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3D Printing at the SMS: Printing FAQs


What is 3D printing?

3D printing refers to rapid prototyping - creating a physical 3-dimensional object from a digital model. There are several types of 3D printers. The printers that we use are the Creality Ender 4 Pros, which perform a Fused Filament Fabrication technique (also known as Fused Deposition Modeling - FDM) to create the final 3d printed object. In this method, a lightweight plastic filament that when fed through the nozzle is heated up to its melting point and then extruded onto a build plate surface, hardening upon impact. This process continues, depositing the melted filament layer by layer until a 3-dimensional object is formed.

What are some examples of practical uses for 3D printing?

3D prints can be found useful in numerous applications, such as prototypes for entrepreneurs, architectural models for class projects and for any other low-volume, custom-prototype needs. Here are some examples of practice use in an educational environment:

  • Architecture - printing their 3D models to further enhance their understanding of structures
  • Fine arts - creating 3D objects from their digital designs; incorporating 3D prints into their other mediums; designing and 3D printing jewelry, sculptures, etc.
  • Visual communication design - creating prototypes of product designs and packaging
  • 3D animation - creating 3D printed objects from their designs
  • Engineering - creating 3D prototypes of their designs in order to fully understand their engineering design principles and to experience the challenges that are encountered along the way
  • Advertising / marketing / business / entrepreneurs - having a 3D prototype of the item that they are selling, to show their clients
  • Nursing / medicine - creating 3D replicas of anatomy
  • Archaeology / paleontology - creating 3D replicas of fragile relics for study (ex. creating replicas of fossils in order to study their movement, etc.)
  • Forensics - incorporating 3D printing into crime scene investigation (ex. creating 3D replicas of evidence, such as footprints, or skeletal remains and facial reconstruction)
  • Chemistry / physics / biology - creating accurate 3D visual aids such as DNA or chemical reactions

Who can use the 3D printing service?

The 3D printing service is open to all currently enrolled Kent State students in all disciplines. The actual printing process is performed by our SMS consultants. Have a class of students who wish to 3D print? Contact us first to discuss the assignment so that we can review our policies with you and discuss any limitations that you may have in printing.

How large of an object can you print?

This question can only be answered on a case by case basis. While the maximum build volume of the Ender 3 Pros are about 220 x 220 x 250mm, the printers only run while we are open so we are technically not able to print to the maximum size. The total printing time of a model for a personal request must be under 10 hours and this can translate to a variety of dimensions that are impacted by the level of detail and desired quality of finished print. We may be able to print slightly longer for a course assignment. Please reach out to the SMS with questions.

Be aware that we may ask to print your model at a smaller scale than you would like. We do this with the goal of ensuring the best success of your print. With creative design, though, you can print larger simply by separating your model into smaller printable pieces. So keep that in mind as you prepare your file for printing.

If you would like to try splitting a large model into smaller, printable pieces, you can try using the software FlashPrint from Flashforge. This tool, while not set up to prepare files for our Creality printers, is useful for it's Cut tool.

Which 3D modeling software should I use to create a printable design?

We do not have any limitations in the modeling software that you use. We have two file formats that we accept (STL and OBJ) and as long as your software can save or export as one of those formats we should be able to print your model. If you are new to designing in 3D we recommend exploring Tinkercad as a good starting point.

Which file formats do you accept?

We accept STL and OBJ files. Most 3D modeling programs can save/export as at least one of those two. Please note, if creating a model in Tinkercad please download your design as an STL file (not an OBJ). For some reason we have difficulty opening OBJ files that have been produced in Tinkercad.