Getting Started With 3D Printed Design

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Workshop Outline

  1. What is 3D Printing?
    1. Links
  2. Design an Object
    1. Introducing Google SketchUp
      1. Basic Shapes
      2. Useful Operations
      3. Troubleshooting
      4. Exporting
    2. MeshLab Manipulations
    3. NetFabb Tools
  3. Slicing Fabjects
    1. ReplicatorG
    2. GCode Visualization (Optional)
  4. Printing to MakerBot Machines
  5. Printing to RepRap Machines
  6. Using the ArtEngine MakerBot Cupcake

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

Basic Shapes

  • Creating shapes
  • Creating rulers for precision
  • Snap to lines, shapes, rulers.

Useful Operations

  • 2D to 3D
    • Extrude: the Pull operation.
  • 3D Text
  • 3D Boolean Operations


  • When is a mesh not solid?
  • Tricks to fixing meshes so they're solid.


  • 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.

Printing to RepRap Machines

Paul add stuff here.

Using the ArtEngine MakerBot Cupcake



Design Flows on a Budget

Modelling Software

Visualization, Assembly and Mesh Repair


Printer Interfaces

Models and Mash-Ups


Open Source - Parent Projects

RepRap Project

Open Source Hardware - Commercial




Note: It hasn't been released yet but the videos suggest it's going to be wicked-fast.

3D Printing Services