How to get started with 3D printing

See it in 3D

3D printer in action
3D printer in action

Have you ever wanted to create an object but didn’t know where to start?

Maybe it’s a keychain, a character from your favorite show, or a missing piece for something. 

Enter 3D printing, an additive manufacturing process that allows you to design and print 3D objects for a variety of uses. Similar to a hot glue gun, solid material is melted and extruded layer by layer onto a heated metal plate where it solidifies to form a 3D object. The material used is often plastic, but some printers can print with metal, wood, or even chocolate!


3D Printing: The steps

tinkercad online software in use
Software in use
  • First, get an idea! For your first-ever print, we suggest starting with something simple. Something like a keychain or a name plate. Once you get the hang of it, try creating something that will solve a specific problem; for example, a stand for a circular object to prevent it from rolling.
  • Next, you need a 3D model, which you can either design yourself with programs like Tinkercad (it’s free!), or simply download a model from an online marketplace, like Thingiverse (also free!).
  • Now, you need to import your 3D model, which should be in .STL format, into a slicer software. There are different slicers for different brands of 3D printers, but they will all slice your model layer by layer into instructions for the printer to follow. At BWPL, we use Cura.
  • Finally, load your sliced instructions into the 3D printer using a flash drive, and it is ready to print! Simply load the filament and watch as the print bed and extruder heat up, then get to work.
image of 3D printed keychain inside 3D printer
The finished product

Come print with us!

Yes, you can print on our 3D printer! For more information about how to do so, visit this page or email us. With our 3D printer, patrons can be empowered to create an object from start to finish and feel a sense of accomplishment for having produced their own product. Or find something online and enjoy learning about how the printer creates 3D objects.