3D Printing

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3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. It uses 3D digital models to create solid fictures by printing layer upon layer of plastic material. 3d printing has been around since the mid 1980’s. It has only became practical in the past seven to 8 years as 3d printers have come down in price. 3D printers are good for rapid prototyping. Currently the University has three 3D printers available for use, the BST 1200, MakerBot Replicator 2 and Flashforge Creator.


3D Printing Machines available[edit]

Currently the university of Idaho has three 3D printers available for use, the BST 1200, MakerBot Replicator 2 and Flashforge Creator. They are located in the Metrology Lab (Room 123) inside the Gauss Johnson Engineering Lab. The sign up process to use these machines is based on a first come first serve basis. For more information on how to use these machines see the list of mentors in chage listed below

Coleton Bailey (bail6232@vandals.uidaho.edu)

Office: GJ 113

Alex Olson (olso2410@vandals.uidaho.edu)

Office:GJ 113


The MakerBot was purchased by the University of Idaho in 2012. This is the preferred printer to use for most cases due to its cheaper operating cost and ease of use. Tutorials on how to print using the MakerBot are below.
Makerbot Replicator 2 [1]

BST 1200[edit]

The BST was purchased by the University of Idaho several years ago. This printer is probably not readily available to use, so ask a mentor before you mess with it. The printing step for the BST 1200 are listed below:
Stratasys BST1200 [2]

FlashForge Creator[edit]

The Flashforge Creator is a newer addition to the 3D printer collection. It behaves similarly to the Makerbot so it is relatively easy to print on. It includes useful improvements like a heated build plate and support for both ABS and PLA.
Flashforge Creator Pro [3]


The old 3D printer (BST 1200) at University of Idaho was tens of thousands for the machine and ten dollars a cubic inch for printing material. The new 3D printer (Makerbot) was a few thousand to purchase and is one dollar a cubic inch for printing material.

The change in costs came down significantly for several reasons. First, as 3D printing becomes more popular mass production lowers the cost of the machine. Also, new improvements in manufacturing technologies make the printers less to produce because the components are easier to make and more common in other machines. The newer machines also fill the missed market of midrange quality printers that was being ignored. However, the biggest change in price is the material being used. Instead of using Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic like the BST 1200, Makerbot uses Polylactic acid (PLA) plastic.

Makerbot does not have the quality of the BST 1200. This is because of the property differences in the material and the quality of the machines. A good example of this is the smoothness that parts made with the BST 1200 have. Parts from Makerbot can only as smooth if sanding is done after the printing process.

Makerbot also does not build arches and overhangs well. BST 1200 uses a separate type of plastic to support arches and overhangs. The support material can be broken off fairly easily. Makerbot can provide supports by printing thin sections of PLA, but this results in a fairly rigid print that will need a great deal of post print sanding.

The Flashforge Creator 3D printer is a newer addition to the department’s collection of 3D printers, and includes some useful features for part creation. Firstly, this printer has a heated build plate, allowing for the bottom surface of a part to stay flat against the plate. This prevents issues with a warped bottom face that tend to happen on the Makerbot due to its lack of heated base plate.

Additionally, the Flashforge has two spools which support ABS and PLA materials respectively. This means that one could print a part with either material in the same printer without even having to swap out the spool. Depending on the material requirements for the implementation of a part, this could prove to be useful as the Makerbot does not print ABS parts.

Rules and Policies[edit]

Naming convention for STL files[edit]

For appropriate accounting, save your STL files in the following formats below. Make sure the print operator name is included because often the people signed in are not the ones that should be charged. This information is collected monthly from the printer and sent to Molly in the department (mollym@uidaho.edu). If there is confusion in charges contact her.

-Class project example (Class name, Print Operator) Widget1

Ex: (ME 426, Washington, George) Widget 1


Non-Class Project Example

(Out of House, Print Operator) Thingy2

Ex: (Out of House, Lincoln, Abraham) Thingy2

-Research Example

(Research, Professor, Print Operator) Gizmo3

Ex: (Research, McCormack, Adams, John) Gizmo3

3D printing policy[edit]

The mechanical Engineering Department maintains and furnishes 3D printers for sole use by faculty, staff, and students. The use of the Printers shall be consistent with the purpose of the Department, which includes facilitating research and learning. In accordance with these purposes, the department has developed policy and procedures for use of the Printers:

1. Administration. All projects (I.e components) to be printed shall require permission from a faculty member. All projects must originate from U of I classroom, lab, or research. To clarify, personal projects are probihited.

2. Certain Uses Prohibited. Regardless of viewpoint, certain uses of the Printers are prohibited and violate this Policy:

(a) Printing any object that us unlawful, threatening, abusive,tortuous, obscene, and racially, ethnically or otherwise objectionable;

(b) Printing any object that is intended to physically harm, or attempt to harm, an animal or person in any way. This includes any type of weapon (e.q.knife, firearms, etc.) or parts of a weapon (e.g blade, gun trigger, etc)

(c) Printing any object that infringes upon a patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright or other proprietary rights of any party unless consent from the rights-owner has been obtained; The Copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. The deparment reserves the right to deny use of Printers if, in its judgement, use of the Printers would violate Copyright law.

(d) Printing any object or any part of an object that is regulated. For example: Undetectable Firearms Act of 1998 which specifically bans plastic firearms.

3. Usage Subject to Refusal or revocation. The Printers are provided to further the purposes of the Department. In accordance with this policy, the Department may refuse usage of the printers at any time. Failure to abide by the Policy may result in revocation of the user’s Printing privileges.