Introduction: Using Minecraft to Design and Print Your Own Original Object
3-D printing can seem like a daunting and inaccessible task, but it doesn't have to be. In this intractable I will show you how you can use the game Minecraft to build your own printable objects! The best part of this instructable is that the design process is simple and playful enough for even the youngest and oldest persons. Just like you hang your child's drawings on the refrigerator, you can now print their original creations!
Things you will need for this instructable:
-A Minecraft account and login (a one-time payment of $26.95, available at Minecraft.net or borrow a login from someone you know that has one) *As far as I know, this only works on a PC
-[OPTIONAL] Blender editor (a great 3d modeling and editing software), free to download at Blender.org
-access to a 3D printer (here is a good guide if you're in the market for buying one: https://3dforged.com/good-cheap-3d-printers)...ad... you may check around your city for makerspaces that will let you use their printers such as a library or college (but keep in mind they will likely charge you for materials)
Step 1: Log-in to Your Minecraft and Add the Print Server
After following the steps to buying and downloading your game, or if you already own a copy log in to your account through your Minecraft client (you'll want to make sure you have the latest version downloaded).
Once you have the game up to date, press play and bring up the game. You'll find yourself in the main menu of Minecraft now, and you want to click the multiplayer option.
After bringing up the multiplayer menu, it will show a list of "servers" and several options below. Toward the bottom of the screen you will need to press the "add server" button. Now it is time to minimize the game completely.
Open your internet browser and search for Printcraft.org in your search bar. At the top right of the page you will come to, there are 2 lines that say EU and US Minecraft servers. Copy the server address that pertains to you (in my case its us1.printcraft.org)
Bring back up the the Minecraft multiplayer page we were on before and paste the copied address into the server address area. Name the server to indicate it is your 3D printing server.
The printcraft server will now show up on your server list. Simply click the server and continue to the next step by joining the server.
Step 2: Acclimate Yourself to the Minecraft World
The next step is to get yourself acclimated to the basic controls and functions of the game. It may be beneficial to exit the printcraft server and start up a singleplayer creative game mode to explore the game first.
Here is a good creative mode tutorial for beginners:
After you get accustomed to the controls and the functions, its time to revisit the printcraft server.
Step 3: Build Your Model
Once in the printcraft server world, find a build plot that is empty or unclaimed. The build plots are sectioned off by a white border and each have console blocks qith buttons on them that include "print", "clear", "claim", and "unclaim". You will want to claim your desired plot. This makes it so that only you can build and edit in that given area for a period up to a week.
Now is the time to let your imagination run wild. You can give into the playful yet repetitive nature of the game and just let something happen, or you can plan a specific design. I built two different forms to print; a textured tile and a symmetrical open container. It is important to consider scale in giving detail to your design. While you can scale the overall design up or down later on, it is easier to consider it at the present.
Depending on the design, you can scale the design by envisioning each block as an inch, half-inch, or quarter inch.
I scaled the tile to be one block = quarter inch, so that the tile could be scaled to be a 6x6" tile.
It is also important to note that color is more or less important. Most at home 3D printers will only print in 1 or 2 colors at a given time. It will save you time and frustration to simply build your model in one color block, and print it in 1 color. You can hand paint it at a later time!
Once you have your design finalized, you can hit the "print" button over on the console. This will send a link to you in the in-game chat. Bring up the chat and click the link.
The link will send you to printcraft website where your build is translated into a 3D model file. It would be best to download and save your file in the STL format.
At this point, if you have no access to a 3D printer, you can send your file to a website that will print and mail your model to you. HOWEVER, printing it yourself can be an exciting and rewarding experience, so I strongly urge you try it yourself if you can.
Step 4: *optional* Open Your File in Blender
Blender is a free 3D modeling and editing software. If you would like to fine-tune your model and see a preview of your model, you can import your recently downloaded STL file into Blender.
This Youtube channel has excellent beginner tutorials for Blender. Again this step is optional. Blender takes some time to learn and master, but it could be a way for you to fine tune your design to exactly how you want it.
Step 5: Preparing Your File to Print
3D printers can't simply print a 3D model file such as an STL. The file needs to be opened in a slicer software, which to put it simply, "slices" the file into layers that the printer can understand.
MOST 3D printers come qith slicer software that is unique to the printer. In most cases you must use the printer specific software to slice your file. In some cases however, printers can simply recognize a .gcode file. Which is the universal 3d slicer file.
Cura is a software available for free through ultimaker. This software can export a model as a simple .gcode file that 3D printers will recognize.
Slicer software is NOT for fine tuning or editing your file. Its primary use is to scale, rotate, and place your model on the perspective build plate for the printer. Each printer has limitations in the size that it can print. KEEP NOTE of the max size your printer can print. You do not want to give your printer a job that it cannot accomplish.
Scale your file to the desired size that is possible to print.
Some things to consider:
-Prints might require rafts and supports to print successfully
-A raft is basically a thin layered plastic platform that the printer will print initially to print your model on. Rafts are necessary if you a have a file that is rounded or needs stability.
-Supports are plastic forms the printer will employ to print areas that are effectively "floating" in the area. The supports allow the printer an area/object to print your model onto. An example would be the arms of a figure are floating and thus need supports to print. A way to avoid supports sometimes is to lay the figure/model flat in the slicer software.
If you feel your model is ready to print, export the file in the software you are using.
Step 6: Preparing the Printer
Depending on the printer, the preparation for printing can be simple or more complex.
-First you need to turn on the printer
-Identify if the printer reads files from SD card, USB, Wifi, or through a direct connect to the printer
-Read through the specs of the printer to see if the build plate is heated or not. A heated build plate allows for the print to remain warm and fixed in place. A non-heated build plate might allow for the print to move as it is printing. To prevent this, simply apply a clear glue stick to the printing surface
Follow the printer instructions to load the desired color filament into the printer.
Now it is time to select your file to print. If you have followed along so far, it should recognize the file and begin heating up the filament.
*Most printers will level the printer bed itself, if this is not a feature on your printer you will need to manually level it yourself.
Here is a quick how-to article on how to level your printer bed for your print.
Next up is the printing!
Step 7: Printing
Assuming all went well in the file editing and printer prepping steps, the printer should now be underway printing the hundreds of layers that will eventually be your design.
It is important to keep in mind that this is a very slow process. You should expect a 4"x4" model to take 5-6 hours. The bigger the model is the longer its going to take to print.
*You can speed up the printing process by doing a lesser fill, meaning the printer prints a percentage of the fill instead of a completely solid plastic object. Some printers you can program to speed up the print speed, but keep in mind this may affect how the printer prints in detail.
If this is your first time printing, you may want to stick close to the printer while it does its job. There are numerous things that could go wrong, and you don't want the print to get out of control.
Step 8: Enjoy Your Product, Customize and Paint It to Your Desires
Once your print is finished, carefully remove it from the build plate.
It may be necessary to "clean up" your print:
-remove rafts and supports
-sand edges and imperfections
-add a coat of paint or spray paint