What is 3D Printing and what is it used for?
3D printers turn digital designs into physical objects. The printer melts down material and then extrudes it one layer at a time, building an object from the bottom to the top. Imagine building a tower using only a hot glue gun, and you have the general idea of how a 3D printer works!
3D printing has been used for everything from prototyping to toy-making. It offers a quicker and easier option for creating objects than machining.
At HML, we own a LulzBot TAZ 6 printer. We offer 3D design classes and print-to-order services for the public.
Make: Printing Your Designs
Printing a design with HML is as easy as filling out our request form. Or stop in at the library with a USB drive or microSD card that has your file on it!
The library charges $0.10 per gram, including supports and rafts, to print submitted designs. This helps cover the cost of filament and keeps our 3D printing program sustainable.
In all cases we will review your file, and a staff member will contact you with a quote, including a price and a rough timeline. Your print request will be queued as deemed appropriate by staff. We generally print on a first come, first served basis, but how long it will take to print an object can also affect when it is printed.
It takes hours to print a single object, and it may take a couple of weeks for the library to complete your 3D print request. The library aims to complete any submitted model within 10 days; however, models that require the printing of many components or high patron demand may lengthen the overall process.
There are many websites where people share designs for 3D printing, some of them free and some for a small fee. Some of our favorites are Thingiverse and Cults3D. One key thing to remember is that just because a design is available online doesn’t mean it is well-designed for printing. When you’re looking for designs, look to see if other other people have used them. You are much more likely to be happy with a design many people have already printed successfully.
There are many different 3D design software options out there, and it can feel a little overwhelming when you try to pick one! We use Tinkercad in all of our design classes. It’s free, browser-based, and fairly easy to use.
All objects must fit within the print area of our printer, which is 11.02 in x 11.02 in x 9.8 in. Larger objects will use more filament and therefore cost more money, while smaller objects won’t be able to have as much detail.
If you need a larger object than our print area, you can break your project into multiple pieces to be assembled after printing.
We have many different colors! If you would like to see specifically what colors are available before submitting a print, please schedule a time to come into the library with our 3D printing staff by calling or emailing us.
Color availability may change without notice, and we cannot guarantee your chosen color is in stock. Plan to submit some backup color suggestions, and of course, we will contact you if there are any issues.
Our printer can currently only print in one color at a time. Color changes are possible, but they can only be based on height. So, we could print layers 1 through 5 in green, and then switch to yellow for layers 6 through 10.
You might be happy with your design right off the printer, and if so, that’s great! You’re done with your project.
If you want to step up your game a little, here are some guides for post processing:
Our primary printing material is PLA. You can read all about PLA here.
We also use nGen, a filament sold by ColorFabb. You can learn more about it here. The key difference for most people’s uses between PLA and nGen is that nGen has a much higher heat resistance than PLA.
The library may also have some specialty filaments at any given time. If you’re looking for something specific, get in touch.