There are a lot of different types of 3D printing. I do FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) printing. This is essentially an additive process, where you are adding material to form an object. Layer by layer filament is extruded from a nozzle at a rate that is precise enough to be accurate down to the 1/10 of a millimeter.
There are a couple different workflows that can be used to achieve high quality prints. I will explain my workflow and use this as a space to show things that I print. There will also be useful resources that everyone can use sprinkled about.
There are a couple different places one can start when looking to print something. The most often used starting place is thingiverse. There you can download things that people have already made. About 85% of the time, you can find what you are looking for there. If not, you must design the thing yourself!
Fusion 360 is a powerful 3D CAM software used to model in a 3D space. It allows you to export your design as an STL (STereoLithography) file. This type of file is ubiquitous with 3D printing and essential for getting your model printed. For an example, I have made this coaster using Fusion 360 and exported a corresponding STL file for use inside of Cura.
A piece of software called a ‘slicer’ is needed to ‘chop’ up your model into something called GCODE. GCODE is an interpreted language for multi axis automation systems. It essentially allows your model to be described as movements in a 3D space. This is perfect for your 3D printer to use as blueprints for printing. This is the application that will accept your STL file.
Be very careful inside of Cura. The settings that are created here can make or break a print. Over time you will become more familiar with the nuances of your own 3D printer, until then, tweak one setting at a time. Some people have hand crafted GCODE files that will print an object while gradually changing the most important settings on your printer. This lets you examine which settings work best for your printer. So, instead of printing multiple pieces with different settings, you can print a single object with a wide range of settings to get a better idea of what works with your printer. These are typically referred to as calibration prints. Once you have a GCODE file we are ready to start our print!