Preparing Your 3D Model

Create/design your 3D model

There are many resources to help you print something unique. At the moment, print jobs in Cameron Library are limited to 4 hours or less, so keep that in mind when you're creating or searching for a model. offers a great introduction to 3D printing, helping you get started: Up and Running with 3D Printing

To print jobs, we will be using Repetier-Host software with Slic3r in Cameron Library. More information about these products can be found on their websites:

Free 3D Modeling Software:

To create your own 3D model, you'll need some software. Here are a few free ones you can try:

Tinkercad - a browser-based 3D design platform, now part of Autodesk (free version available)

SketchUp - comes in free or pro versions

Blender - open source 3D animation suite

OpenSCAD - free software for creating solid 3D CAD (Computer-aided design) models. Useful for creating models of machine parts.

If you would like assistance in creating your own 3D model, you can contact The Shack, the Science Hardware Makerspace in CCIS.

Free 3D Models:

There are a variety of open source, freely accessible models online that you can download and use. Keep in mind that if submitting a model from these sites to our printing service, you may be asked to articulate the educational purpose of the submission. Here are a few sites to consider: MakerBot's searchable design library community.

3D Warehouse: SketchUp's searchable design library.

Instructables: from the AutoDesk community.

Prepare your file to print

File Format

Export your model as a stereolithography file, with an STL extension (.stl).


The maximum size is 100 x 100 x 100 mm, and layer heights are fixed to 0.2 mm. We recommend submitting models that will print in 4-6 hours, so items roughly the size of a golf ball or that can sit in the palm of your hand. Larger prints may be considered upon consultation.

Multiple Parts

If your model includes multiple parts, make each as a separate STL file. You can submit each model as part of the same print request.

Unit Conversion

Our 3D print software uses metric measurements (mm). Occasionally, users will submit models that have been designed using imperial measurements that might appear either very minuscule or very large on our end. You may be asked to adjust your design to compensate for this discrepancy and resubmit.

Checking for Design Problems

Check your design for holes, gaps, or other problems before submission.

Numerous third party tools can help you fix geometry problems, including:

  • Microsoft 3D Model Repair service - simply upload your model and download a repaired version in minutes. This is a good practice before submitting your model to us.
  • NetFabb - provides a cloud based service and free downloadable software that can check and repair your files.
  • MeshLab - open source software for checking files, and “decimating" models that have higher resolution than necessary.

Shapeways offers a tutorial for fixing and repairing 3D models.

Common Modelling Problems

Other things to be careful of when creating your model:

  • degenerate faces - Mesh faces that have 0 area
  • zero length edges - Edges with no length, created by degenerate faces
  • non manifold edges - Faces that have more than one face connected to a single edge
  • naked edges - A surface or polysurface edge that is not connected to another edge
  • duplicate faces - Identical faces in a single mesh
  • faces should be flipped - The faces in a mesh object should point in a consistent direction
  • disjoint pieces - Mesh objects that do not connect but are considered a single mesh
  • surface area too small - prints are connected to the print bed by unstable adhesion, and topple mid print
  • objects that contain extreme overhangs—or where large parts of the object are suspended in mid-air

Submit Your Model

Once your model is ready to print, fill out the 3D print request form and upload your STL file. We'll contact you within 3 business days with an estimate of the turnaround time and to let you know if there are any problems with the file.

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