What is 3D printing? How does it work?

3D printing is the process of creating a physical, three dimensional object from a computer file. The file is converted into code that the machine understands via a computer program called a ‘slicer.’

The nozzle of the 3D printer heats up and continuously lays down layer after layer of the melted material until it forms the object.

The most commonly used type of material, or filament, is PLA. PLA is a type of bio-plastic made from corn. Other filament types include ABS, HIPS, nylon, and even metals, such as magnetic iron, copper or stainless steel.

Make or find a file to print

With 3D printing, you can either design a file yourself or find a file that someone has already designed and uploaded to the internet. Designing a file can be a challenging (but also fun) process to learn. Here are some of the programs or websites that can be used to design your own 3D printed object:

    • Tinkercad.com: One the easiest 3D design programs to learn, tinkercad is web-based and completely free to use
    • Blender or Blender.org: There is a steep learning curve, but Blender is free and great for making models with organic features
    • Autodesk CAD programs(Fusion360, Inventor): While difficult to learn, and requiring a paid license, this software can be accessed for a limited time with free trials. Ideal for making functional, practical parts
    • Other suggested options include:
      • OpenSCAD
      • Sculptris
      • 123D Design
      • Sketchup

You can also download pre-made files. If you’re looking for something specific and not unique, there is a chance that someone has already made it.  A good place to look is thingiverse.com.

Cost

Printing costs 10 cents per gram. Other factors may also be taken into consideration, such as multi-part prints or higher density prints.

Send files to be printed

Email contact@millislibrary.org with your .stl or .obj file, 3D Printing Form, and signed 3D Printer Policy

Common uses for 3D printing

  • Prototyping: quickly print small-scale designs for presentations or testing
  • Replacement parts: battery covers, keyboard legs, knobs, handles, board game pieces. Plastic goods often break over time and 3D printing is a great way to replace or repair them.
  • Household objects: bag clips, soap dishes, stackable containers, gadget stands, lamp shades
  • Custom objects: personalized keychains, holiday ornaments, magnets, business card holders, pencil cups
  • Art & Jewelry: custom rings, pendants, necklaces, bracelets, pins
  • Props & Cosplay: print and assemble the perfect object to add to a costume or cosplay outfit
  • Toys & Games: miniatures for roleplaying games, NERF attachments, figurines of fictional characters