This quick guide is to help get you started in your understanding of 3D printing, along with several resources you can access at the Maker Space or at home on your PC to experiment with. Most 3D printers use an additive manufacturing process known as fused filament fabrication (or FFF) that begins with a virtual 3D model that is transformed into a physical solid object by extruding very thin layers of a material on top of another, one layer at a time, to form the final product. 3D printing has been used in the last few decades in manufacturing for private companies to suit their specific needs including areas of product development, rapid prototyping, and specialized manufacturing. Due largely in part to hobbyists and enthusiasts in the maker community, 3D printing geared toward the individual has gained popularity across the world.
Due to lower production and development costs every year, 3D printers are becoming more affordable and user friendly allowing the average person to create and print their own 3D models from simple toys and jewelry to more sophisticated projects. Entrepreneurs have even used 3D printing to market and sell their own creations to the general public. In regards to education, individuals also benefit by learning the design processes involved in creating their 3D model, including aspects of architecture, graphic design, and engineering.
What is the typical workflow when it comes to using the 3D Printer?
- Download a pre-rendered model from a 3D model repository site or you can design your own model using available CAD (computer aided design) software, which range from free for hobbyists and educators to paid software for professionals. The typical file extension you’ll most likely come across when you save your model is called a STL file.
- Upload the file into what is commonly referred to as a slicer. We recommend using Cura, as this software is available at the Central Maker Space and Regional locations. This program transforms your model into code to instruct the printer on what it should do. You can download Cura for free using the link to their website listed below under “websites of interest”.
- Once you have “sliced” your design, you will then save and export said file onto a usb drive and insert it into the 3D Printer.
- Select your file and start your print. Dependent upon on the size and complexity of your design, your printing time may run from just 30 minutes to a couple days. The slicer will give you an estimated completion time beforehand.
What materials are used in 3D printing?
A heat-sensitive thermoplastic referred to as filament is what is used in most desktop 3D printers. There are several types that can be used depending on the application you have in mind but we prefer to use PLA filament when you first start out. All of our printers use 2.85mm filament. Many online retailers such as Amazon sell them, though feel free to speak to one of our staff for recommendations.
Will you design or help me design my idea if I want to make it myself instead of someone else’s design?
Unfortunately, staff cannot accommodate this request. It will be up to the individual to design their creation. We will, however, endeavor to provide you the information you need through online resources, along with general assistance and direction in getting started with the machine while you are still just starting to learn.
Is there a cost?
We charge $0.10 per gram for the amount of material printed, which the slicer itself will typically tell us before we start printing. Printing costs add up quickly though, so if you have a rather large project or want to print multiple pieces, we can direct you to retailers for you to purchase your own. If you do purchase your own filament, the material charges are waived.
How long does it take?
Variables such as print quality and size heavily influence the time it takes for a print to finish, so you’ll want to factor that in as you decide on what to make. When you upload your model into the slicer, it will tell you the estimated print time.
Your printers are booked up! Are there other libraries in Tulsa County with 3D Printers?
Yes! Though slightly smaller in build area, we have the same brand of printers at our Regional Library locations: Rudisill, Zarrow, Martin, and Hardesty libraries. By attending this orientation, you qualify to use our printers at any location. Ask a staff member or check our event guide for their locations and contact information to request an appointment.
Websites of Interest
Home of the Ultimaker brand of 3D printers, which we use at Central and our Regional locations. You can also access and download their free slicer software, Cura,
Websites Providing Models Ready to Print
Software for 3D Design, Including Downloadable files for Print
One of the first free browser-based 3D modeling programs specifically made for 3D design. Perfect for those new to learning 3D design.
Online, browser-based, 3D modeling program for those who need more advanced design software.
Sculptris, a virtual sculpting software program, with a primary focus on the concept of modeling clay.
A powerful program containing features that are characteristic of high-end 3D software. High learning curve and due to its origins in mainly animation, some prep work is necessary to properly convert it for 3D printing.
Software for creating solid 3D CAD objects. It is free software and available for Linux/UNIX, MS Windows and Mac OS X. It does not focus on the artistic aspects of 3D modeling but instead on CAD aspects, such as creating exact dimensions in product design.
Onshape is a full-cloud CAD system that’s perfect for agile product design. Unlike installed CAD, Onshape gives everyone on the team instant access to the same CAD system and data.
*The sites listed above do not reflect a complete list of resources involved in 3D printing and design.