Easy 3D Printing Class
Lesson 3: Using a Slicer
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Introduction: Using a Slicer

Now that you've got your first model, it's time to slice it. A slicer is a program that translates design specifications between Tinkercad (or any other 3D modeling program) to your 3D Printer. Think of it as 3D prints being built up of a bunch of 2D slices that have been layered on top of each other. A slicer creates a set of instructions that your 3D printer can understand and stack into a physical 3D object.

If you don't have a 3D printer and are using a service bureau like Shapeways, you can skip this lesson.

What You'll Need

In this lesson, we'll be using Print Studio, which is a free slicer made by Autodesk. Just click the link to download and install it.

Cura is another popular free option, but we won't get into that in this class.

A lot of 3D printers come with their own slicing programs too (Makerbot, for example), so feel free to use that one too if you've got it.

Export You Model

First, you'll need to export the model you made in Tinkercad. To do this, just click Export on the top right of the screen.

When you click Export, you'll get a Download window. You can select either "everything in the design" or "selected shapes". In the case of the keychain, the default option is fine.

Click on .STL to download the file for 3D printing.

Set Printer Type or Connect to Printer

When you open Print Studio, you'll need to choose your printer type. Click the Type button in the upper left of the screen. You can choose from 10 popular models or setup a USB or Wifi connection. I've got a Dremel Idea Builder 3D20, so I pick that one from the list.

This selection adjusts the platform size so that it matches your printer, and sets the maximum size of an object that can fit in the printer.

Some 3D printers don't have a built-in computer, so they'll need to be controlled directly from a PC with a USB cable or wifi connection. If your 3D printer doesn't have a built-in computer, you can also use a slicer to control your 3D printer via USB. Your 3D printer should come with instructions on how to run it, and a lot of 3D printers come with their own control software and slicers.

Print Studio is free, easy to use, and will work with most 3D printers, but if your printer comes with its own software or a recommendation for which software to use, I would advise following the company's instructions.

Import Your Model

Next, you'll need to import your model. Click the Import button on the top of the screen and select the STL file you saved from Tinkercad.

Choose Units

The units in Tinkercad are mm by default, but you can change them to Inches if you want. When you import a model into a slicer, make sure the units are set to the same ones you had set in Tinkercad, otherwise your model will be way too big or way too small!

Rotate Model

Rotation is important to get the best results. Avoid overhanging parts wherever you can, and try to get the biggest, flattest part of a model to be flat on the printer bed.

The keychain model should have a flat back, when you select the model and click on Move in the toolbar on the left, you can drag the Rotate handle to rotate it back by 90º.


There's a toolbar at the top of the screen that walks you through the slicing process. When your model is placed on the bed, you can just skip ahead and click the Preview button. You shouldn't need to repair the model, and you don't need any supports to make it print.

You should now get a Slice Preview window on the left side of the screen. Drag the slider to see the model build up layer by layer. This will give you an idea of how the model will be built.


Now just click the Export button at the top of the screen and give your file a name. This will save a special file that your 3D printer can read. For the Dremel Idea Builder, Print Studio will make a .3drem file.

You're Ready to 3D Print!

That's it! All you have to do now is use the file you made in this lesson to run your 3D printer. In the next lesson, you'll learn how to setup and run your 3D printer to get great results.

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