Advice for Starters

These tips are based on our early adventures in 3D printing and are aimed at people getting interested or just starting out. There will be more advanced tips/tricks on later pages but, if you're just dipping your toes in the water, this is all for you ...

First and foremost - don't believe EVERYTHING you read.

When 3D printers first emerged, and particularly when they began to make their way onto the domestic (home) market the press, as is usual for the media, ran hundreds of stories about how easy this was all going to be. Click a button and it can print you a new egg whisk, rotors for your quad-copter or even a nice new smartphone case to freshen up your gadgets. Whilst all of these are technically possible and, actually not so difficult to achieve, they are definitely not as simple as turning on the printer, pressing a button and heading off to the pub.

To print in more than one colour (ie in the case of a flashy smartphone case) you'll either need at least a dual head/extruder system on your printer or some very clever design and timings - changing the filament between layers. Also, to print in more flexible materials (as in the case of the phone case - which you want to be a bit more elastic) you'll need to revisit the slicer settings (more on this later) to suit the changes in material.

You will also need a 'model' to print. Hundreds of these can be found on and this is a fabulous place to start while you get to know your printer. Indeed many people may never progress beyond printing things from this amazing resource. For other repositories you can also check and also this amazing list of the best sites All3DP Best 3dPrint Sites of 2021. Eventually you will probably start wanting to alter some of these models to suit what you're trying to do - if you're playing with STL files the simplest solution (if you have Windows 10) is Microsoft 3D Builder (its free and included - click the start button and type 3D - it should show up in the list. Its pretty easy to learn and allows you undo almost any changes you make by mistake.


Start simple

You will quickly realise that there is a vast range of different filaments available depending on what you decide you want to print. Different filaments, however, require some understanding of the properties of the material and the environment that your printer will need to operate in. Some may require and enclosure around the printer to cut down temperature differences due to drafts etc. Some may even require a temperature controlled enclosure.

By far the simplest, most forgiving and versatile filament is PLA (Polylactic Acid).

PLA (Polylactic Acid) is a Polyester made from plant starches so, compared with petrochemical plastics, it’s easier on the environment. It also has the distinct advantage that it degrades into non-toxic components when composted. PLA has great properties for general-purpose printing and prototyping. Sure, it doesn’t have the mechanical and thermal properties of some other materials but for 99% of applications it’s good to go and makes superb prints.

PLA gives good first layer adhesion without requiring ‘special’ agents on the print bed (more on this later on), comes off the bed easily at the end of the print, is easy to handle and also easy to rework after a print (drilling, filing etc) and, in the majority of cases, is cheaper than the other materials.

We suggest you begin with some smaller models and a reel or two of PLA while you get to know the characteristics of your printer and its environment – sticking to a single material will also make it easier to work out what is causing any early problems – changing material always adds a few new questions to the equation.

Location ...

Think fairly carefully about where you are going to site your new printer. Location is surprisingly important in getting the best out of your machine and starting in the wrong environment will introduce problems which may lead you to believe you are doing something wrong, choosing the wrong material or simply that the printer is defective. Quite often these problems are due to drafts, inadequate heating or other environment problems.

Trying to install a printer in a garage or garden shed has led to interesting problems in the past. Prints can work fine on one day and then go spectacularly wrong on the next 2 or 3 days - and this can simply be due to the outside temperature shifting by a few degrees. 3D printers actually perform best in a reasonably warm environment (22-28 degrees centigrade) and also relatively dry so exposing them to British weather (where relative humidity is often 60%+ and temperatures vary wildly day to day) doesn't make for a happy machine.

A home office or a corner of a spare room in a centrally heated house works fine - but try to avoid the temptation to open the windows on a warm day - drafts are not the friend of a 3D print either.

If you find you are getting problems (bad first layer, prints separating from the bed, filament curling up around the nozzle, spaghetti prints - ie a load of filament just squirting into the air above your print bed) then its a good idea to ask yourself, quite early on, if moving the printer may be the answer.

Maintenance and cleaning

3D printers are precision engineered, quite complex pieces of machinery so you are, quite possibly, going to need to develop a few basic core skills to look after your machine. General tasks such as loading a filament or clearing a clogged nozzle can seem quite daunting at first but, with a little practice, you will get these under your belt pretty quickly. Not everyone has the same skill set though so, if you're not comfortable with a bit of assembly work or making some fine adjustments with a hex key, it may be an idea to look up a DIY course or maybe get a local handyman to give you some advice on basic maintenance skills.

As an example you will need to keep an eye on drive belt tensions and there are some very fine adjustments to be made when setting nozzle height above the print bed - these adjustments can be in the order of a hundredth of a millimetre and, while many printers (particularly the QQ-S Pro which we supply) can make this adjustment by the press of a button, its quite easy to crash the brass nozzle into the glass bed by mistake. In short, make sure you are happy that you have the skills needed to do whatever you are about to do - and, if you're not, get some advice first.

These machines generate quite a bit of unwanted plastic. Often, on the first layer, there will be some deposits from where the nozzle has been priming ready to print and you can also get rubbished prints which scatter the bed with thin shreds of plastic. Take the cleaning up of these items seriously - build up of this stuff will affect the performance of your printer - and possibly lead to even more unwanted waste - so after every print it is a good idea to make sure the print bed is free of any unwanted stuff and that the area around the printer is also clean.

Fans attract dust so the part cooling fans on the print head and also the power supply cooling fan should be inspected every now and then. they can be cleaned with a soft brush (and this is often best achieved while they are running) - a very small squirt of lubricant (WD40 for example), once in a while, is also a good idea.

Cleaning of the print bed should also be carried out periodically. Depending on what you use for adhesion (see later in the article) you will probably find you get a build up of either glue or other sticky residue. This can become a problem once it becomes thick enough. If you are lucky enough to have a removeable glass bed (FLSUN Super Racer, Ender etc) then the best way to do this is to put the bed through the dishwasher but if you have either a fixed glass bed (QQ-S Pro) or a non glass (magnetic mat or other materials) you may have to experiment until you find a reliable solution. On the QQ-S Pro, for example, the best way to clean the glass bed is to heat it to 75-80 degrees C and then clean it with surgical spirit (pretty cheap at any pharmacy) - once its clean, leave the heat on for a few minutes to let it dry off.