3D Printing Basics

1.Using TinkerCad

Tinkercad is an online tool for creating your own 3D objects that can be printed using a 3D printer. There are no boundaries when it comes to creating objects, so just experiment and play around with the different tools in Tinkercad and have fun!

  1. Go to https://www.tinkercad.com/ and sign in, or create a new account for free.


  1. Click on Create New Design.


  1. Click and drag a shape or letter onto the workplane.


  1. To change the size of the shape, hover over one of the white corners of the object until the dimensions are displayed. Click and drag the object to resize.


  1. To rotate the object, hover over one of the double-ended arrows until the protractor appears. Click and drag the object to rotate.


  1. To make the object taller, hover over the white box on top of the object until the dimension appears. Click and drag the object to reshape.


  1. To undo any previous command, click on Undo.


  1. To move/rotate the workplane, hold down the control (ctrl) button on your keyboard and the left mouse button while dragging the mouse. (If you are working on a Mac, you can also drag with two fingers instead of using the control key)


  1. To zoom in/out, use two fingers on the touch pad or use the+ and buttons on the left hand side of the window.


  1. To add another object, refer to step 3. To edit said object, refer to steps 4-6.

  2. To raise an object off of the workplane, click and drag the black cone above the object.


  1. To align multiple objects, select the objects you wish to align by holding down the shift key and clicking each object.


  1. Click on Adjust and then click on Align… Black dots should appear on each dimension of the selected objects. Click on the dots to align your objects. When you are finished, click on Dismiss Align Tool.



  1. To group multiple objects into one object, select all objects holding down the shift key and clicking each object. Then click on Group. The grouped objects should now all be the same color. To ungroup objects, simply select the desired objects, then click on Ungroup.


  1. To make a hole in an object, you can either choose one of the shapes from the Holes dropdown on the side toolbar, or you can choose any shape and click on Hole when the object is highlighted.


  1. To make multiple copies of an object, highlight the object, then click on Edit, then Copy. Click Edit, then Paste and a copy of your object will appear on the workplane. Using theDuplicate button will also work – only the second object will appear in exactly the same spot as the original, so you will have to drag one object around the workplane.


  1. To save your newly created object, click on Design, thenSave.


  1. To rename your object, click on Design, then Properties. Here you can change the name of your file, and the privacy settings of your object. When finished, click Save Changes.


  1. When you are finished designing your object and you are ready to print it, click on Design, then Download for 3D Printing. Download the file as .STL.


You are now ready to prepare your object for printing using MakerBot Desktop! See the tutorial on “Printing with MakerBot Desktop” in order to print your object.

2.Installing Mesh Mixer

  1. Go to meshmixer.com

meshmixer 1

  1. At the top of the page, you should see a short explanation about what meshmixer is. Either click on the link in the description or the Download link in the menu.

MeshMixer 2

  1. Choose the correct version for your computer, download, and follow the instructions for installation.

MeshMixer 3

  1. Once installation is complete, and MeshMixer is opened, it should look something like the picture shown below.

meshmixer 4

3.Adding Supports to MeshMixer

Adding supports to your item might be necessary if the item has a some part of the item that hangs outside of the base of item. Supports connect the overhanging piece with the platform and help the piece from drooping, or not connecting with the base of the item itself.

To add support you will need the following tools:

  • MeshMixer (you can download it here)
    • The tutorial is done in MeshMixer 2.0
  • The file of the object you want to print.

Follow these steps to add supports to the item:

  1. Open the application MeshMixer. Click the MeshMixer icon within your applications folder.
  2. When opening the application when nothing has been previously opened, you will need to import your file. Click import to open your item, or click file and choose open from the menu. Select the file that contains your item.https://farm1.staticflickr.com/520/18570816303_4936500f60_c.jpg

meshmixer 5

Adding supports is helpful when you have parts in you item that over hang from the base. To add supports click Analysis then select Overhangs from the menu.

meshmixer 7

Once the analysis is done, the object should be outlined in blue, and the overhangs should appear as a red surface. Click Generate Support and supports should be appear on the object. Click Done.

meshixer 6

meshmixer 8

Once supports are added, export the object by clicking export. Name your item, then click the menu called Files of Type. Select  STL Binary Format (*.stl). Click Save.

meshmixer 9

The exported object is now ready to print.  Open the .stl file in Dremel3D.

If you would like you can view the video explaining how to add supports here:

4.Installing Dremel 3D Software

Using the Dremel software to print is somewhat different than using the MakerBot software.  Follow the instructions below to install and start using the Dremel software.

  1. Go to 3dprinter.dremel.com

dremel 1

  1. Click on Support.

dremel 2

  1. Click on Downloads.

dremel 3

4. You will then be prompted to create an account or sign in. Choose your preferred way to create an account and follow the instructions to log in.

dremel 4

  1. Once you are logged in, scroll to the bottom of the page until you find a section that looks like the one shown below.  Click on Software located under the Downloads heading.

dremel 5

  1. Choose the correct download for your computer and follow the instructions for installation.

dremel 6

  1. Once installation is complete, the interface of Dremel 3D should look something like what is shown below.

dremel 7


Once installation is complete, you are ready to begin importing objects to print! However, some objects have large overhangs and may require supports in order to print successfully.  Supports must be added in a program called MeshMixer.  You can follow along in the MeshMixer articles.

5.Printing with Dremel 3D Idea Builder

Once you’ve located the item you want to print or designed it, you have the option to either add supports or go ahead and print the item. This tutorial will go through how to print the item on a Dremel 3D Idea Builder.

