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3D Printing


3D Design Software

Frequently Asked Questions

CIRT will print 3D models for Faculty with our Ultimaker S5 or Prusa i3 MK3. We print with Polylactic Acid (PLA) filament which is a plant-based bioplastic that is non-toxic and biodegradable. The Ultimaker S5 and Prusa i3 are additive, or Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), 3D printers (also known as Fused Filament Fabrication in the open-source community), meaning it adds PLA filament layer by layer on a build plate until the object forms. The filament feeds through a heated nozzle which melts the PLA and slowly forms the object. If you can imagine a highly sophisticated & automated glue gun, that is basically what an additive printer is.


We are happy to meet with you to discuss your 3D printing project. Please email us at or call us at 904-620-3927 to make an appointment. You can also stop by during our lab hours to see the printer.




The Ultimaker S5 has a build volume of 330 x 240 x 300mm, and the Prusa has a build volume of 250 x 210 x 210mm.


File formats

Printable file formats include .STL and .OBJ. If you have an object in another format we may be able to convert it into a printable format.


Submitting Files to Print

Files may be submitted in person or digitally using email or OneDrive.


Printing Time

Objects can usually be printed in 4 business days. However, the time it takes to print an object can vary depending on several factors.

3D Design Software

There are a multitude of free programs for making 3D models. These are some of the most common & supported free 3D modeling applications. Try one out today!

Tinkercad [Difficulty: Low]
Tinkercad is a basic online modeling program with a wealth of tutorials that get the user accustomed to the 3D environment. The user creates their model using built-in basic shapes, letters, and objects.


SketchUp [Difficulty: Low]
SketchUp is a 3D modeling program for a broad range of applications such as architectural, civil, mechanical, film as well as video game design — and available in free and 'professional' versions.

OpenSCAD [Difficulty: Medium]
OpenSCAD is a software for creating solid 3D CAD models. OpenSCAD does not focus on the artistic aspects of 3D modeling but instead on the CAD (or math & number based) aspects. This would be most useful for creating 3D models of machine parts.


Blender [Difficulty: High]
Blender is a free and open-source 3D computer graphics software product used for creating animated films, visual effects, interactive 3D applications, and video games.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does it print?


The 3D Printer melts PLA (cornstarch based) or ABS (plastic based) filament and extrudes it into thin, defined lines through a heated nozzle. It gradually builds the melted material into an object layer by layer. This process often takes a significant amount of time, but allows for exponential levels of customization.

How does it know what to print or where?


Just like a regular printer needs an image or text to print, a 3D printer needs a model to give it the right information to build an object. A computer generated 3D model saved in .stl, .obj, or other common formats, informs the printer of the desired end result. The model is sliced into even layers defined by the user (the thinner the slice, the greater the amount of detail, but also the amount of time it takes to print) and the slicing software generates Z-code which is what controls where the print nozzle goes (and the pattern it runs in) to extrude filament.

What are the limitations?


Just because you create a beautiful, seamless 3D model in a modeling software, does not mean it is able to be 3D printed successfully. There are certain guidelines to keep in mind when designing & modifying an object to print. Following these pointers will increase the amount of successful prints!

– “Watertight” is a term used to describe a 3D mesh suitable for 3D printing. It means that there are no holes, cracks or missing features on the mesh. The easiest way to describe a good mesh for 3D printing is to think of it as a skin, and filling the inside with water. It is important to create watertight meshes, so that it is clear to the 3D printer what is the “inside” (which needs to be made up of 3D print material) and what is the “outside”.

Overhang – Additive Manufacturing printers build from the bottom up. There is little allowance for overhang, due to gravity. If you are printing a giraffe for example, its neck has nothing to build upon because it is out in space. You can either create thin supports to hold the extended piece (or have the software do it for you automatically) & then remove them later, or you can have a very gradual build up at an angle to support the object as it extends upward. The latter is a more challenging technique than the former, but gives a cleaner print.

Geometry/Orientation of Objects on Print Bed – The printer moves on X, Y, & Z axes. With that in mind, certain angles are more difficult for the printer to manage. You will want to avoid jagged lines leading into curves or extremely small circles without using a raft (rafts are thin bottom supports for the printed model).

Keep It Simple– Do yourself a favor, keep your models simple at first. This means using basic shapes to build objects. It is surprising how many designs can be created from combining shapes & it also orients you into the 3D landscape. It takes time to get used to thinking in 3 dimensions—practicing is the key!