Beginners Guide

Are you new to 3D printing and slicers? This guide will help get you started with the software of 3D printing. First you’ll start with the basics of slicing and then you’ll move onto your first print.

All 3D printing terms are defined in the glossary.
This guide does not cover basic printer functions like loading filament or pre-heating your 3D printer. We advise you to read your printer’s documentation before starting to slice.

The Basics of Slicing

Slicing is a critical part of the 3D printing process In short, slicers control three main things:

  1. Your printer’s movement, including where it draws lines of filament, and how fast it moves

  2. How fast filament is pushed out of (extruded from) your HotEnd

  3. Some modifications of your model to make it easier to 3D print (infill and supports, explained below)

Slicers handle turning your 3D model into the lines of code that your printer uses to move and print. This mostly means converting the triangles that make up your 3D model into lots of tracks that the printer will "draw" or "print" with filament. Your 3D model is sliced into layers that sit on top of each other to form your eventual 3D model.

Intro to Pathio’s Interface

When you first open Pathio you will need to create your account. Sign up and we’ll activate your license for you. Once that’s done you’ll see the main Pathio interface.

Machine Setup

Before Pathio can work with your printer, you’ll need to give us some information.

Printer Settings

We already have basic settings set up for the following machines:

  • Original Prusa i3 MK3

  • Ultimaker 3

  • Bigbox

If your printer isn’t on that list, you’ll need to use the configuration UI to add it:

Machine Config Beta 2

  1. Click on the printer dropdown menu.

  2. Click on Edit Printers

  3. Click the Add Printer button to go to our list of printer profiles.

  4. If your printer is there, Click the + button to add it to your local library. If your printer isn’t available, pick a similar printer to modify and add it to your local library.

  5. Select your printer from the list and click the edit icon (a pencil) on the right.

    Now, you need to enter some information about your printer
    • Is you printer a cartesian-style or delta-style printer?

    • How big is your printer? What’s the volume that it can print?

    • How fast can your printer move accurately?

    • Does you printer have a heated build plate?

Extruder Setup

Next, we need to know about your HotEnd and Extruder
  • How big is the hole in the nozzle of your HotEnd?

  • Do you have a Bowden Extruder, or a Direct Drive Extruder?

  • What’s the maximum temperature your HotEnd can print at?

Filament Setup

Last, we need to know about the filament you’re going to print
  • What material are you going to print with?

  • How hot should your HotEnd heat up to melt it?

With this information Pathio will do its best to calculate slicing settings for you to work with. There are many different settings that can be changed in order to get a 3D print that meets your needs. For your first print we will focus on some basic settings.

Your First Print

For this tutorial we’re going to start with a simple 20mm Cube (by iol).

Our workflow will be divided into 2 major steps:

Arrange & Configure

In this stage you will be able to import models to print, move them around the build plate, and adjust the print settings used to produce the final, physical model.

Slice & Preview

In this stage you will review the code (instructions) that your printer will use to build your 3D print. After that, you’ll save your GCode file for printing.

You might go back-and-forth between the stages to adjust your print settings.

3D Camera

On the right side of the Pathio window you’ll see a representation of your printer’s build plate.

  • Rotate the 3D view with Right Mouse Button

  • Pan the 3D view with Left Mouse Button

  • Zoom the 3D view with Scroll Wheel

Arrange & Configure

When you’ve successfully logged in you will see main UI interface. Either drag & drop your .stl model into the Group or click the import button (under Group 1) to add a model.

Import Model Button

On the right hand side of the screen you can see the Arrange panel. Here you can move, rotate, scale, arrange, or duplicate your model. Try out the different buttons to get the feel for them.

Arrange Panel

On the left side of the screen in the column that consists of many tabs. These are your print settings and is the most crucial part of the Pathio. Here you can control all the settings that will be translated into instructions for your printer.

Print Settings

For now, let’s focus on a few key concepts:

Infill

3D printed models are not usually printed solid. Instead they have an infill pattern on the inside that keeps them strong but saves a lot of time and filament. More infill (a greater infill percentage) will mean a denser pattern inside your print; your part will be stronger but will take longer to print. When your model is done you won’t see the infill at all because of shells.

Shells

Shells are solid walls of filament that cover the infill of your print on all sides. Pathio ensures that the shells of your model remain the same thickness on all sides of your print to keep it strong and good-looking. Thicker shells will make your print stronger, but take longer to print.

Supports

Supports are one of the most important parts of 3D printing, but they’re not necessary for all 3D models(our 20mm cube doesn’t need supports). This is because the molten filament that you print with has a tendency to droop down if there isn’t anything underneath supporting it. Since you print from the bottom of your model upwards, most layers are supported by the one that came right before (and below) it. For some 3D models, there are parts of a layer that start in mid air, with nothing to support them (imagine the center of a letter "M" or the top of a letter "T"). Pathio can generate pillars of plastic to support these parts of your print and after it’s finished you’ll pull them off.

Slice & Preview

Once you have looked through the slicing settings, click the Slice button to start generating GCode (instructions for your printer). Once slicing is complete, you will see a preview of tracks that your printer will draw as it prints.

You can see inside your model by dragging the layer filter at the bottom of the 3D View. This will selectively hide layers so you can get a good look at your shells, your infill, and any other settings.

You can also see how long Pathio expects your slice to take as well as how much filament you’ll be using.

The Slice tab is a great way to test out settings and see what they do. Feel free to experiment! You’re not locked into using any settings until you’ve actually exported your GCode into the file that your printer will read (usually off of an SD card).

Print

We recommend that you try printing this cube! Even it might seem simple, cubes are excellent models to get started with because they’re easy to troubleshoot if you find problems with your slicing settings. Once you’ve successfully printed a cube and are happy with the quality of your print you can move on to more complicated models.

Save your .gcode file by clicking the Save GCode Button in the top right of the Slice Tab.