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3D Printing: Design Resources

3D Printing

Preparing 3D Design Files for Conversion and Printing

Preparing 3D Design Files and Conversion for Printing

The MakerBot Replicator can fabricate 3D models from any 3D design software that is capable of exporting the file as a .stl file (STereoLithography). The MakerBot Desktop software also accepts .obj files. The .stl or .obj files must be converted to a 3D printer build file (i.e. a tool path) before printing with MakerBot Desktop for the MakerBots.

The CMMC has the MakerBot Desktop conversion program installed on the iMac beside the MakerBot in the Idea Lab/Makerspace.

MakerBot Desktop (5th Generation MakerBot) Conversion Procedure

Open your .stl or .obj file in MakerBot Desktop by clicking on Add File. Next, select settings. Remember, the MakerBot Replicator 5th generation printers are only compatible with PLA. However, you can adjust the layer thickness, fill density, raft, and support material options. Remember that 3D printing is an experiment. Choose options that you think will work best for your model. Next, click on Save Settings and then Export Print File. Save this file to your flash drive.

Thoughts to Consider Before You Design Your Object

•Think about what you are trying to do.
•Has this been done before (
–If it has been done before, can you modify something to fit your needs?
•Technical and/or artistic.
•Start simple.
•Think about limits of the 3D printer:
–Can’t print over hangs (without supports).
–Plastic shrinkage when printed.
–Minimum resolution/accuracy.
–You may need to split the object into multiple prints (i.e. box top and bottom).
–Can you interlock parts and/or glue parts.


Online Tutorials

3D Printing in the News


Browse these sites and find  inspiration for your own creations as well as actual models you can download and print.

  • 3D Content Central
  • 3D Warehouse
  • Bld3r
  • Blend Swap
  • GrabCAD
  • Instructables
  • NIH 3D Print Exchange
  • Yeggi
  • Youmagine

FAQ of 3D Printing

3D Printing FAQ

What is 3D printing? How does it work?

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. The 3D printer uses a process called Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), 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. The object is built this way, one layer at a time, from the bottom up. 

What are some practical uses of 3D printing?

There are a multitude of practical applications for 3D printing, from educational assignments to aerospace and automotive engineering to prosthetics and other medical uses. 3D printing enables rapid prototyping of design concepts and functional, working models; it is used for low-volume, custom, or on-demand manufacturing.

What software can you use to make printable 3D models?

There are many different programs that can produce printable 3D models. Most 3D modeling software will output the filetype our machines use, the .stl file. Solid modeling CAD software is much more likely to produce a successful print than surface modeling software. A few popular options are SolidWorks, AutoCAD, Inventor, 3DS Max, Creo, Blender, Rhino 3D, Sketchup and Tinkercad.

For beginners, we recommend starting with Tinkercad. It is web-based, optimized for 3D printing, and easy to get started with. For a free account, visit

What if I need help?

3D printing is not a service the library provides to patrons.  However the library does offer machines for you to tinker and create with by booking the space. Remember, 3D printing is an experiment.  Prints will not always turn out as you expect them to.  


Some info. from: