3D Printing

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We have two 3D printers available for use in the HWK Commons: the MakerBot Replicator 2 and the MakerBot Replicator 5th Generation. We also have the MakerBot Digitizer, which can scan an item into a 3D print design.

3D printers heat a type of plastic filament (we use one called PLA) into liquid form, then lay it down in thin layers that build up into whatever shape you want to print.

You can either make your own design or download one from the internet. You can also modify a design that you download (though you should check what copyright claims are on it).



If you want a place to start from or think the thing you want to print may already exist, check out [Thingiverse]. You can use the search system here to look through thousands of 3D printer designs and download them.

The simplest site to design on is [Tinkercad]. You can make an account and work through the lessons it provides to learn the interface, watch the tutorial video on the homepage, or just dive right into the designing process.

If you know how to use SolidWorks, it’s also a good option for making designs.

Step-By-Step Printing

  • Open your finished design file in MakerBot Desktop, either by double clicking the file itself or by opening MakerBot Desktop from the Start menu and then clicking File>Open.
  • Make sure you select the printer you’re going to be using by clicking Devices>Select Type of Device from the top menu.

Makerbot desktop select device.png

From here you can view how the object should look when printed and adjust the print settings. Most of these can be left in the presets, which are set in Low, Standard, and High. The higher the quality, the longer it will take to print.

  • The controls along the left side allow you to change your view of the print, move objects around, rotate objects, and scale objects. Rotating can help you to place your design on the side where it will have the most support. Be careful when scaling--a smaller or larger size may make the design less stable and require it to be modified.
  • 3D prints work best if they have a solid base to work from. Designs that have precarious parts (imagine a model dragon’s wings, for example) or not much of a flat bottom have a high chance of failing to print properly. The solution to this is rafts and supports. A raft is a thin layer of plastic on the base of the object, and a support is a thin layer that connects everything together (these would support our example dragon’s wings). Both of them will snap off relatively easily after printing. You can adjust whether or not your design has these in Settings.
  • Because of the layering nature of the printing process, the interior of prints are often close to hollow so as to use less material and take less time. You can select how much “Infill” there is and what pattern it follows in Settings as well.

Makerbot desktop settings.png

  • When you’re happy with your Settings, click Preview. In the top right, it will tell you how much material the print will use and how long it will take to print. You can use the scroll bar on the left to simulate the printing process layer by layer and more easily see where your design could fail to print. Make sure to check out every angle, especially if you’ve failed once and are trying to troubleshoot the problem.

If using the Replicator 2:

  • Take the SD card from the front right part of the printer and plug it into the computer.
  • Export your file from MakerBot Desktop to the SD card. It should be in .x3g format.
  • Put the SD card back in the printer. Select Build from SD using the arrow pad, then select your file. It should begin printing. If you don’t see your file as an option, check the file extension.
  • To cancel, hit the center of the arrow pad to bring up the menu and navigate to the Cancel option.

If using the 5th gen:

  • Click Devices on the top menu of MakerBot Desktop and select UNB Saint John MakerBot Replicator.
  • It should appear at the bottom bar of the screen and say Ready to Print. You can click Monitor to see a camera view of the print surface.
  • Click Print at the top right to send the job to the printer.
  • If you don’t see it as an option, you can export the file from MakerBot Desktop onto a USB drive and plug that into the printer itself.

Step-By-Step Scanning

Digitizer.jpg Makerbot digitizer home.png
  • Open MakerWare for Digitizer from the Start menu.
  • Follow the on-screen prompts to scan your object. When selecting Light, Medium, or Dark, look at how the object looks on the camera display.
  • When it’s done, it will prompt you to select whether you’d like to scan from other angles. This is a good idea if the object doesn’t look quite right on the screen.
  • It’s difficult for the scanner to detect very small details in particular, and it’s fairly unreliable in general. Experiment with it, but don’t expect it to be perfect immediately.
  • Once you’re happy with your scan, click Finish Scan. Your files will be located at C:\Users\[username]\My Things\Digitizer Scans.


3D printing is currently free for UNBSJ students.


Filament colours will vary from time to time. If the colour is very important to you, please check with staff at the Hans W Klohn Commons to see what is available before submitting a job.

Colour examples:

3dcolour1.jpg 3dcolour2.jpg

More Questions?

Have another questions? Email us at studenthelpdesk@unbsj.ca