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3D Printing

What is 3D Printing?

3D Printing is a process that builds objects by placing layer upon layer of material that combine into a three dimensional object. Different 3D printers build using different materials, such as plastics, wood, glass and metal. Our 3D Printer is the Lulzbot Taz 6.

Lulzbot Taz 6

Below you can see a video of the library’s previous 3D printer, the CubePro Duo, building two Maltese Falcon figurines of different colors at the same time.

3D printers can print with more than one color, if they have multiple extruders (nozzles where the filament is melted and placed on the printing surface). If your printer only has one extruder and cannot combine two colors into one object, the material it prints with accepts latex or acrylic paint very well, as you can see in our mascots, Feeple and Threedee.

Feeple_small                 ThreeDee_small

How are 3D prints created?

3D prints are designed using computer aided drafting & design programs, or CAD. The most common, free one for 3D printing is TinkerCAD. TinkerCAD is a free web based design program, but you do have to create an account. You would design your object in TinkerCAD and then download the print file (.stl) into the 3D printer software. Then all you have to do is print!


How do I learn to create 3D printable files?

There are several instructional videos and practice files on TinkerCAD itself. You can also use Lynda Library a resource the library provides with lessons on hundreds of subjects. Simply log in with your library card to study whatever you like. There are lessons on CAD, and even three specific to TinkerCAD. For more advanced learners there are classes on 3D scanning with your camera as well.

3D Scanning? That sounds interesting.

It’s a process of taking many photos all around an object that are then combined by a computer program into a 3D image.  You can download an app called Trnio (for iPhones or iPads) and Scann3D or 3D Scanner (for Android phones and tablets) to scan with your phone. Once you have your image, you can incorporate it into other objects, or just print it on its own. Here’s a video to give you an idea.

What if I don’t want to make my own? Where can I find files to print?

Many people who create 3D printed objects share their designs online. You can find files that others have made that you can print either on TinkerCADThingiverse, GrabCAD, Pinshape, Repables, YouMagine, or MyMiniFactory.

What if the file I download is a bad .stl file?

There are two free services that let you repair broken or bad .stl files.

Make Printable

In four easy Steps you can get your 3D Models Fixed. 1.) Upload. Upload your 3D model. 2.) Specify options. In order to fix your model we need to understand your printer and the material you are printing with. 3.) Select output. Select the output you would like to get, whether it’s Gcode directly or a 3D file such as STL and OBJ.  4.) Download.

Microsoft 3D File Repair

Use the Microsoft 3D Tools powered by Windows 10 APIs to fix 3D files automatically. Like a spellchecker, these tools will save you time by taking care of common errors in 3D files that otherwise would require manual fixing by a dedicated designer.

Where can I print a file I find online?

The site 3DHubs, lets you upload your design to get free instant quotes. Select a 3D printing service, choose a material and you can have your order delivered within 48 hours.

What are libraries doing with 3D printers?

Many libraries allow patrons to print their own designs on the printer, and FPL expects to be doing that in the future. This can help a number of people, from those designing new products, for someone who needs a replacement part for a broken object in their home, to people creating art. Libraries also help in a more direct way through the e-Nable Project. e-Nable brings together people around the world who have 3D printers with people, mostly children, in need of prosthetic hands. Here’s an introduction.

Giving The World A “Helping Hand” from Jen Martin Studios on Vimeo.

Where can I get even more help on my design?

Please check with our community partner on this, the Mott Community College FABLAB.


They have students who are able to help get the idea out of the customers head, onto paper, into a CAD 3-D model and a final prototype. Their 3D printer can also print in more materials than ours. You can also find help at Factory Two, a community makerspace in downtown Flint. They have CAD software available for use, as well as their own 3D printer and other tools.

Factory Two

What’s next for 3D Printing at Flint Public Library?

 Look for the 3D printer in the library, and keep watching this space and checking our calendar for your opportunities to get involved.