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3D Printing

3D Printing Resources

Instructions

1. Find a model:

  • To download an existing 3D model for free, go to Thingiverse.com 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. Make sure your model is printable:

  • 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.  

4. Slice your model:

  • The final software 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.