3D printing is a great way to prototype ideas and build models. 

We have two types of 3D printers available to utilize at the Fab Lab FDM and SLA.

Flashforge Finder

Flashforge Finder

Ender 3 Pro 3D printer

Ender 3 Pro

Anycubic Photon

Frequently Asked Questions

Most frequent questions and answers

3D printers are great for creating physical models and prototypes. In order to use the 3D printers you will need to have a 3D model file (.STL is our preferred format) and the file will need to be sliced and converted into a .gx or .photon file to load onto our printers. We have the slicing software installed on most computers in the lab and can assist with fine tuning print settings for your file.

We don’t require any training in advance of using the 3D printers. Fab lab staff are here to help walk you through the file design process as well as how to set up and use the printer to bring your ideas to life.

Prints with run times that exceed our operating hours for the day are allowed to run overnight and be picked up the next day. All prints should be paid for when the print is started.

There are lots of great 3D files already on the internet for you to use. Searching the sites below can be a great way to get started:

There are lots of great software programs and resources that can be used to build and sculpt 3D models. Here are a few that can be found at the Lab.

AUTODESK TINKERCAD – This is a great online resource for those new to 3D modeling. If you’re trying this at home, it will require you to create an account, but this software will get you building right away with creating and combining  simple shapes. This site/program also offers free starter projects and lessons to help you learn the basics as well as some more advanced techniques.

AUTODESK MESHMIXER This is a great resource for beginner to more advanced 3D model creators. In the Lab, we primarily use this for modifying existing prints (add, subtract, hollow, fill, smooth, etc.) but it does have a handful of prebuilt shapes to start with. This software is free to download to your home computer for MacOS and Windows.

AUTODESK FUSION 360  Fusion 360 has a wealth of great features for 3D modeling, but a bit of a learning curve to go with it. For intermediate, advanced, or just really determined individuals looking to design 3D models this software can produce highly accurate and detailed models. Fusion 360 is part of Autodesk’s AutoCAD suite as such, it is a licensed product and can come with a hefty price tag to purchase. Fortunately, they do offer free trials and limited versions for educational and/or non-commercial use, but all will require creating an Autodesk account.

SCULPTRIS –  If you wish you could create 3D models the same way you would if sculpting a ball of clay, Sculptris may be the program for you. *May now be known as ZBrushCoreMini

BLENDER – Blender is a free and open source software for 3D creation. It comes with a steep learning curve, but for those willing to learn it it can be an amazing tool supporting all parts of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, video editing and 2D animation. 

Nope. But we’re happy to work with you to teach you how to do it yourself! No prior design experience is needed before coming into the lab. All we require is a basic grasp of computer navigation and file management on a computer (i.e. how to find, save, create, and delete files) and a willingness to learn something new. 

There is a step between finishing your 3D model and getting started on a 3D printer and that step is known as slicing.

Slicing essentially cutting your file into very thin, individual layers that will serve as instructions for the 3D printer to follow. 

The slicing software generates instructions for your 3D printer called G-Code which includes where the printer head goes, extruder temperature, bed temperature, pauses, printer head speed, and more.

Unfortunately, no. In the past we allowed this, but we quickly discovered our printers had a lot more issues with jamming and improper extruding having the filament changed out after each print. As such, the filament spool that is currently on the printer is what your print will be completed in.

Stereolithography (SLA) printers are an additive manufacturing technology like FDM printers, but are created with use use of liquid plastics (resin) and light exposure (UV or lasers) rather than filament. For resin printers, where the resin is exposed to UV light the liquid will harden into a solid state. Layer after layer is created in this way to create a full 3D print.

These printers can do some great detail work, but they can be very slow machines. 

Because the prints are built in liquid, they require a bit more care once the print is finished. UV resin prints need to be rinsed off in an alcohol bath and cured for an additional amount of time under a UV light or in sunlight before they are ready to be handled.

Resin printers build objects upside-down. Prints will hang off a build plate (like bats!) as they are made.

  1. A vat with a clear, plastic bottom is filled with liquid resin.
  2. A build plate dips down into the resin pressing against the clear, plastic bottom of the vat.
  3. A UV light beneath the vat flashes in a pattern according to your print. The exposure to UV light will cure the resin where the light hits it. – If the printer is correctly set up, this layer of resin should cure to the build plate.
  4. The UV light will turn off.
  5. The build plate will move up a bit from the plastic bottom of the vat, allowing liquid resin in the vat to move beneath it.
  6. The build plate will move back down, sandwiching the liquid resin between the cured layer on the build plate and the plastic bottom of the vat.
  7. The UV light will flash a pattern again creating a second layer.
  8. The pattern repeats until the print is complete.