3D Printing

Images by Jody Culkin & Anna Pinkas. Used with permission.


If you’re looking for project ideas, please check our Workshops!

3D printing is an additive manufacturing process, in which objects are built from a succession of thin layers stacked on top of each other. Experiments in 3D printing started in the 1980s. 3D printing is now used extensively in industry and for prototyping. There are industrial and consumer printers widely available. Services such as Shapeways will print a 3D model in a range of materials. (There’s a list further below covering Print-on-Demand services.)

3D printing Techniques

There are many different 3D printing technologies. Here’s a list. This page has an overview about each of the techniques.

  • Fused deposition modeling (FDM)
  • Stereolithography(SLA)
  • Digital Light Processing(DLP)
  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
  • Selective laser melting (SLM)
  • Electronic Beam Melting (EBM)
  • Laminated object manufacturing (LOM)

In the the Makerspace, the printers use the Fused deposition modelling method (FDM). In FDM printing, the nozzle of an extruder moved by a carriage repeatedly deposits thin layers of plastic filament on a heated bed. Motors control the position of the bed and also the extruder. There are many types of filament that can be used in 3D printing; anything from wood filament made from sawdust and PLA, biodegradable algae, to ceramics, metals, and cement, and even sugar!  However,  commonly used filaments for consumer grade printers are made from either PLA or ABS. PLA (polylactic acid) is a biodegradable material made from corn starch. ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is fossil fuel based, non-biodegradable plastic. Here in the Makerspace, we will be using PLA exclusively.

3D Printers


For student use we have the Ultimaker 2+ & 2+ Extended. It is set with a 0.4 mm nozzle. It uses Cura to export your files into gcode.

We also have two Prusa i3 MK3s printers. They also have a 0.4 mm nozzle, and uses Prusa Slicer to export into gcode.

(This photo is from 2021; we now have two printers.)

Outputting Tips

Please be advised, the Makerspace is a place for prototyping, please do not expect to print large scale or a high fidelity model. This is place where you can experiment and explore, but advise if you want sometime high quality to seek out a professional print service. (See below under Other Resources.)

What you model in is entirely your choice! There is a wide gamut of 3D modeling programs, though we suggest if you are new to 3D modeling, to make a free account over at TinkerCAD. The tutorials below cover some basics in the program. (Check further  for other free for personal use or open source software you and explore as well.)

No matter what you choose to model in, we will need an .stl or an .obj file to import into our slicing software. STL files are preferred.

Once your STL is imported into the slicing program. it will read your model, turns into little slices and then writes the directional information for the 3D printer into a type of code, called gcode. Depending on your model of 3D printer, the program that does this varies. As explained above, we have Ulitmakers so students will use Cura. The gcode is then saved to an SD card dedicated for 3D prints and run the printer.


  • Please print models you’ved designed yourself. Printing pre-made objects from sites such as Thingverse and the like is strongly discouraged.
  • Prints are run by time, not volume. Maximum Print Time is 2 HOURS per project. Projects can be any classwork or a personal experiment in fabrication (such as building an item, cosplay, etc.) however projects for classes take priority.
  • Non-Project Based Prints are limited to 2 prints per week.
  • Prints for OVER 2 hours must fill out a permission form provided by the Makerspace and deliver to Lab Manager before printing.
  • Maximum Print Time for extended prints is 4 HOURS per project.
  • PLEASE DO NOT LEAVE A PRINTER UNATTENDED! Please pause your print or ask the Lab Manager or friend to watch it in your place if needed.
  • Please make sure all beds are clean after use. Alcohol pads are in the back closet for cleaning the 3D print beds.
  • Filament color is limited to what the Makerspace has in stock. We cannot accept rolls of filament brought in from students.


  • Please wipe bed before AND after prints, or after touching the removable plate
  • Please do not use spatulas to remove prints. This keeps the PEI coating from being scraped off and losing its nonstick capabilities.


Other Resources

3D Modeling Software:

These are free or near-free, we list more in our Software page.

  • TinkerCAD  (Browser based; needs no downloading. Our Go-to here in the Makerspace.)
  • Blender (Open Source; needs to be installed. Has a bit of a learning curve with the UI, but has plenty of documentation and resources to help.)
  • Sketchup (Free for Personal/Non-commercial Use; uses the web browser only.)
  • Fusion 360 (Free for Personal/Non-commercial Use; install needed. From Autodesk– who also made TinkerCAD.)

3D Print on Demand Services:

If you’re looking to get a more refined model than what we can do in the Makerspace, especially in later end prototyping and/or need specialized parts or non PLA pieces, we suggest investing a print on demand print. Depending on the complexity of your model and materials needed, it may be costly. However, many services allow you to get a quote before committing.

All of the sites listed are US-based for the ease of price & shipping.

  • Shapeways is NYC-based, and print in wide range of materials.
  • Voodoo Manufacturing is also NYC-based, but only print in plastic.
  • Fictiv is California based, and provides not just 3D printing, but injection molds, urethane casting and CNC machining.
  • 3D Systems is South Carolina based, and founded by the inventor of the 3D printer. They focus more on large scale manufacturing as well, but worth sharing.