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3D Printing

3D Printing Resources

Instructions Part 1: 3D Modeling

1. Find a model:

  • To download an existing 3D model for free, go to or another online repository to search or browse for something you like.
  • Screenshot of Thingiverse homepage 
  • Screenshot of Thingiverse item with "thing files" button highlighted
  • When viewing a 3D model in Thingiverse, navigate down the page to read any important details about the model such as dimensions or recommended print settings, if any. 
  • Next, navigate to the "Thing Files" tab to download the file(s).  Some models will be divided into multiple pieces that need to be downloaded and printed separately.  Other models might offer different design variations, allowing you a choice.
  • Keep in mind that not all models are necessarily suitable for all printers.  There are limitations in the size and complexity of models that can be achieved by FFF printers.  Some of the models you find online might be designed for other types of printer technology and are not suited for our printer.  If this is the case, consider finding a different model, or try designing your own model from scratch.  

2. Design a model:

  • CAD stands for Computer-aided design.  There are many software options for doing CAD work, but for beginners we recommend Tinkercad.  Tinkercad is free, user friendly, and does not require you to download any software as it works in the web browser.  You will need to create a free account to log in.
  • With CAD, you can create new 3D models from scratch, or you can make alterations to existing models, such as the ones you might find on Thingiverse.  
  • Screenshot of Tinkercad workspace with "import" and "export" buttons highlighted
  • To edit an existing 3D model in Tinkercad, click the "Import" button at the top right and select the file from your computer.  
  • If you are starting a new model from scratch, click any of the basic or complex shapes from the menu on the right side to place them on the work plane.  Watch tutorials for Tinkercad and other design programs here to learn how to build a model using these shapes.  
  • All of your designs are autosaved to your Tinkercad account, so you may exit and come back to them any time.
  • When you are finished, click the "Export" button at the top right to save your model as an .STL file.

3. Repair your 3D model (optional):

  • After acquiring or designing a 3D model, we recommend screening the .STL file for printability using a process called mesh repair. 
  • The surface, or "shell" of a 3D model is made out of a mesh of small, two-dimensional triangles.  Holes, gaps, or overlaps in the mesh can be small and invisible but cause errors or failed prints. 
  • There are multiple different mesh repair programs to chose from.  Meshmixer is free to download and fairly easy to use for a beginner.  Watch detailed video tutorials for Meshmixer and other programs here.
  • Screenshot of Meshmixer workspace with "analysis" and "inspector" buttons highlighted  Screenshot of Meshmixer "inspector" menu
  • To import your 3D model to Meshmixer, click the "Import" button at the top left and select the file from your computer.
  • Next, navigate down to the "Analysis" tool on the lower left, then click on "Inspector" at the top of the next menu.   
  • Next, simply click "Auto Repair All." This will automatically correct most simple mesh issues.
  • Click "Export" at the bottom left to save the model to an .STL file once again.  


Instructions Part 2: Operating the Printer

4. Slice your model:

  • If you are using the Ultimaker 2+ printer, the next step is to slice your 3D model using a program called Ultimaker Cura. Slicing refers to dividing the model into thin horizontal layers and programing the path that the 3D printer's nozzle will follow as it builds each layer. This process happens automatically, with a single click.
  • Insert a removable storage device into the computer, in this case, an SD card. You will eventually save your 3D model to this SD card. 
  • To import your .STL file to Ultimaker Cura, click the file folder button at the top left, and select the file from your computer.
  • Next, click "Slice" in the lower right corner.
  • Screenshot of Ultimaker Cura workspace with "import" and "slice" buttons highlighted
  • Screenshot of Ultimaker Cura "slice" menu
  • After a moment, the "Slice" button at the bottom right corner will be replaced with a box that shows you an estimated print time. 
  • Click "Save to File" to export the model to the SD card.
  • Eject the SD card and remove it from the computer. 

5. Operate the printer:

  • Finally, insert the SD card directly into the front of the 3D printer. 
  • 3D printer interface showing SD card slot, screen, and navigation button from left to right
  • Rotate the circular dial to navigate the menu.
  • Navigate to "Print" and click on it by pressing on the dial. 
  • Scroll down the list of files and click on the one you want to print.  
  • The printer will begin warming up to start printing. At this time, apply glue to the surface of the glass build plate. 
  • When the nozzle and the build plate reach the correct temperature, printing will begin automatically. 
  • When printing is complete, allow the build plate to cool down and then remove the object using the metal spatula. 
  • Remove the temporary brim and support structure from your object by hand or with tools.

4. Slice your model:

  • If you are using the Form 3+ printer, the next step is to slice your 3D model using a program called PreForm. To access this software, you must log into the computer located next to the printer in the Innovation Lab.
  • Import your .STL file by clicking "File" and "Open" at the top left of the screen.
  • If the program warns you that you model is "broken," it means that there is a slight error in the construction of the model. Simply click "Repair" in the pop-up box and PreForm will attempt to fix the model automatically.
  • The program will notify you that your 3D model needs supports and reorientation before printing. You can complete these steps automatically by clicking the "One-Click Print" icon at the top left and then clicking "Set up your print."
  • Preform interface with the top left menu buttons highlighted.
  • After the model has been prepared, click "Upload Job" on the bottom right of the pop-up box.
  • You will see the print job appear on the small screen on the front of the 3D printer when the job has been uploaded successfully.

5. Operate the printer:

  • Simply tap "Print" on the bottom right corner of the screen and the automated process will begin.
  • The printer will warm up and calibrate itself for a few minutes and then printing will begin.
  • After printing is finished, you will open the orange shroud and remove the build platform with the print still attached. For safety, you should wear a pair of rubber gloves to avoid contact with the liquid resin.
  • Pull up on the lever located in the middle of the round handle on top of the platform. Grip the handle firmly and remove the platform by pulling it towards you. 
  • At this point the print is not yet finished. It will still be dripping with wet resin. You will need to do some post processing to wash and cure the model before it is finished. 

6. Post Processing:

  • The FormWash machine bathes your resin parts in isopropyl alcohol to wash off the sticky residue. Before a wash, the tank should be filled at least to the minimum level indicated by a line on the front of the tank. Because alcohol evaporates quickly the level will occasionally need replenishing by Innovation Lab staff. 
  • Open the lid on the FormWash by clicking "Open" on the small screen. The basket will automatically raise up out of the tank.
  • Insert the build platform above the basket face down, in the same orientation as it was mounted in the printer. 
  • Navigate the menu on the screen by rotating the round knob and pressing in on the knob to click. Set the duration of the bath to the appropriate time for the resin type. For Draft V2 resin, the wash time is 10 minutes.
  • Click "Start" and the bath will begin. When the bath is finished, the machine will open and lift the platform out of the tank automatically. 
  • Wearing gloves, remove the platform from the FormWash and carefully use a scraping tool to release the model from the plate. Keep the FormWash machine closed to contain the smelly alcohol fumes.
  • The FormCure machine is a curing oven that will bake your printed model with ultraviolet light to finish solidifying the resin.
  • After you model has dried from its alcohol wash, open the FormCure by lifting the hatch from the bottom and place the model inside.
  • Close the hatch and then navigate the menu on the screen using the round knob. 
  • For Draft V2 resin, the cure settings will be 5 minutes at 60 degrees C.  For other types of resin the settings may be slightly different.
  • Click "Start" and the machine will slowly preheat and then curing will begin. 
  • When curing is finished, remove the print and then remove any support material that might be attached to your model. Use the nipping tools provided in the Lab to clip away the supports and your printed piece is finally finished!