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3D Printing at Stanley Library: Printing FAQs

Here, you will find all of the guidelines you need to use the 3D printer. Please pay close attention to all parts of this guide before trying to 3D print!

Watch the 3D Printer at Work!


What is 3D printing?

3D printing refers to rapid prototyping - creating a physical 3-dimensional object from a digital model. There are several types of 3D printers. The printer that we use is the MakerBot Replicator 2x which performs a Fused Filament Fabrication technique (also known as Fused Deposition Modeling - FDM) to create the final 3d printed object. In this method, a lightweight plastic filament that when fed through the nozzle is heated up to its melting point and then extruded onto a build plate surface, hardening upon impact. This process continues, depositing the melted filament layer by layer until a 3-dimensional object is formed.


What are some examples of practical uses for 3D printing?

3D prints can be found useful in numerous applications, such as prototypes for entrepreneurs, architectural models for class projects and for any other low-volume, custom-prototype needs. Here are some examples of practice use in an educational environment:

  • Architecture - printing their 3D models to further enhance their understanding of structures
  • Fine arts - creating 3D objects from their digital designs; incorporating 3D prints into their other mediums; designing and 3D printing jewelry, sculptures, etc.
  • Visual communication design - creating prototypes of product designs and packaging
  • 3D animation - creating 3D printed objects from their designs
  • Engineering - creating 3D prototypes of their designs in order to fully understand their engineering design principles and to experience the challenges that are encountered along the way
  • Advertising / marketing / business / entrepreneurs - having a 3D prototype of the item that they are selling, to show their clients
  • Nursing / medicine - creating 3D replicas of anatomy
  • Archaeology / paleontology - creating 3D replicas of fragile relics for study (ex. creating replicas of fossils in order to study their movement, etc.)
  • Forensics - incorporating 3D printing into crime scene investigation (ex. creating 3D replicas of evidence, such as footprints, or skeletal remains and facial reconstruction)
  • Chemistry / physics / biology - creating accurate 3D visual aids such as DNA or chemical reactions

How large of an object can you print?

The maximum build volume for the Makerbot Replicator 2x as described by the Makerbot company is 250mm L x 160mm W x 150mm H (9.8” x 6.3” x 5.9”). However, due to issues with our build plate heat distribution and leveling, we generally resort to a much smaller maximum (perhaps closer to 200mm x 100mm x 150mm), depending on the design. So please be aware that we may ask to print your model at a smaller scale than you would like. We do this with the goal of ensuring the best success of your print. With creative design, though, you can print larger simply by separating your model into smaller printable pieces. So keep that in mind as you prepare your file for printing.


Who can use the 3D printing service?

While the 3D printer is open to all currently enrolled Ferrum College students, staff, and faculty in all disciplines the actual printing process is done through our Digital Media Center consultants.