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FAQ

  1. What is 3D printing?
  2. Who can use the 3D printing service?
  3. How much does 3D printing cost?
  4. How long does 3D printing take?
  5. What file format do you accept?
  6. How do I make a file that can be printed?
  7. How do I get my file printed?
  8. What size can I make a print?
  9. What software do I use to make a 3D printable model?
  10. What are common issues when creating a 3D model?
  11. What type of filament is available?
  12. What filament colors are available?
  13. How strong is the 3D printed material?

What is 3D printing?

How it Works

3D printing is the process of making a physical object from a digital model. It is also known as additive manufacturing because the physical model is built up one layer at a time. Our 3D printers use a process called Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), in which a plastic filament is fed through a heated nozzle which melts the plastic. Computer-controlled motors move the nozzle around to create the shape of a layer, which hardens immediately.

Applications

There are a multitude of practical applications for 3D printing, from aerospace and automotive engineering to prosthetics and other medical uses. 3D printing enables rapid prototyping of design concepts and functional models. View our 3D printing gallery for examples.

Who can use the 3D printing service?

Anyone. During peak times we give priority to academic projects.

How much does printing cost?

The type of filament and amount of filament used for your model, including support material, determines 3D printing costs. We use a per-gram-cost model and rates depend on the material used. We will estimate the cost during the print consultation.

PLA True Color $.15 per gram
PLA Translucent Color $.15 per gram

Refund Policy

Refunds are only provided if a print fails due to printer malfunction or operator error.    

How long does it take?

Many factors affect the print time:

Thickness of the Shell (the outer surface of the print)

Size of the Model

dml size comparison

Print Time: 4in tall bust took 5 hrs., 16in tall statue took 130 hrs

Density of the Infill

dml infill compare

Infill is an internal support structure that effects time and materials use

Amount of Support (external support structures)

dml 3d supports

Supports are required to print models with overhangs or bridges longer than 2in.

What file format do you accept?

To print a model, an .OBJ or .STL file must be submitted only. 

How do I make a file that can be printed?

Three popular ways to make a file for printing:

DOWNLOAD IT

3D model repositories, such as MakerBot's thingiverse.com, host 3D print files for download that patrons can print and/or edit.  3D print results, when using a free-to-use file, are not guaranteed.  

SCAN IT

Scanning with lasers or using a camera allow to create 3D models of objects or people.  Patrons can use our MakerBot Digitizers, Sense hand-held scanner, or a camera/smart phone.  Scan times can run from a few minutes to 12 min.  

MakerBot Digitizers 
Availability:  In-Lab Use Only
Scan Area (Max):  8in x 8in, circular
Resolution:  0.5 mm
Software:  Free-to-download

Sense hand-held scanner
Availability:  1 Day Loan
Scan Area:  9x9x9 ft
Resolution:  0.9 mm
Software:  Free-to-download

Camera/Smart phone
There are apps that enable a camera or smart phone to be used for scanning such as: 123D Catch  (http://www.123dapp.com/catch)

CREATE IT

3D prints can be created from any modeling software that exports files as .stl or .obj.  All models will be evaluated by our staff to make sure your file is printable.  If a file is not considered printable by our staff, then we will inform patrons that they will need to edit their file before printing can begin.   

Software
We recommend Solid Modeling or CAD (Computer Aided Design) 3D modeling software.  This software is intended to create models that will eventually exist in the real world and help avoid modeling issues concerning 3D printing.  It is possible to use Mesh modeling software for 3D printing, but it may prove problematic unless modelers have an understanding of 3D printing best practices.  If you are unsure about best practices for 3D modeling for 3D printing, please see one of our consultants.

Solid Modeling Software:

  • TinkerCAD (Recommended, entry level, interactive tutorials, web-based app, Free-to-Use)
  • 123D Design (Recommended entry level, Free-to-Use)
  • Solidworks (Windows Only)
  • Inventor (Windows Only, Free-to-Use for students and faculty)
  • Fusion 360 (Free-to-Use for students and faculty)

Mesh Modeling Software:  Patrons can use non-CAD software but should research or ask our 3D print staff for best practices when creating 3D models for 3D printing to avoid delays in producing a print project.  

