I have a confession to make. It appears I have been a bit of a fraud. I have paced the halls of the NEC at TCT Show, mingled with those of heads filled with PLA and yet up until recently I had never produced a single 3D print of my own. I know, shameful.
However, thanks to the experts at Creat3D I set out to rectify this terrible fact and render myself worthy of the 3D printing circles to which I now roam.
I don’t think I could quite stress the appalling severity of my n00b status before going into this training. Starting completely from scratch, Simon Chandler from Creat3D was the man tasked with getting me set up – poor guy.
Creat3D offers both onsite training and phone/video conference based tutorials including one-hour screen-to-screen demonstrations that cover every printer in its entire range. Having been around since 2013, he tells me the company exists for three reasons: helping people to choose a 3D printer that’s right for them, giving users the biggest range and finally offering full training and support.
“The first thing we ask is “what are you looking to produce?”” explained Simon. “Trying to compare stats and looking at printers on the internet is the most pointless exercise in the world.”
With so many brands, processes, resolution figures, materials, etc. on offer it is easy to understand where Simon is coming from. Much like a camera there are many factors that go into making a good product and there is not yet a one size fits all solution to your 3D printing needs. With some manufacturers being guilty of claiming a single machine is perfect for school, home, office, you can see where that need for an educated mediator stems from, and that’s where Creat3D come in.
For my initiation, my training was with a 3D Systems Cube Pro Trio, a triple extrusion machine that prints in multi-colour, PLA, ABS and soon, nylon.
Simon went through a full explanation of the basics of the printer from the power plug down to the nitty gritty of aligning the print bed. He warned me that people can be prone to rushing through this setup phase but assured me that when working with such high res accuracy of 200mc, you really can’t afford to be careless. The entire process was explained in simple, step-by-step terms so for someone just getting into this technology, the tutorial is an hour well spent.
Next up, the filament loading process was made very easy. The Cube uses filament recognition so that the printer knows what material is being used and warns you when you’re coming to the end of the spool. With clean, closed cartridges it is simply a matter of clipping in and feeding the filament through the correct tubes. Having Simon on hand was useful as he was able to give tips about how to thread the filament properly but also which order to feed them when working with all three (1, 3 and then 2.)
Simon reckons it is important that customers receive the training to go with their machines to ensure that crucial education is there and ultimately avoid misguided expectations.
“The last thing anyone in this industry needs is people to buy the wrong printer for the wrong job and not know how to use it properly,” Simon commented. “All that’s going to happen is they’ll stick a review online saying “this printer’s rubbish” and actually it’s a perfectly good printer, it’s just they don’t know that it won’t do what they want.”
Simon informed me that this particular printer is aimed at engineers looking to create large chunky prototypes but luckily for me, I was just working on a test print. Still, I was introduced to the CubePro software to demonstrate how to load a file and build a print. It can be simple or technical depending on what you want your end result to be. It is important to think about how an object will print in order to select the correct orientation and support materials and there is a very handy option for pre-viewing the print process so you can watch how the object will build – useful for complex prints.
After an informative explanation of the build process, it was time to test the print. What could possibly go wrong? In went the USB, select print and there it was, little calibration tester lines and shapes forming at every corner.
Once finished, the print showed that one minor adjustment would need making to the settings but apart from that – not a bad start!
So technically that was it, my first print! … Okay not quite and Simon gave me the task of producing my own - more on that in another post.
Having a platform like Creat3D on hand to guide a newbie through their first print is a valuable tool. As much as the term ‘plug and play’ is thrown around, 3D printing isn’t as simple as plugging in at the wall, choosing a file, pressing print and voila, you’re drinking from your own 3D printed beaker – yet, anyway. Tutorials like this are necessary in getting users to understand the possibilities and also the realities of 3D printing.
Right now, Simon tells me that engineering, business and education sectors are the company's primary customer base and confirms that the home and hobbyist market counts for a very small portion of the work Creat3D do.
“I think end of last year/start of this year, a lot of manufacturers were guilty of hyping up the consumer market,” explains, Simon. “They were selling a lot of what they considered to be consumer printers but they didn’t realise that a lot of our custom is for businesses and education and it's only recently that their messaging is starting to change.”
Creat3D is dedicated to delivering the biggest choice of manufacturers to its customers with the likes of 3D Systems, MakerBot and Ultimaker already in its portfolio. In the new year, we will see new UK manufacturers added to its books including CEL Robox and Zinter Pro.
“We’re trying to get as many British printers and British products as we possibly can but equally they’ve got to be good enough to be added to our range,” reveals Simon. “We get approached constantly by manufacturers of printers but a lot of them don’t really add anything more than we have already. The printer may be fantastic but actually if it’s early days for the company, they cant provide a lot of the support and spare parts and things that we need. We have to be quite picky about which manufacturers we work with but it’s expanding rapidly.”
For more information on Creat3D training packages, visit the website here.