I purchased my first 3D printer having no understanding of how to use it or create the models it required. After a few classes and countless youtube videos I developed a basic understanding of how to use this futuristic machine and my passion for 3D printing began.
My first printer was the Ultimaker 2. It was, and remains to be, a high quality printer - but as I learned more about 3D printing I found its 3.0mm filament size and bowden tube extrusion setup unhelpful for what I was working on.
My second printer, and the one I still have and use, was an inexpensive knockoff of a FlashForge Creator Pro (below). I purchased it because it was 1/5th the price of the Ultimaker, supported 1.75mm filament and, most importantly, had dual extrusion - allowing me to use two materials at once.
My third printer, the largest and most expensive, was a gCreate gMax 1.5XT+. Despite being technically able to print 16x16x21, I barely got it to work properly at all. After months of attempting to print things and failing, I contacted the company and sent it back for a 75% refund. They later told me it was damaged in shipping and they had it working after tweaking a few things, but by then I was mentally over it.
I later sold the Ultimaker 2 so I could focus on using 1.75mm filament with my Monoprice 3DP. Monoprice no longer sells the model I use, but they have made even cheaper models which take advantage of the newer features that have become available and I would recommend one of their printers if you wanted to start out without spending too much.
I have since added upgrades and tuned it accordingly to get exceptional performace out of a relatively cheap printer.
The plastic that 3D printers use is called filament. It comes on a spool, is available in two different diameters (1.75mm & 3.00mm) and many different combinations of plastic - with specialty filaments that have metal, wood and all sorts of other fun stuff suspended within it.
Here are the filaments that I am currently working with:
Knowing your measurements is crucial to printing out customized pieces that fit your needs perfectly. And until I took up 3D design I never even knew what calipers were. In short, you can take measurements that are accurate to one hundredth of a millimeter - these are a designers best friend.
One of the cooler things you can do, with the hardware below, is scan yourself and your friends and use those digital files to make 3D prints using their heads and bodies! I have printed all kinds of unique objects with my friends faces.
I have created a few designs that I am very proud of, and if you have a 3D printer you should try them out! You can also follow me on Thingiverse to be notified of new designs.