Why you shouldn’t mod your 3D printer (yet)

First let me preface this by saying if you’re a seasoned 3D printer, you’ve had your machine for a while, and you’re wanting to squeeze every ounce of performance out of it… this article isn’t for you. I’m speaking here to those folks who have either just gotten their first printer, or who have some 3D printing experience but have just gotten a new printer. Okay, that being out of the way, let’s carry on!

So you just ordered your new printer and while you wait impatiently for the UPS driver to arrive, you’ve started scouring reddit, researching as much as you can about your new machine. Already you’re learning about custom firmware, improved features, better nozzles, auto bed leveling, improved heat breaks, and all manner of mods, tweaks, and upgrades that promise to make you a true first layer wizard. It’s all very exciting but before you mash the buy button on that $400 AliExpress order, there’s something you should know… IT’S A TRAP!

Yes, I know everyone on that Discord server said you need to do all these things in order to produce a print that will satisfy the 3D printing gods, but I’d like to offer you another perspective—get to know your machine before you decide it needs changing. The truth is, most 3D printers are capable of producing at least decent prints right out of the box. Yes, there are things that can be done to almost all printers to make them work even better but I assert that understanding what your machine is capable of in its current state before introducing new variables is important. What then SHOULD you do with your new machine?

Print the example files

Your printer likely shipped with some example GCODE files. It’s a great idea to run these as they were tuned specifically for your machine and it takes all of the guess work out of what the slicer settings need to be. If you attempt to print an example file and it doesn’t go well, you know right away where to focus—on the machine itself. Common issues include:

  • Physical assembly is incorrect
  • Wiring improperly connected
  • Bed not properly squared/leveled

Get your slicer dialed in

Arguably one of the most important things to get working well for any printer is your slicer software. This is the tool that provides all of the instructions to your printer, and just like driving a car, if you don’t have great directions you’ll find yourself lost. Garbage in, garbage out, right? Getting your slicer profile really dialed in will serve you well for the life of your machine. Start simple, make one change at a time, and run a small test print. How did that affect your print? Did it make it better, or worse? If it’s better, great! Keep that idea around. One great way to get started is to take advantage of some community-sourced slicer profiles for your machine. This can be an opportunity to leverage the lessons learned by those who came before you. Just be sure you are getting your profile from a reputable source.

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