Fall/Winter 2022 Update… Let the 3d Printing Begin!

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The 3D Printing Learning Curveball

For a long time, I held off getting a 3D printer for several reasons. The first is that I really felt like I just wasn’t ready for Yet Another Hobby. My life wasn’t together, and my finances weren’t either. I know that 3D printing can be expensive, and I just didn’t have the discretionary income to support it. Then I decided to move, and that comes with its own expenses and difficulties.

But here I am, a few months into the move, and I now have my 3D printer as mentioned in my previous post. I got the Creality Ender 3 Neo with auto-leveling, the “silent” motherboard (quieter motor drivers) and a glass bed, from Amazon. I specifically wanted to have auto leveling.

I’ve learned a few things since I started this journey, and I thought I’d take you along for the ride, and describe what I’ve learned.

You’re going to to Fail. A lot.

Yes, I have more failed prints than successful prints. And, if you check out my YouTube channel MiscDotGeek, you’ll see some of my own 3D Printing Fail videos, which are you YouTube Shorts (which means they’re 60 seconds or less). One of them really baffled me for a few seconds before I realized what happened! Check this out:

Can you spot the fail in progress? Yes, it failed more.

A Level Bed Isn’t actually Level

A 3D printer works by depositing plastic onto a surface, and building upward. That surface is called the “bed”. The bed needs to be aligned to the rest of the printer. If it isn’t aligned to be in the same plane that the the thing that spits out hot plastic (the extruder) moves in, things tend to go pear shaped rather quickly. Leveling has nothing to do with being level in the canonical sense. The typical wisdom says to measure the distance from the extruder nozzle to the bed with a piece of paper.

This is flawed.

It might work for some, but it didn’t work for me. Instead, I found a YouTube video from Maker Muse that suggested using a feeler gauge instead. I did, and wow what a difference!

But Wait, you said it’s Auto Leveling!

Yes. It is. But that’s not actual alignment. A sensor called the BL Touch is mounted next to the extruder. An electromagnet controls whether its probe is extended or not. It’s retracted during printing. But during the auto-leveling procedure, it extends, and measures how far away the bed is from the extruder at 16 different points on the bed. Then, it compensates in software for the various distances. So it’s not really auto leveling, it’s a Bad Alignment Compensator Thingy.

Hight Is Might

We say this for Antennae, but it’s also true of the nozzle’s relationship to the bed. If the nozzle prints too closely to the bed, then the plastic gets squished, and really sticks to the bed. If it’s to far away, it gets stringy and just kinda flops around. Not good.

I didn’t know how to set the nozzle height (called the -Z Offset) properly, so I did what any good experimenter does: I printed a ton of the same things, keeping track of settings, modifying them until I got it right. It only took a dozen tries at 40 minutes each (see the pictures below). Which brings me to the next point.

3D Printing Is SLOW

Yes. That’s it. It’s slow. There are things you can do to make it a lot faster, such as controlling the 3D Printer controller with another controller (if you’re interested, look up Octoprint or Klipper) and tweaking dozens of settings in the software that prepares 3D models for printing. That software by the way is called a Slicer, and it’s the 3D printing equivalent of Mission Control, whereas the 3D printer itself is like an Apollo capsule. They have their own settings, but they have to work together to make a print actually work. Kind of like an antenna and a radio. One without the other doesn’t do much.

3D Printing is FUN!

I can hardly describe the glee that comes from watching a spool of plastic be transformed into a thing you saw on your computer screen. It’s like Weird Science, but without the supermodels. It has to be experienced to be fully understood, no matter how many YouTube videos you watch. Speaking of which…

YouTube Is A Big Fat Liar

The Harsh Reality

Okay, not YouTube. YouTubers. Kind of. We all love our STEM based engineering channels. I know I do. But when you see the host say “I designed this in CAD, and then… voila, I 3D printed it! Look how amazing it is!”, they are almost surely not showing you the half dozen prints they threw away, the CAD model they had to re-do several times before it was right, and the other failures. So if you think you can just create, click, and print… not so much. It takes a lot of work just to print things from Printables or Thingiverse, nevermind designing your own part.

You’re Going To Need Help

3D Printing isn’t something you want to do solo. I learned so much from the crew at the Hackaday Discord channel and also the Maff Space discord, and a 3D printing co-worker.

Picture and Video Gallery

Below is a video that really helped me get going (if you watch it, you’ll recognize some of its content…) and some various 3D printing photos and captions from my own experiences so far. Thanks for reading!

Also: If you haven’t subscribed to the MiscDotGeek Youtube Channel, won’t you consider it? Thanks!

There’s more below these videos. The first will help you properly assemble and a new printer, and the second, to configure it properly.


  1. Great article Ryan. Indeed 3D printing has it’s curve, but when you master it, it’s a life changer. Designing and printing parts not only for the hobby, but also for you every day live when things get broken.

    I had my curve and really love it.

    73 Lex PH2LB

  2. Hey, Ryan. I can relate. I bought an Ender 3 V2 a year ago and I’ve printed exactly a single test cube on it — and I had to have a friend help (including setting up the printer). I definitely want to add the auto bed leveler, but what I really want is a 3D printing “appliance” that “just works.” I don’t want another hobby…I just want a printer…and one that isn’t expensive. Thanks for the feeler gauge suggestion. Never tried that! –Kirk, NT0Z

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