Items you’ll need:

  • Dremel 3D Idea Builder
  • Dremel 3D software (download it here)
  • SD Card
  1. In order to load your item into the Dremel Software, you’ll need to open Dremel 3D.
  2. Next Load the item you want to print. Click Load in the upper right hand corner.
  3. To Load the item select the .stl file you exported, and click Open.
  4. Some items may need to be centered and set to the platform. to do that click Move then click Center on platform.
  5. When the object is ready to print, click Build.  Make sure to select SD Card then click OK.dremel 9
  6. Save the file on the SD card obtained from the 3D printer.  Return the SD card to the printer, select the file, and print!

6.MakerBot: The Basics

To Make Your Own Object:

  1. Go to http://www.tinkercad.com and create a free account. 15494237711_a1b0676be7_c.jpg

  2. Create New Design, and have fun!

To Make a Pre-made Design:

  1. Go to http://www.thingiverse.com/ 15494237311_d235fe9368_b.jpg

  2. Find an object you like and click Download This Thing!Make sure that you are downloading a STL file.

  3. Once it is downloaded, go tohttps://www.makerbot.com/desktop and download MakerBot Desktop. This is the application that will allow you to format the object file into a file that the 3D printer can read. 15494237641_5b8574061d_b.jpg

  4. Install MakerBot. 15494237601_6b05360337_z.jpg

  5. Select your 3D Printer (in this case it is the MakerBot Replicator 5th Generation)

  6. Now you will be able to see the scaling of your 3D printer. 15310725268_7062e76634_c.jpg

  7. Add the file of your 3D object. 15310472469_7536e440b6_c.jpg

  8. You can turn it and scale it as necessary. 15494237501_291baeb4cd_c.jpg

  9. When you have it just right, Export Print File. You can check Standard resolution as well. Click Save Settings.

  • Check Raft to make your object more stable when printing.
  • If you have overhanging elements to your object, you can also check Support.
  • High resolution is if you have have very grainual details that you absolutely need to appear on the object.
  • Low resolution is for objects that are very basic in shape/design, or for first prototypes that don’t need as much detail.
  1. If you didn’t save the 3D printer friendly object file (.makerbot) to a flash drive, then move your .makerbot file to aflash drive.

  2. Turn on the 3D printer, change the filament if necessary, insert your flash drive, copy the object file to the internal storage on printer (so you can take your flash drive out) and then print your object!

7.Printing with MakerBot Desktop

MakerBot Desktop is the newest version of MakerBot software that allows you to print 3D objects on a MakerBot 3D Printer.

This tutorial is designed to guide you through the process of printing a 3D object. If you want to create your own object to print, please read the Tinkercad tutorial before proceeding here.

  1. Go to http://www.makerbot.com/desktop#download and download the latest version of MakerBot Desktop and follow the installation steps.


  1. Once downloaded, launch the application.

screenshot homescreen

  1. Click on Devices then Select Type of Device and choose the printer that you will use. The ThinkLab houses theReplicator (Dual) printer and DTLT houses the Replicator (5th Generation). MAKE SURE YOU CHOOSE THE CORRECT PRINTER, OTHERWISE YOUR OBJECT WILL NOT PRINT PROPERLY!

screenshot devices list

  1. Once you have chosen the correct printer, click Prepare. You should see a blank grid like the one shown below.

screenshot prepare button and prepare screen

  1. Click Add File and find the .stl file that you created using Tinkercad, and click Open. The file should appear on the build platform.

screenshot of open with file

  1. Using the various buttons along the left-hand side of the screen, you can change the view of the platform, rotate and move the object, and change the size of it. The object must be selected! It is always a good idea to make sure your object is centered on the build platform. Click On Platform and Centerunder the Change Position button.

screenshot center and on platform buttons

 Please read the following steps carefully, as they differ for each type of printer.

If you are using the Replicator Dual:

  1. Insert an SD card into your computer. This card is similar to the memory cards used in digital cameras.

  2. Click on Settings.


  1. Change the type of filament to say MakerBot ABS for both the right and left extruders. If you have overhangs on your object, you will also want to turn on supports for the same extruder that you are printing from. Then click Save Settings.

screenshot of settings page

  1. Click Export Print File. When another window pops up, click Export Now. The file should be saved as .x3g file type. Make sure to save it onto the SD card and not your computer! When you are finished, click Save.


  1. After the file is saved to the SD card, eject the SD card and insert it into the slot on the printer. The slot is on the right hand side, directly behind the Navigation Menu.

Screenshot of SD card slot/reader

  1. Once the card is inserted, use the menu interface on the printer to find your file and print it. Your file will be located under the Build from SD menu.

  2. Once your object has finished printing, carefully remove it from the platform, as the platform may still be hot!

If you are using the Replicator 5th Generation:

  1. Insert a USB drive into your computer.

  2. Click on Settings.


  1. Make sure the material says MakerBot PLA. If you have overhangs on your object, you will also want to check theSupports box. Then click Save Settings.

screenshot of settings page

  1. Click Export Print File. When another window pops up, click Export Now. The file should be saved as .makerbot file type. Make sure to save it onto the USB drive and not your computer! When you are finished, click Save.


  1. After the file is saved to the USB, eject it and insert it into the slot on the printer. The slot is on the front of the printer, in the same area as the navigation menu.

screenshot usb slot and main screen

  1. Once the USB drive is inserted, use the menu interface on the printer to find your file and print it. Your file will be located under the Build from SD menu.

  2. Once your object has finished printing, carefully remove it from the platform, as the platform may still be hot!



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