3D printing can be a lot of fun. There are so many free printables on sites like Thingiverse that you will never run out of things to print. But what if you would rather print your own original object? Sketchup and blender are great drawing programs that are available for free, but they can take a long time to master. I think a better option for your first original object is Printcraft.
Printcraft is a creative server for Minecraft which has the capability of converting your creation into an STL file for use with any 3D printer.
Step 1: Printcraft Server Login
To use Printcraft, you must have a Minecraft account. Once you sign into your account, you should select a multiplayer game. There are two servers available for Printcraft. The IP Addresses of the servers are us1.printcraft.org and eu1.printcraft.org. You should use the one that would be closest to where you live. Once you have accessed the server, you will find yourself in the Printcraft world.
Step 2: Claim Your Plot
The Printcraft world consists of many identical plots of ground for building. Each plot has a wall that lists its plot number, who is using the plot, and has 4 buttons. There is a "Print" button, a "Clear" button, a "Claim 24 Hours" button, and an "Unclaim" button. You need to travel around until you find an unclaimed plot, then claim it for yourself. Even though the button says "Claim 24 Hours", you now have one week to build and print your object. If you finish in less than a week, you can "Clear" the plot of ground and "Unclaim" it so that it is available for someone else to use. If you need more time, you can claim the plot again at the end of your week.
Step 3: Construction Tip 1
Minecraft has a lot of different types of blocks for building. Printcraft does not use all of those types because they are not all printable. In an effort to make sure that you can print what you build, Printcraft limits the blocks to those they know can be printed successfully. It is also important to note that the STL file does not include any information about colors or textures from the blocks you used to build your object. Your object will be printed in whatever color plastic is in the 3D printer you use to print it.
Step 4: Construction Tip 2
You will notice that one of the pictures above has a floor and the other does not. If you do not put a base or floor under your project it will be difficult to successfully remove from the 3D printer. If your object already has a bottom, you do not need to worry, but if you are constructing a building you should remember to include a floor. You do not need to create support structures for the roof because most 3D printers calculate and print the minimum supports they need to successfully create the outer shell of your project.
Step 5: Construction Tip 3
If you look closely at the right hand side of the house that was printed, you will notice that the walls are not connected. It was drawn like the picture on the bottom left, with the two walls just touching at one corner. The printer printed each wall individually without connecting them. To avoid this type of problem, you should put an extra block in the interior of the corner like in the picture on the bottom right. The printer will then connect the walls on the inside of the structure and it will appear solid from the outside.
Step 6: Design Tips
One of the nice things about Printcraft is that when it creates an STL file, it assumes that each block is 1mmx1mmx1mm. Knowing this gives us the ability to design and create an object to a specific dimension. I created custom USB sticks by taking apart drives I already owned, measuring the dimensions needed to create a case, drawing my design in Printcraft, and then printing them. The fit was not perfect, but with a little sanding I was able to make them work. I like to make the object as large as I can in Printcraft, and then use the Scale function on the 3D printer to print the size I need. In the case of the Tardis when it was drawn large enough to get the detail that was wanted, it was too tall for the available space on the Printcraft plot. The top had to be drawn separately and then pieced together. The plot dimensions have changed since that object was drawn and I am not sure what the largest item is that can be drawn today.
Step 7: Print Your File
Once you have completed your object you hit the "Print" button. Printcraft will display a message asking you to wait while your model is processed. Once the processing is completed you will be given a link to your file. When you click on it you will be able to preview your object before downloading it. Once you have downloaded the STL file, you can print it on your own printer or send it off to have it professionally printed. All of the photographs used in this instructable are of objects that were drawn using Printcraft and printed from the STL files provide by Printcraft.