  • SketchUp Make (Free-to-Use, Recommend to install 3d printing extensions)
  • Autodesk Maya (Free-to-Use for students and faculty)
  • Blender (Open source, so its free for everyone)
  • MudBox (Free-to-Use for students and faculty)
  • Scultpris (Free-to-Use)
  • ZBrush 

How do I get my file printed?

  1. Complete the 3D Print Request form to arrange for an appointment.  
  2. During the appointment, we will discuss your project and review your file to evaluate your model to make sure its printable, estimate print cost, and estimate the production time for your project.
  3. We’ll send an email that your print is ready to pick up.
  4. 3D print payments can be made at the service desk in the Digital Media Lab during lab hours.  We accept UCards and Guest cards.

What size can I make a print?

Units of Measure

Regardless of the specific software application, please make sure you consider the units of measure when creating your model.  Different software may use different units of measure by default so models may shrink or grow when we evaluate your models for printing.  We recommend verifying the units of measure on the software used to create your model prior to creating it.  You can also use MakerBot’s free-to-use software to view your 3D model and make sure it will fit

Build Space

Keep in mind that our printers have limited build sizes, which limit the size of a printed object.  If you require an object to be larger than the available build spaces, you may slice your model apart, print the individual pieces, and assemble them together.  Please see staff for recommendations for assembling projects.

Maximum print sizes per printer:

MakerBot Replicator (5th Gen.) 9.9" L x 7.8" W x 5.9" H
   
MakerBot Replicator Z18 11.8" L x 12.0" W x 18.0" H

What software do I use to make a 3D printable model?

This can depend on how you want to create a model. 

You can create 3D Models by finding, editing, and/or combining free-to-use 3D models, 3D scanning real-world objects and people, photographs (via the process of photogrammetry), or from scratch.  The only criteria is that the software used to create a 3D model needs to be able to export a file as an .STL or .OBJ file format.  Our staff will evaluate the models and then process them using a slicing application.  Please see below for details.

We recommend that patrons use CAD, Computer-Aided Design, software since it is well-suited for 3D print production.

Examples of CAD software are:

  • TinkerCAD (Recommended, entry-level, web-based app, free-to-Use)
  • 123D Design (Recommended entry-level, free-to-Use)
  • Solidworks (Windows Only)
  • Inventor (Windows Only, free-to-Use for students and faculty)
  • Fusion 360 (free-to-Use for students and faculty)

Non-CAD Examples:  Patrons can use non-CAD software but should research or ask our 3D print staff for best practices when creating 3D models for 3D printing

  • SketchUp Make (free-to-Use, Recommend to install 3d printing extensions)
  • Autodesk Maya (free-to-Use for students and faculty)
  • Blender (Open source, so its free for everyone)
  • Rhino 3D
  • MudBox (free-to-Use for students and faculty)
  • Scultpris (free-to-Use)
  • ZBrush

Evaluation Software

Our staff will evaluate your model for printing using MeshMixer.   MeshMixer is a free-to-use application that can create custom models, but we utilize it for evaluating and resolving 3D models issues that may affect printing. 

Slicing Software

Digital 3D models can’t be 3D printed.  They require that they be process via a slicing application.  Imagine a cube.  A 3D printer creates models by layering material following a specific path.  The slicing program will slice the cube to create the individual layers and determine how the material will be laid down. 

What are common issues when creating a 3D model?

The mesh or surface of the 3D model must be manifold or watertight. Imagine an inflated balloon. The manifold is the skin of the balloon. 

For a 3D model to be manifold it should avoid:

Disconnected Edges

Overlapping geometry:  This is when two objects occupy the exact same space.

Holes in mesh

dml watertight compare

Intersecting objects 

dml intersecting objects

Left: Cubes appear as if they are one object Right: Cubes are only intersecting, which leads to print errors

What type of filament is available?

Available types of filaments are: 

PLA  Organic Plastic, more reliable for printing

What colors of filament are available?

Please ask our staff to view available filament swatches.  Available filament colors are:

PLA

  • True (Opaque): Red, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, white, black, warm grey, cool grey
  • Translucent: Red, yellow, orange, green, blue, purple, natural

How strong is the 3D printed material?

Our printers produce plastic models that are suitable for functional prototypes but we cannot guarantee strength or durability.