3D Printing and Modeling

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Other sites

Best Practices at 3D Hub.

How to get and print a 3D landscape of anywhere

Annealing your printed PLA model can dramatically increase its strength.

3D print your own filament to give you new colors or variegation. Then print with your own custom filament.

Design of snap joints in plastic. A great reference.



Review of different filaments


eSun PLA+ is recommended by several people.

Ceilings in your model

The MakerBot software defaults do NOT do a good job at putting roofs over some parts. To correct this you need to modify your device settings. Look for the "create a profile" button. First select the correct device, material, etc. Now click Create A Profile. Give it a name. It will now open in Notepad. Look for the setting of "roofThickness". Set it to 3.

You could try changing "roofLayerCount_disabled" to "roofLayerCount_enabled". I have not tried that.

Find a Model

  • Thingiverse Has a wide variety of .STL files to download and use. A great source of ideas.
  • The Smithsonian Museum has many interesting models. Natural history and man-made - anyone want to 3D print a copy of the Apollo Command Module escape hatch?
  • NASA has files for their space craft and more.

Get Your Model Printed

Own Your Own 3d Printer

Having your own printer gives you unlimited time. But you also must be willing to care for the machine. We have some members who are doing just that. Read about it here.

The UPS Store - that's right

Some UPS Stores are now offering 3D printing. I used the UPS Store in Menlo Park. I exchanged email with them, sent them an STL, got a price, and picked up my part the next day. The part was extrusion printed, but in a very good quality. Their price was a bit more than Shapeways for the same part.

Treofab - more expensive but faster delivery


I met them at TechShop San Jose. According to the CEO they are more expensive than Shapeways, but will deliver in two days. They also do high quality and color objects.

Shapeways - excellent, moderate price, two weeks

http://www.shapeways.com I have printed lots of stuff with Shapeways. Their print quality is very high. They offer a number of different materials. Their web site is easy to use and powerful. The only downside is that it takes 2-3 weeks to get your stuff. They also allow you to have your own store. They let other people buy your parts and you decide how much of a markup you want to add.

Modeling Software

Parametric Modeling

Parametric modeling allows you to specify constraints on your designs. One constraint is the length (dimensions) of your design and that makes it easy to adjust the dimensions later. You can also specify angles, tangents, co-linearity, and much more. Some solutions actually require that you dimension everything. One issue for the newby is that when you have only a few constraints and change one the software might "solve" your geometry in a way that you did not anticipate - you use the Undo button a lot until you get used to it. Once you understand constraint use it is very powerful.

Fusion 360 parametric modeling

Free download for hobbyist and very small businesses. This is a very powerful professional, yet easy to learn, modeling tool. All your designs can be dimensioned which makes it easy to go back and say, "I want this wall to be 23mm instead of 22" and see the whole model regenerate. You can export an .STL file for import into a Slicer. We have a page of Fusion 360 tips.


FreeCAD is an open source alternative to Fusion360. It is very powerful but a bit quirkier than Fusion360. If you enjoy open source software, this will do a very good job for you.


OnShape is a browser based solution. It works a lot like Fusion 360. The free version makes your models open-source. That might be a problem if you're doing a work thing, but if you're just a hobbyist then why not share your designs with the world?

Organic Modeling

This is when you are making some lifelike part. A little figure, a model of a hand, a free form art work. These don't have constraints, you just grab parts of the mesh and pull it into a new position.

MeshMixer for creating and editing stl files

http://www.123dapp.com/meshmixer I have really enjoyed using the new MeshMixer. There are a number of YouTube videos that do a great job of explaining the user interface. The downside is that more documentation is needed. Many of the tools have a number of options and it isn't clear what all the options do.

123D Catch

123D is both brilliant and crap, but FREE. You can take a series of photos of an object and this software will create an STL model of the object. A head or a house. Brilliant!!! 9 times out of 10 (maybe more often) the software will fail on the upload of the photos to the cloud. Or it will appear to upload and then say it can't reach the server. Or who knows what other errors will pop up. Crap.

Simple Modeling

These solutions are the easiest to use and are a good place to start if you just want to make something quickly.


SketchUp offers a free version that is very popular with hobbyists. The easy user interface allows one to quickly construct objects. They can be constrained, but that is a bit more work.


TinkerCAD is so easy that kids can use it right away.

Printer Control Software


Slicers take your .STL model and do the work to generate GCode that can be sent to a 3D printer.

Prusa Slicer

Prusa is a great tool for your needs. It provides a lot of control over the slicing, grouped into simple, advanced, expert.


Slic3r is the software that Prusa built their slicer on top of. Open source, you may find that leading edge features are here before they appear in the Prusa Slicer.

Maintenance and Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting software


Pronterface runs on your laptop and sends commands to your 3D printer from a graphical user interface. It can be very helpful in diagnosing issues with your printer.

Calibrate the Extruder

An interesting article on calibrating the extruder on a 3D printer. The basic steps are to ask the printer to extrude a specific amount of filament, measure the actual amount of filament used, then adjust the extruder constant (steps per mm of filament used) to reflect the actual value. Then remeasure. On one printer, I found the default was extruding 102.5mm when it was supposed to be extruding 100. I think this was making rough top layers on my prints. It can also affect what you think is the correct height adjustment for the first layer if you rely on a printed patch that you feel for smoothness. The linked article walks through the process, including a couple of g-codes you need to be able to send to do run the test and set the adjustment.