3D Printing in the LARC

This printer is provided as a service by the Library to support the coursework of UW Tacoma and to extend the Library into the campus maker community.

This is not a high end printer. There are many factors which will cause print jobs to fail and print jobs often take a long time to finish. Also, the build plate is relatively small and the quality of some print jobs will not be as polished and beautiful as you may have imagined. In order to minimize failures and ensure the maximum efficiency of the printer we have the following rules.

  1. Academic coursework takes first priority
  2. Current UWT Student, Staff, and Faculty only
  3. All print jobs must be approved by Tim Bostelle
  4. All print jobs are scheduled by Tim Bostelle
  5. Schedule an appointment with Tim Bostelle to talk about your printing needs. Email: tbostell@uw.edu
  6. Student jobs are free
  7. Faculty and staff are asked to have their department buy filament ($30-120 a kilo), please contact Tim Bostelle for a supplies list

Equipment

The Library purchased a Flashforge Creater Pro. This is a dual extrusion 3D printer with a 225 x 145 x 150 mm build plate and the resulting 5L build capacity. The printer can print layers up to 0.1mm thickness and has a 0.4mm nozzle. All this seems like a high end printer, but it's really not. In practice, the Library has found that our 3D printer has a small build volume, doesn't print high quality, and takes a long time to print. But it's still fun and useful for academic coursework and is especially useful for beginners who want to learn how 3D printing works.

The library has chosen to work exclusively with Polylactic Acid (aka "PLA"). You have probably used PLA forks, they are often referred to as biodegradeable plastics, which is a misnomer because they are actually biodegradeable polyester.

The reason we choose PLA is because the material does not give off any fumes during the print process. As an added bonus, PLA is also biodegradable and compostable, and is made from renewable resources such as corn starch. Polylactic Acid, as the name suggests, is a petroleum free product.*

Build times with this printer are often long and print jobs must remain basic. Overly complicated print jobs with large overhangs will almost certainly fail. This is one of the main reasons why all print jobs must be scheduled with and approved by Tim Bostelle. For more information on getting your job printed, please email tbostell@uw.edu

*It's not entirely petroleum free, energy is consumed in the process of converting starch and lactic acid into a polyester.

How to Get Started Creating 3D Models

Students interested in learning 3D design are encouraged to create an account with Tinkercad.com and to take one or more of the tutorials under the "LEARN" section.

In addition, all computers in the Library have Sketchup loaded on them so that students can create or edit 3D models. You will find it much more productive to use the tutorials on Tinkercad or the video tutorials on Sketchup.com to learn how to use the software rather than simply muddling through. 

For those who are looking for more interactive learning, the Library offers an introduction to 3D design session taught by Tim Bostelle, the Head of Library IT, which is intended to take the fear out of 3D design and encourage folks to learn more on their own. Dates and times for these classes will be posted near the 3D printer in the Snoqualmie Building.

And finally, I strongly recommend signing up to become a member of the maker community over at Thingiverse. There are so many wonderful models available for free on that site and students can take inspiration from those models, remix things, and upload their own designs to share. It's also the preferred way to share your designs with me for printing!