A Three-Dimensional Experience at Marston

Dylan Wang

Sophomore, Biology major

Photography by Dylan Wang

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Lately, 3D printing has been popping up in the news, either for creating a prosthetic limb for a boy or building printed homes in China. Giving into the hype, I chose to create and print a 3D model for a club project here at the University of Florida. However, having never used a 3D printer before, the process intimidated me a little. Students often see 3D printing as interesting but feel it is too complicated to attempt. My experience in 3D printing at Marston library made me realize the process is easier than most would think.

The printing process consists of a specialized printer setting down layers of melted plastic to create a three-dimensional object. For beginners who simply want to print an object someone else already made online, follow these steps:

  1. Go to http://www.thingiverse.com/newest
  2. Download the .stl to a USB drive
  3. Bring the USB drive and a credit card to Marston Library

Those who want to start creating simple 3D models can download a variety of free 3D modeling programs. I used AutoDesk Meshmixer, a sculpting and editing program, for my project. Here are the steps to make your first model:

  1. Download Meshmixer from http://www.123dapp.com/meshmixer
  2. Play around with the sculpting tool (some YouTube tutorials may help)
  3. Save model as a .stl to a USB drive
  4. Bring the USB drive and a credit card to Marston Library

After adding the final touches to my 3D model, I went to Marston Library to ask for advice on printing. Sara Gonzalez, a 3D printing expert, looked over the model I brought on my USB drive and gave me some advice. “This is an interesting project. However, due to the size, I would recommend you printing in a different orientation to avoid warping at the edges.” I looked at Gonzalez with one thought: what in the world does warping have to do with 3D printing? She explained that, since large print projects take longer times to print, the heat can cause the bottom to curl or “warp” at the edges. The thought of my countless hours of designing going to waste because of a bad print was slightly horrifying.

I immediately fixed my print design so the model could be printed in several parts to reduce the chances of warping. I brought my print files to the 3D printing desk and was greeted by Denise Bennett, another 3D printing expert. Bennett took a look at my fixed print and let me know that as long as we printed my project in the correct orientations, everything should run smoothly.

Bennett showed me the area with all the 3D printers and I got to see projects printed live. I submitted my final print job in 10 different parts and received my completed model a few days later. Thanks to the approachable and helpful 3D printing staff at Marston Library, I learned that 3D printing is incredibly feasible and accessible.

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