During my first few weeks with the Alta, there were many highs and many lows. It’s not easy to master 3D printing, but with a little patience, you will be able to achieve great results. For anybody new to the Alta here are some tips, tricks & advice I have learned, along the way.
* Don’t be intimidated or afraid to use your printer. It comes ready assembled and calibrated, you shouldn’t have to play around with the settings too much to achieve that all important first print. Failures will happen, don’t get discouraged. Enjoy your new toy. The sooner you set it up, the sooner you can create 3D printed files. Set up is easy and Silhouette guide you through the process
* Be Patient, things will go wrong. What works today may not work tomorrow! See your mistakes as a positive and learn from them. Visit www.silhouette101.com and watch all the tutorial videos, they really do help.
* Initially use Silhouette branded filament. It is set up to use this filament when dispatched, you shouldn’t have to change any settings to achieve a great print. Different makes will need you to tweak your print settings. Whilst you are learning the machine and its processes don’t add another element that could result in failure. Silhouette filament comes in 7 colors and is available in 500g rolls.
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* PLA Filament has a shelf life of about 1 Year, it also absorbs water, so when not in use keep in a sealed container. The Alta works with any brand 1.75mm PLA Filament. Once you are familiar with the machine and are confident printing, and only at this point, would I consider using other brands of filament. There is a huge variety available including wood effect, stone effect, transparent, metallic and most colours.
* Create test prints using the free files that come with your machine. These are tested with the Alta and there is no reason they shouldn’t print correctly in the software. There is a great variety of free files that come with the machine. If you do want to experiment try importing 2D studio files to make 3D items, there are some great options to explore. This is a fun feature, have a play around with it. Here it will convert 2D designs into cookie cutters, boxes, pendants & stencils. Silhouette Design store also offers free designs every week so always check in to see if it can be used in a 3D project There are numerous third-party sites that offer free files for you to download, save this for when you are more comfortable using the Alta. I started with the paperclip. It’s a small file that doesn’t take too long to print or use much filament.
* Get to know your machine. Understand how the filament loads. Watch the process as it prints. A perfect first layer is crucial to a good print. There are things that you can do to help this process. I add a thin layer of glue stick to the platform tape, it really seems to help with that first layer lying flat. I also use painters’ tape on the platform bed as it is slightly textured. Have the door closed during printing, I believe this helps heat up the environment inside the printer and helps the adhesion of the first layer. However, if you are in a slightly warmer climate having the door open may help.
* Keep an eye on things. 3D printing is a slow process, so always ensure you have allowed enough time to complete your project. I always watch the first layer, to check it has been laid properly then check every 10/15 mins. Always ensure you have enough filament to complete your project, there’s nothing worse than starting your project and realising you haven’t got enough filament to complete it. Silhouette 3D lets you know how much filament, and how long it will take from the print screen.
* The Alta has a limited print space. It has a print volume of 124mm x 124mm x 130mm. Whilst you are printing files that came from Silhouette, whether that be from the designs free with the machine or from the Silhouette Design Store, this shouldn’t be an issue. However, if you are using one of the many designs available on the internet you may have to resize an item in order for it to be able to print on the Alta.
* Join a Facebook group or forum dedicated to the Alta. It is full of people who are passionate about The Alta and are always willing to help. Join our Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/264299074448387/
Hopefully, these pointers will help you to achieve consistently good prints. For further FAQ please visit http://silhouettealta3d.co.uk/alta-faqs.html
The Alta is frustratingly addictive. It will take some time to get comfortable with the machine, it’s software and processes. Learn as you go along and most importantly enjoy it!
If you have any other tips, tricks or advice let us know in the comments below.