Getting Started With 3D Printed Design

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Workshop Outline

What is 3D Printing?

  • What is 3D?
    • 2D: Drawings, paintings.
    • 3D: Sculpture, things we use.
  • What is Printing?
    • Depositing material. Paint, graphite, ink.
  • What is 3D Printing? ==
    • Depositing material to make a 3D object.
  • How does a 3D Printer work?
    • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
      • Cost: Very High
      • Tech: High-power lasers fuse any meltable material, from plastics up to metals like titanium.
      • Advantages: Produce replacement parts on demand for your fighter jet on an aircraft carrier. Fused material might be recyclable.
      • Disadvantages: See Cost.
    • Ink-Jet Powder+Binder
      • Cost: Medium
      • Tech: Lays down layers of powder and "prints" the design using a glue-like binder.
      • Advantages: Can do colour. Model structures are self-supporting via unused powder. "Green" parts can be infused with materials from glue to molten metal to strengthen. Unused powder can be reused.
      • Disadvantages: "Green" parts are fragile. Hollow parts will trap binder if no exit holes are designed in. Fabricated objects may be difficult or impossible to recycle back into machine inputs.
    • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
      • Cost: Low
      • Tech: An extruder head deposits melted material (like plastic) or pastes to build up an object layer-by-layer.
      • Advantages: Cheap. Can be completely hollow and air-tight. Can be vestment-cast with molten metal. Simple machine design. For thermoplastic and similar materials, fabricated objects can be melted back down and reused.
      • Disadvantages: Large overhangs require support material. Multiple colours and/or materials require complex multi-head extruder designs.


Design an Object

Introducing Google SketchUp

  • 2D to 3D
    • Extrude: the Pull operation.
    • +ve vs -ve space
  • 3D Boolean Operations
  • When is a mesh not solid?
    • Tricks to fixing meshes so they're solid.
  • Exporting
    • STL
    • Collada (DAE)

MeshLab Manipulations

  • Checking models for manifoldness
  • Basic fixing operations
  • Basic scaling operations

NetFabb Tools

Slicing Fabjects


  • Basic STL positioning and scaling operations.
  • Hooks into Skeinforge (included).
    • Turn on skeinview
  • Read the resulting GCode.

GCode Visualization (Optional)

Printing to MakerBot Machines

  • Print Direct
    • Cupcake: Only print direct for simple designs. The serial link bogs down too easily when there are lots of small movements as found in curves and circles.
    • Thing-O-Matic: No issues printing directly.
  • Print Buffering to SD Card
    • Cupcake: Preferred over direct printing. Necessary for stand-alone operation.
    • Thing-O-Matic: Optional. Necessary for stand-alone operation.
  • Print to File (aka SD Card in USB reader)
    • Cupcake: Faster than dumping data over serial link. Useful for preparing files for multiple "identical" machines.
    • Thing-O-Matic: Faster than dumping data over serial link. Useful for preparing files for multiple "identical" machines.

Using the ArtEngine MakerBot Cupcake



Design Flows on a Budget

Modelling Software

  • 3DTin
    • Baby Steps
  • Google SketchUp
    • Layman's CAD
  • Blender
    • B(u)y the Book(s)
  • OpenSCAD
    • The Coder Way

Visualization, Assembly and Mesh Repair

  • MeshLab
  • CloudFabb and Netfabb Studio
  • Pleasant3D (Mac Only)
  • Blender (STL and GCode Plugins)


  • Skeinforge (Python based)
    • Cryptic but Necessary

Printer Interfaces

  • ReplicatorG

Models and Mash-Ups


Open Source - Parent Projects

RepRap Project

Open Source Hardware - Commercial




3D Printing Services