A common misconception is that 3D printing is complicated and requires a specific skill set. Perhaps unsurprisingly, UK businesses often cite the skills gap as one of the main barriers to embracing additive manufacturing. A few years ago that may have been the case, but, as our white paper shows, today learning how to set up and use a 3D printer can be much easier and quicker than you think.

Pupils at Blackfield Primary School use Tinkercad to create custom parts for their hovercraft.

To print anything in 3D, you’ll need to have a three-dimensional model. And, to create this, you’ll need a 3D application, typically CAD software. Here lays the first big obstacle: until recently, you would have needed an engineering degree or, at the very least, training to be able to use this. Then there’s the cost. If you think a one-off £1,200 for small 3D printing hardware is expensive, then the price of a yearly licence for some of the most popular CAD applications will make your eyes water. But things are changing.

While CAD applications for design engineers, product designers and architects are still complex and expensive, there are now simpler, open source versions. TinkerCAD and Fusion360 are two great examples from Autodesk, both are available for free and ideal for 3D printing beginners.

Once you’ve modelled the product, you need to get it print ready. This preparation can be a minefield with technical issues such as overhangs, manifold edges and many more problems. Once the model is imported in the right format, it then has to be sliced into layers ready for your printer. In the past, slicer software used to involve inputting all the values for your printer, build area size, stepper motor rotation, lead screws length and many more parameters, and that was before entering details of filament type and size. Today’s applications such as CEL’s AutoMaker software, however, iron out many of the smaller issues automatically saving you vast amounts of time and effort.

On top of the model file, in the past you also had the printer to think about. Not too long ago most 3D printers were self build, or at the very least had all stemmed from the Open Source community and RepRap project. That meant that there was plenty of entertainment for your average tinkerer, but less fun for those who just wanted a 3D printer to do some work.

Today’s systems are streamlined; there’s no behind-the-scene coding or software engineering to do; it’s all been done for you. Now you can effortlessly design your models in your application of choice with a wealth of learning resources out there to get you started.

Once your models have been designed, they can then be exported to applications such as AutoMaker that will slice and prepare your model ready for print. No code, no fiddling with parameters. Now you can 3D print in the same way you would when printing a document or photo.

3D printing used to require a high level of coding and understanding of how the software and hardware work together. Today that work has been done for you, so all you need to do is to get on, design and print.

To learn more on how small, stackable 3D printers can make 3D printing even simpler, download our white paper, ‘Stackable: the key to faster and more accurate 3D printing’.



Robox has consistently been awarded as the best of plug and play and following a comprehensive study is the first choice of schools and libraries in the UK.

We designed Robox to improve our own productivity as design engineers, we automated the basic tasks to make Robox printers easy to use and reliable, check out our innovation page for more detail. Robox arrives fully assembled and tested, install the free software, plug the cables in, clip the reel on and in just a few clicks of the mouse Robox will print your model.