Introduction: 3D Printing Intro to Makerbot

About: We are FabLab Tacoma, a makerspace located in downtown Tacoma Washington!

Here is and Intro to using Makerbot Desktop to print a 3D Object on the Makerbot Desktop Replicator 5! Very basic instructions, feel free to mess around with the software a bit more. (:

Step 1: Choose Your File.

Either make your own 3D model saved as an .stl or .obj, or you can pick a 3D object already made in Thingiverse. There are plenty of other sites that have free 3D models that you can print, but Thingiverse is easiest for beginners. Also you can use several other file types, but .stl and .obj are the most commonly used.

I typed in "silly" on Thingiverse and found this weird egg- creature, then clicked "Download This Thing!". You are then directed to the different "thing" files that come with the project, in my case only one file needed to be downloaded. Click on the file to download, generally saved into your downloads folder!

Step 2: Open Makerbot Software

If you haven't already downloaded the makerbot software then click here. (Don't worry, it's FREE)

If you already have Makerbot, then go ahead and open it up.

Step 3: Open Your File

Click on File--> Add (or Open, you can use either, but if you want multiple pieces click add)--> choose your file-->open

You will then be asked if you want your file moved to the platform. If you click yes it will make the file bottom rest on the build platform, if not your object may be floating which can cause you troubles later on.

Step 4: Functions Within Makerbot

There are a couple features in makerbot that you can use.

The first button is an eye, this allows you to take different views of your object using your mouth to rotate the screen.

You can choose to move your object using the multiple arrow compass button, either drag your object with the mouse or manually give your object coordinates.

You can also rotate your object on each axis, either drag your object with the mouse, manually give degrees, or click to rotate 90 degrees in a specific axis. It take a few times to get the right tilt on the right axis.

The last icon tool you can use is the scale. This, too, allows you to manually type in numbers for each axis or just shrink and grow your object with your mouse. You can also choose to only modify a specific axis or keep the ratio by clicking the "uniform scaling" box.

With all of these functions you are given the option to reset the changes you made.

Step 5: Settings

Settings are very important in 3D printing. Click on the settings button, then a pop-up screen will come up showing you various setting tabs. The "Low, Standard, High" on the left side of the pop-up determines the resolution of your piece. Most are just printed in standard.

There are tons of different settings that you can change, but most are pre-programmed for ease of use. We are going to focus on Infill, Raft, and Supports.

Infill determines how solid your piece is going to be. If you need a sturdy structure you will have a higher percentage of infill, if not you can get by with 10% and still have a structurally sound piece. You will also choose your number of shells in this screen. Shells are the layers before the infill starts. This means the extruder will lay down "x" many solid lines before it starts the infill. I usually pick 2-3 shells.

Your raft will be the layer between the printer bed and your 3D object. The raft is a thin piece of material slightly larger than your actual object. This helps ground your 3D object when printing, and can be easily peeled off after the print is done. You don't have to use a raft for flatter pieces, but I usually use a raft every time I print a piece just in case the piece lifts off from the corners.

Supports are stacks of material that look like a webbing placed under parts of your object that could potentially fail if they do not have support material for the extruder to work off of. Remember when we chose to "move object to platform?" If you do not move your object to the platform then the makerbot will add supports underneath your entire 3D model in order to print. This could cause your print to fail, or add an extra amount of time to the print time. If you do not think your model needs supports then you can turn off supports by clicking the supports box.

Step 6: Exporting and Saving

After you are done choosing your settings you can click "Export Print File". This will bring you to a screen with a loading bar. You will also be able to see your basic settings (If your supports and rafts are on or off.)

When the piece has exported 100% it will bring up a screen that gives you the basic run-through of the project (how long the print will take, how much filament it uses, and also your basic settings again.) You can also view a print preview.

When in print preview mode you can use the slider on the left to view each layer of the print. This will also help you see any parts that might be missing from the file, or if the file is somehow corrupted and prints completely wrong.

If everything looks good in your print preview you can click "Export Now" and save your file. Make sure to name it something that you will remember, but if you don't remember you will be able to see a mini print preview on the Makerbot itself.

Step 7: Printing

There are a few ways to print your file. You can either hook your computer up to the Makerbot and leave it there for the whole print, hook your computer up and set up wifi so you can send a print from somewhere else in the room, or save it on a flashdrive. I usually choose to save on a flashdrive.

When you plug your flashdrive into the Makerbot you must remember that the port is opposite of what a computer usually is, so your flashdrive faces the "wrong way."

To load your print click on the "Print" icon using the large knob. Select "USB Drive" (the first one on the list) and use the knob to scroll down and find your print. Select your print, but before pressing "print" add a little bit of Elmers glue to the build platform. This helps your raft really stick and lessen your chances of your print edges raising off the platform.

When you are ready, click "Print" and let the Makerbot do it's thing.

Once it is done printing, use a scraper to take the raft off the platform and peel off the raft. Now you have your very own 3D Printed object!