing reference books and a great place to start.
Learn To 3D Print Using YouTube
If you’re like many of us, you just instinctively go to YouTube to learn, well, just about anything. Need to figure out how to change your oil? YouTube it. Looking for new recipes? Use YouTube. Or maybe you’re trying to figure out how to do an exercise you never heard of? It’s on YouTube! If that sounds like you, then you’re in luck when it comes to 3D printing.
There are countless guides, tutorials, and walkthroughs on YouTube that will teach you everything you need to know about 3D printing. Unlike all-out courses, you can use YouTube to be much more specific in what you’re looking for. For example, you could just search for “How to Clean a 3D Printer Nozzle” and you’ll find exactly that instead of having to sift through an entire course worth of videos to find something specific.
The possibilities with YouTube are nearly endless no matter what you’re trying to learn. So if you want to try your hand at 3D printing, just head over to YouTube and start with the basics: “How to learn how to 3D print” or something similar, and go from there. The almighty YouTube algorithm will then keep suggested related videos to you and you’ll be learning the intricacies of 3D printing in no time!
Find A 3D Printing Course At A Local College
If you’re much more of a hands-on person, then learning how to 3D print online or by reading a book might not be the best option for you. Luckily, there is another great way to learn how to 3D print that’s becoming more common: taking a 3D printing course at a college near you. It’s never too late to go back to school to learn a new skill!
With 3D printing becoming so much more intertwined with everyday manufacturing and industry, it’s becoming a skill that people are needing to know by the time they graduate from school. So curricula have started getting adjusted to ensure that 3D printing courses become the norm for students who need to take that course to succeed in their careers.
That said, it’s almost always offered as an optional elective course. This makes it easier for people who aren’t full-time students to enroll in the course and take it purely to learn the material rather than to work towards a degree. These courses are also commonly offered at night by a third party just to be sure that anyone interested is able to take the course and learn 3D printing hands-on.
So check around with the local colleges around you and see what they have to offer. This is one of the only ways to learn 3D printing from the ground up and actually have access to a 3D printer right from the start!
How Long Does It Take To Learn How To 3D Print?
The hardest part of learning how to 3D print is learning how to effectively create 3D models. You can think of something in your head all day long and how you want to 3D print it into this perfect object. But if you can’t correctly model your design within 3D modeling software, then you won’t be able to get what you’re looking for without the help from some sort of online 3D printing service that does some of the design work for you.
If you’re starting from scratch, you can expect to spend around 3 months learning the basics of 3D modeling so that you can theoretically start creating your own models. But to really delve into creating intricate models, it’ll likely take you around 6 to 12 months before you’re capable of creating detailed models that you actually want to print.
Once you have the 3D modeling aspect nailed down, you’re almost done, without even knowing anything else about 3D printing! From there, you’ll mainly just need to export the model in the correct file format (typically an STL file), and then the 3D printer will be able to read that file and do the rest of the work for you.
At this point, you’ll mainly need to get used to uploading files, setting the equipment up correctly, replacing filament, caring for the printer, and things like that. All said, these are things that you could learn in a few weeks to a month or two at the most.
So from start to finish, anything from around 6 to 14 months will typically be long enough to learn 3D modeling and how to use the 3D printer itself to start creating the prints of your dreams.
Should You Learn How To 3D Print?
This question is of course a bit subjective, and in the end, it will really come down to you and what you want to get out of life. Before we go off the deep end into the rabbit hole that is figuring out the meaning of our lives (42?), let’s keep it related to 3D printing. So is it worth the time, effort, and money to learn this relatively new skill?
We might not be the best people to answer this question, since we’re a bit biased. After all, we love 3D printing and think it’s something that everyone should learn how to do! Nothing else in the world gives you the opportunity to legitimately make anything you can think of, as long as it fits in the printer. The innovative and creative capabilities of 3D printing are second to none.
On the flip side, it will take some time and effort to learn, as you read above. Not only that, but to really get into it, you’ll have to fork over some money to get all the equipment, hardware, and software that you need. Plus more and more materials for every print that you want to make. But even with all that in mind, if you’re interested in creating things like never before, 3D printing is one of the best things you could learn.
If you decide to partake in 3D printing, we’ll be with you every step of the way. So be sure to check back regularly for the most helpful 3D printing content on the web!