What Type of File do I need?
The prefered files in order: .STL .OBJ .STEP
these three file types are the most common and are a universal format.
The preference is for a .STL file. STL is an abbreviation of “stereolithography”. This is a file format native to the stereolithography CAD software created by 3D Systems. It is a universal and recognized by most 3D software.
What type of Software Should I use?
This is a two tiered question.
Firstly, to design a project, you need a CAD program. In the lab we use Autodesk’s Fusion 360. This is free with an Education ID and seems to be the easiest for students to learn. It features the ability to interface with 3D printing programs and has a CAM (computer aided manufacturing) feature for the desktop CNC Mills.
Students may also use CREO or SolidWorks but we do not have these software licenses or software loaded onto our machines. These are two popular professional grade 3D modeling software programs. Google Sketchup is also an alternative, but students can run into problems exporting an .STL depending on the version they have access to.
The second tier of software is something called a slicer. This is a program that writes the “G Code”. G-code is a language in which users tell computerized machine tools how to make something. The G Code contains information like temperature of extruder head, speed at which the head travels, and coordinates of where to place the cutting head or extruded plastic.
The Slicers that the Lab uses are as follows: Makerbot Print, Slic3r, and Cura. We instruct students which one to use based off of what printer they desire to use.
Makerbot= Makerbot Print
Prusa 3D Printer = Slic3r
Lulzbot TAZ= Cura Lulzbot Edition
What type of Filament do you have?
We supply patrons with the filament used. The Filament brand we use varies from semester to semester.
We offer PLA (polylactic acid) filament. It costs .25 cents per gram. We use the Slicer to determine the weight of the part and support material if needed. We do not charge for the filament used in failed prints.
We do not allow outside filaments to be used in our machines. Quality of PLA differs from manufacturer to manufacturer. We use our own trusted materials to eliminate the variables of misprints and to ensure we do not damage our machines with sub-par filament. Proceeds from the payments go towards the Digital Fabrication Lab and to improve or refresh the equipment.
Why charge for filament?
We charge a fee for filament as a part of the design process. By attaching a fee to the project, this works as a design contraint. Reducing the cost of a print through file manipulation can be a great innovator in the design of the 3D object.
If we were to have free printing, patrons would not worry about the cost or time consideration of their projects. It is easy at that point to run the program and be done with the design. When a patron is faced with a $40+ bill, they are more prone to another iteration and improve the overall design. Skills like flat packing or composite builds are good solutions for our patrons to learn.
At this time, we will not be charging for the use of the CNC mini-Mills, Cricut Maker, or the future L.A.S.E.R. engraver. This is to ensure their use. Students are however responsible for supplying their own material for projects.
How Do I pay?
Patrons can pick up their 3D objects at the front desk. We enter their charges into the student’s library account. They can pay cash or use credit/debit cards. If the student wants to come in an do finishing work by using our tools or supplies, please encourage them to do so. We have a Dremel, sand paper, adhesives, and picks for removing support material.
Will you build this for me?
The purpose of the Digital Fabrication Lab is to raise the digital literacy of the NDSU campus. This is why we have moved away from the drop-off 3D printing service and given our patrons direct access to the tools and equipment. If you are unsure of how to make something or have ideas of how to build something, stop by the lab and talk to a technician. They are trained to assist you with the process of building and designing products.
We have in special circumstances contracted to build research or special projects. If you need assistance in a special project or research project, contact the Emerging Technology Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your project.