Noob Mistakes: Overcome and Conquer!

As a long time lurker and occasional helper on multiple Facebook 3D printer groups, I see lots of people having problems.  I’m going to help you avoid these issues once and for all by detailing some of the common noob mistakes that I have seen AND their solutions!  Buckle up, we’re going for a ride!

noob mistakes-bad benchy
Photo Courtesy of Tristam Maclean from the Geeetech group on Facebook.

I was planning on numbering these, but I was having a hard time figuring out which order they would go in.  In the end, I decided to just list them here for your viewing pleasure.  Also, one of the most important resources when it comes to print quality issues is the Simplfy3D Troubleshooting Guide.  Remember, that as you are reading this, nearly everyone went through these same growing pains.

Incorrect Slicer Settings

I find this to be a super prevalent noob mistake.  This can range from minor things like too much retraction, too hot of temperature, or even straight up using an impossible layer height.  Most modern slicers have built in configurations for each printer.  Use these to start, and then slowly modify your profile.  If you’ve completely borked something, your best bet is to ask for a working profile for your model of 3D printer.  Most people are more than willing to help you avoid the same noob mistakes they made.  There are tons of options and settings in slicers.  If one of them is way out whack, you will have SERIOUS issues.  Even with a well tuned printer, a bad slicer config will make all your prints look terrible.

Unable to level the Bed(Correctly)

noob mistakes- bad astronaut
Photo courtesy of Ade Daverse Paseda from the Geeetech Facebook user group

This is probably the most common noob mistake.  This can range from low corners or high spots.  Sometimes, people will have it perfectly leveled, but then set the initial gap between nozzle and bed to be too high or too low.  I personally found that setting the perfect initial gap to be the most time consuming process early on.  Now, I can do it in seconds!  I prefer to use the paper method, with a slight drag on the paper.  You want to be able to feel friction, but not so tight that it feels like you are trying to pull something from someone’s grip.  Check out our bed leveling guide using Simplfy3d!  It’s also helpful to use ‘Baby-Stepping’ in your firmware to get this perfect.  Certain filaments like more gap than others.  I’m looking at you PETG!  Getting that perfect first layer after struggling for hours, or maybe even days, makes it all worth it though!

Incorrect Initial Printer Setup

This noob mistake happens on a regular basis with kit printers and even with some of the common ‘mostly assembled’ printers.  This can be as simple as swapping your X and Z axis wiring around or assembling your entire Z gantry out of square.  Sometimes, you just need to properly calibrate your extruder.  Depending on the complexity of what you messed up, this can be an easy DOH! type moment, or something that will take hours of troubleshooting to find.  I know this, because I’ve done this!  Hint, if you find an ‘extra‘ screw in the box for you mostly assembled printer, you need to find out where it really came from.  Don’t be ashamed to ask for help, but go slow and be as specific as possible when listing what is happening.  Otherwise, it’s nearly impossible to resolve.

Hotend Jams

If you are getting lots of filament jams, you probably did something wrong.  That something can range from multiple things.  Molten filament could have been pulled into the cold zone of your hotend by too much retraction.  You could also have poorly assembled your hotend, and have something wrong or out of place.  Typically, this happens in a bowden setup because the PTFE tube isn’t fully seated into the nozzle.  Another noob mistake is to buy lower quality parts.  I was bitten early and often by this one.  Sometimes the lower quality parts won’t be machined to the correct tolerances.  I finally wised up and spent a little more on quality hot end parts.

Leaking Filament

noob mistakes-failed print
Here’s one of my own!

Usually this is just a case of not understanding how molten filament works.  If you preheat your hotend, filament will slowly ooze out.  This happens because of gravity.  I’ve also seen this noob mistake from people working on their hot end.  Typically this happens AFTER a jam of some sort.  You remove the nozzle, clean it out, hastily put it back together and then you have filament leaking out of the top of your heater cartridge.  This has happened to me, and it’s no fun cleaning up a mess from this.  The surface of the nozzle and heat break must be fully seated when you are assembling your hotend.  Typically, you need to heat up the hotend to 150c or so and tighten it the rest of the way.  Failure to re-tighten after heating is the #1 cause of all leaking hot ends.

YOU bought a 3D printer?!

This one hurt me to type.  Right now, I consider 3D printing to still be in it’s awkward teenage phase.  Lot’s of people know about it and tons of people are talking about it, but few of these people truly understand it.  Some people even get into it JUST to try something new.  This is where the mistake happens.  I have seen some posts where people set their printer up and ask what to do next.  Sometimes people will ask HOW to get it to print things they found online.  For these people, the concept of downloading or creating a model is completely lost to them.

Most of the really popular hobbyist machines are excellent tools.  Sadly, they are marketed as being really easy to setup and use.  Sometimes, that just isn’t the case for a TRUE beginner with no technical background.  A good technical background, attention to detail, and solid problem solving skills are ESSENTIAL 3D printing tools that require no additional money.

noob mistakes- bad quality
Photo Courtesy of Alex Prohaska from Geeetech user group on Facebook

Also, let it be known.. I’m not advocating against noobs, but PLEASE do some research before you buy a 3D printer.  I hate reading about people selling low use machines because they just didn’t get ‘IT’.

You KNOW You Did It Too!

I have been guilty of quite a few of these mistakes.  It’s also important to realize that not everyone is a seasoned veteran in the 3D printing war.  Take the time and help these people out when you see common issues like this.  We all were first timers in this hobby at one point.  A little compassion and empathy goes a long way on the Internet.

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Don’t forget to check out Scott Masson‘s Newbie Experience with his Ender 3!

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