Bookable Resources - 3D Printer
Why use a 3D Printer?
In essence, 3D Printers turn digital objects into physical ones.
3D printing (a.k.a Additive Manufacturing) is now pretty well established in industry as a prototyping tool, and is becoming more common as a process for creating finished custom or low-run parts.
In the home, printers can be a marvelous tool for solving practical household problems for example by repairing items, or creating new items that are fully customised for their position or use case. They also can be used for fun, and are popular for making tabletop gaming minis, toys and artwork.
====Video==== Daniels idea of quick video: Portrait 5 things to remember about this equipment, tik tok style really short safety eg laser, vector files, check settings. portrait mode. refresher for after induction. ====Workshops==== Below you will find a slideshow of some of the workshops we have done over the years that utilize 3D Printers. 3D printing workshops
====Projects Gallery==== Here are some cool projects that patrons of the Fabrication Lab have made with our 3D printers. *Slideshow here
Induction & Booking
To use this equipment you will need an general induction (which brings you up to speed with the overall safety of the Fabrication Lab), and an additional specific equipment induction. Check out the Inductions Page for more info.
We currently have 5 Prusa MK3s 3D Printers. They have a maximum build volume of 250 x 210 x 210 mm and they can print a wide range of materials and colours, though our default set up is black PLA, and a 0.4mm nozzle.
One of our five machines is our 'experimental' machine where we try out materials other than PLA (such as ABS, PETG, chopped carbon fibre, etc), different sized nozzles and any novel techniques.
The life cycle of a 3D print starts with a digital 3D model, which is is then run through software called a slicer, which works out the code for the 3D printer to follow. The printer then prints the object and then there's sometimes some post-processing such as removing support material, or painting the object.
To get a digital model you have 3 main options, you can;
- Make your own using 3D modeling software which falls into a few broad:
- Hard surface modeling which is great for if you're just starting out and allows you to make blocky objects. TinkerCAD or 3D Builder are great options, especially if you've never done any 3D modeling at all before.
- Sculpting is great for making organic shapes like people, animals, trees or landscapes. It's akin to working a digital block of clay. A great piece of free software for this is SculptGL, though Meshmixer is another option.
- Parametric Design is great for making highly dimentioned-objects. things that need very specific distances and angles for example tools, boxes etc. Fusion 360 is a common choice, as is FreeCAD. There's also OpenSCAD if you think you might like syntax-based parametric design.
- Another option for getting a 3D model is to scan an existing object into the computer. Photogrammetry software such as AliceVision is great for this if you want to use a digital camera you already have. The Fabrication Lab also has various other scanning technologies such as the Konica Minolta Laser Scanner.
Once you have your 3D model you will need to slice it to turn it into code your printer can read, this is done thorugh software which is generally called a 'slicer' because it cuts the object into layers before working out the code. The most common slicers include PrusaSlicer (which we use here in the Fabrication Lab) and Cura. Both are free to download.
Then it's onto printing! There are many kinds of 3D Printers, but ours fall into the range of FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) machines, which work kind of like hot glue guns that move around. These machines work by squeezing a plastic string called 'filament' through a hot nozzle (which melts the filament). As the filament is squeezed out, the nozzle moves around to draw cross sections of our object. After completing a cross section, the nozzle lifts up and draws another cross section of our object. In this way an object is built up in layers.
Once our print is complete we remove it from the bed and have a physical object! Woo! From here some people like to prime, sand and paint or otherwise 'finish' their models, though others like to leave them raw. If you do wish to paint the, automotive primer/filler is great and acrylic paint is best. Depending on the shape of the object there may be some support material to remove (support material is set up in the slider and provides a temporary structure for parts that would otherwise float in mid air to print upon). Some people might also use 3D prints as a prototype or a blank for casting in another material like silicone or resin.
Our Standard Operating Procedures contain a basic workflow with a focus on safety.
More information about 3D printing using our current machines can be found on their page.
We supply black-coloured PLA by default in our printers, which is a polymer made out of the by products of renewable resources such as corn and sugar cane. It's a great material to print with, really easy to work with and quite strong (albeit not particularly flexible). Its only real downside is that it can warp out of shape at relatively low temperatures (60C) which makes it unsuitable for some use cases (for example objects intended to sit inside cars). If different material properties or colours are required we do have an experimental printer where we can print many other thermoplastics such as ABS, PETG and flexible filaments. We keep some of these in stock, and not all materials are suitable for our set up, so have a chat to us before you buy stuff.
Currently we don't charge for 3D prints unless you are doing a lot of printing/ using a lot of material, as the material cost is relatively negligible. If you plan on doing doing large runs of items or printing very large things, have a chat to us so we can work out a plan.
There are many communities (external to State Library Queensland) that have been built around 3D Printers, which each host a lot of information if you would like to learn more, including:
- The 3D Printing Subreddit is a great place to get inspiration about projects
We have collected loads of handy guides, interesting techniques, resources, tools etc. If you're looking to dive deeper into the world of lasers and expand your know-how you will find many great resources here. 3D Printer Resources