How to Use a 3D Printer

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Updated March 21, 2023

Buying the best 3D printer entails knowing how to use a 3D printer. So, after finding the best printer for your needs, you need to follow a guide to set it up and create your first print. This includes creating and uploading the computer design, selecting the right filament and attachments, and gathering the right post-processing tools and materials.


  • 3D printing works by creating and uploading an object design via a computer file and translating that program into a physical object.
  • Preparing your printer by selecting suitable material, calibrating the nozzle, and adjusting the temperature is essential.
  • Some printers allow you to access, monitor and adjust your object during printing.

While the below guide is a more general take on the print process, for those looking for a material-specific guide, you can check out our piece on how to use a resin printer.

Insider Tip

To help protect yourself from any harmful chemicals or fumes, use safety gloves and goggles when handling objects.

How to Use a 3D Printer for Beginners

The process from forming a digital design to rendering a physical print model is lengthy and complex. It’s important to remember that there are significant differences between the various 3D printer types, materials, and applications. However, you can follow some general guidelines to ensure that your process runs smoothly, stays clear of hiccups, and, ultimately, turns out exactly the way you want.

Follow the steps outlined below, and you’ll be ready to conduct your first-ever 3D print job. Remember, these steps aren’t exhaustive or exact, but they will help outline the print process so you can clearly understand what you need to start, continue, and finish.

If you finish this and want to dive into some other topics, we have additional resources covering how to upload files to a 3D printer.

STEP 1 Select or Create a Print Design

  1. Create a design with computer-aided design (CAD) software. However, if you cannot do this, there are many places to find pre-made designs.
  2. Once you have the design, you’ll have to export the file in a type compatible with your printer. 3D printers accept many file types, but the most common are STL and OBJ.
  3. After exporting, you’ll need to put it through slicing software regardless of your chosen method. This software takes a design and turns it into a file that maps out the coordinates along the X, Y, and Z layers. Doing so allows the printer to take the file and correctly map out how it needs to move to print your object.
  4. The slicing software comes with many preconfigured settings for those who are just beginning. But if you would like to set custom parameters, slicer programs have many options to input your preferences.
  5. Once that’s done, download the file to an SD card or USB drive; downloading the file from the slicing software converts it into G-code, the type of language that 3D printers translate to create an object.


A USB webcam provides an easier installation experience but won’t provide the same image quality as a digital camera.

STEP 2 Prepare the 3D Printer

  1. With the model complete, you’ll need to get everything ready to transform your digital design. Always consult your user manual as you’re doing this because it’ll have unique directions for your particular device.
  2. Start by selecting and loading your print material. This step is critical because choosing your print materials according to the durability, heat resistance, adhesion quality, and desired resolution/finish of your printer model.
  3. Next, attach the right size nozzle.
  4. And lastly, configure your settings and set your desired configurations, like the layer height and temperature of the nozzle and print bed, and calibrate your nozzle along each axis to ensure the print turns out accurate.

STEP 3 Begin Print and Monitor Progress

  1. After setting the print job into motion, you may be able to monitor and adjust the process depending on your printer. However, in some cases, you won’t be able to make changes after beginning. Depending on the complexity of your model and type of printer, the process may take minutes to days.

STAT: For average print jobs, it’s recommended to use an infill density of 10-50%. (source)

STEP 4 Post Process (If Necessary)

  1. Many types of 3D print materials, like resin, require a post-process routine to rinse any harmful chemicals left over from the curing. Additionally, you’ll need to break away any support structures.
  2. Sand, polish, or paint your finished model if you want some added pizzazz.

How to Use a 3D Printer FAQs

How much does a 3D printer cost?

Depending on the quality and size of the printers, they cost anywhere from $100 to $500,000.

What’s an FDM printer?

An FDM printer is a filament-based printer; the device melts and layers the filament into an object.

Are 3D printers good for producing parts in bulk?

Unlike other production equipment types, like injection molding and CNC machining, 3D printing is not the most effective for bulk production.
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