Coding is a practical skill, and many graphic design-related projects require a bit of coding to turn out right, including 3D printing. However, not everyone knows how to code and program their printer, which raises the question– do you need to know coding to 3D print?
It’s not necessary to know coding to 3D print if you are a beginner who often uses pre-made designs and beginner-friendly software. However, learning how to program your 3D printer will allow you to make more complicated prints and advanced adjustments to your models.
So, let’s discuss the coding language that 3D printers use and talk about why you may want to learn it. I’ll also recommend some slicers for those who don’t know how to code and talk a bit about the challenges of learning to 3D print.
What Coding Language Do Most 3D Printers Use?
Most 3D printers use G-code coding language to move printer parts during a print job. Your computer will convert your CAD model into G-code when you slice it, which will transform your model into a document full of numerical instructions for your 3D printer to follow.
Whether you’re using a beginner-friendly slicer or more advanced software, G-code is involved in every single 3D print. It’s called G-code because most commands in the language begin with the letter “G.”
Have you ever wondered why you have to run your model through a slicer before printing? Well, it’s because slicers break down your 3D print into layers, which are all converted into lines of G-code.
These G-code lines will tell your printer how and when to move, so every printer setting is considered when you slice an object.
The Advantages of Knowing How To Code for 3D Printing
So, even though it isn’t necessary to learn G-code to use your 3D printer, there are some benefits you can gain from learning how to use it.
Some of the advantages of learning G-code for 3D printing include:
- You can use G-coding language for other CAD devices like CNC mills and laser cutters.
- Coding skills are transferable to other coding languages.
- You can micro-manage the efficiency of your print job, saving time and filament.
- You can manually fix code to reduce the chances of print failures and errors.
- You can innovate your prints and test new techniques.
Most entry-level 3D printing slicers will write G-code for you. But some advanced programs allow you to write the code yourself or alter it. This gives you total control over every move that your 3D printer will make.
However, that isn’t always a good thing.
If you’re still unsure how everything works on your 3D printer, coding a project yourself will be tricky and overwhelming. In addition, if you mess up the code, you could damage your 3D printer.
That’s why it’s crucial to shop around before settling on a specific slicer and CAD program.
You’ll want to find one that you can easily use to make the desired models without getting frustrated or confused.
However, as you gain knowledge with these entry-level options, graduating to programs that require a bit of coding is an excellent way to advance your 3D printing skills.
For an example of some of the things you can do by manipulating and writing your own G-code, check out this video from 3D printing guru, Make Anything:
Best 3D Printing Slicers for People Who Don’t Know Coding
First of all, not all slicers will work with all 3D printers.
To use a slicer other than the one that came with your 3D printer, you’ll have to check the compatibility or write a new profile (that means coding) for it to work. So, if you are truly a newbie, you should try to use the slicer that your 3D printing manufacturer provided you with on purchase.
However, if your printer uses G-code, you can use other G-code slicers without adjusting the settings.
Here are some of the best beginner-friendly G-code slicers that work for most 3D printers:
- Cura is a go-to slicer for most 3D printers since it is free and works on the three most common operating systems (Mac, Linux, and Windows). In addition, it’s suitable for all levels of 3D printing, so you can easily use it for every single print, no matter how advanced you are.
- Prusa slicer is extremely beginner-friendly, and you won’t have to look at a single line of code (unless you want to). It’s also free.
- Simplify 3D, which works on Mac and Windows, isn’t free, but it is a great option. One of the best things about Simplify 3D is that there are tons of user guides and information if you ever need help using it. That said, it’s also very beginner-friendly.
How Difficult Is It To Learn 3D Printing?
3D printing allows you to manufacture and make practically anything you want in your own home. Still, there is a bit of a learning curve, and it can take years to get to the point where you understand the software, firmware, and hardware involved in a 3D print job.
It is not very difficult to learn 3D printing as a beginner, although you will likely experience some failures as you progress. 3D printing can be finicky, just like any technology, and you will have to be patient and do some research before developing the skills you will need.
There is no textbook for 3D printing – it’s still a relatively new science, and most of the advice, tutorials, and instructions you will find come from other printers, like me, who’ve been in the game for years.
So, if you are committed to learning 3D printing, be sure to listen to other 3D printers’ advice. Watch as many Youtube videos as you can, read guides, and look for other people in your area who could give you a hand. With the support of others, learning 3D printing is simple.
Still, 3D printing is like any hobby. It’s about as challenging as learning a new instrument– you will have to start with simple things, then work your way up to more complicated techniques like coding.
Knowing how to code is unnecessary when 3D printing, but learning coding language has its benefits. Coding lets you control every movement of your 3D printer, allowing you to do things that a standard slicer setup won’t.
Still, learning how to manipulate and write code isn’t for beginners, so you should take your time and do your research before attempting to change anything.
Once you gain some experience, you can start reviewing and editing your printer’s G-code, and you might even be able to make something unprecedented in 3D printing technology.