So you have a 3D printer, printed out a few things, and maybe even created a few of your own models. I’m guessing that you’ve already found a few places on the web to download 3D models, but have you heard about printables.com?

It’s run by the people at Prusa, and it’s a great place to find things to print. “So what?” you might say, “There are many places to do that”. That’s true, but printables.com has got a few features I really like.

One of them is their point system. When you register and participate, you start earning points. Fill out your profile? Earn some points. Download some models? Earn some points. Upload your own model? Earn more points. Print something cool? Upload a picture and earn points. So what can you do with these points?

You can earn t-shirts, mugs, filament, and even 3D printers! Now, granted, in order to do that, you’ll probably have to learn some 3D modeling and upload some of the models you create in order to earn enough points, but getting a new 3D printer is pretty big incentive.

Printables.com holds contests too, where you can earn points (and sometimes even a printer), just by creating the best model for that contest. They hold contests all the time. Even if you don’t intend to enter a contest, some of the models people upload are worth printing.

And if you like the models that some users upload, you can sponsor them through Printables Clubs.

Printables is a well-organized site, and it’s easy to browse through all the models people have uploaded. You can even see interactive 3D representations of the models before you download them.

There are many other features on Printables.com, so do yourself a favor and check them out!

One of the better tech things I’ve gotten over the last couple of years is my Prusa Mini+ 3D printer. I’m a software guy through and through, and messing with hardware is definitely not my best skill. Can I do it? Sure, in a pinch. I don’t like doing it though.

Paradoxically, I ended up getting a Prusa Mini+ KIT. Yes, a KIT of all things, and me a software guy with an aversion to hardware stuff. Why? I did that because I knew that if something ever went wrong with it, I wouldn’t be shipping the whole printer back to Czechoslovakia a repair. At the time, I figured the best thing to do would be build the whole thing, figure out what I did wrong after building the thing, and get some experience. Because sooner or later, something was going to screw up, and I wanted to be able to fix it.

It took months to get the printer, because it was right after the pandemic, and they had a long backlog. I put the printer together in three nights, after work. It did come with a instruction booklet, but the thing that came in REALLY handy was the online-instruction guide. Why? Because users can add comments, each step of the way! If something is particularly tricky, users will make a comment about that. If the mods agree, then the instructions are updated. Pictures for every step. Made putting it together a real breeze.

After I got everything put together, I switched it on. It booted just fine. I inserted the first filament into the printer, and it worked fine. A few z-axis adjustments later, and I had a good first layer. Not bad for a software guy, but this 100% is because of the engineering that went into the printer and the online instruction guide.

About six months later, the filament wouldn’t feed any more. After a quick investigation on the community forums, I found someone that had a similar problem, when to the Prusa website and found some instructions on how to fix my exact problem. Since I built the thing, I knew I could take apart what I needed to, and get it fixed. And I did! One adjustment, and I’ve been printing ever since.

That’s just my experience. Yours will vary, of course.

Bottom line: My advice is to 1) get a kit, because you’ll want to be able to fix it later. 2) Follow the Prusa online build guides, they’re great! Of course, that only works if you get a Prusa. I don’t have experience with other 3D Printers.

The Prusa Community is great. Look for them on the Prusa forums, and the Prusa Reddit group.