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Emerging Technologies Liaison Guide: 3D Printing

Free 3D Printing!

Free 3D Printing with link

FREE 3D printing is now available! In order to get free 3D printing, complete ONE of the following: attend a 3D printing workshop, take the AsULearn module under Belk Library Makerspace, or schedule a consultation. Only available for the Lulzbot and Fusion3 printers.

How do I 3D print?

The makerspace has 3D printers available for use for faculty, staff and students. Listed below are the more in depth guides to 3D printing, design and scanning.

Faculty are encouraged to incorporate 3D design and printing into their classes. By utilizing these technologies, students get the opportunity to learn design, think critically, and create a physical product. A wide range of disciplines can benefit from 3D printing, and the only limit is imagination.  If you have a faculty member who is interested, but doesn't know where to start, they can contact Hannah Pope at to set up a plan for incorporating the technology into their course.


Learn more about 3D printing and design by checking out some of the great resources that the Belk Library has available.  These books are available in the main collection, and many are available through our online resource collection.  These books are great for uses in class, especially getting students to learn more about concepts that they have learned about in the Inspire Maker Lab. Faculty and students should reference these books for both ideas and general knowledge.

Steps to Print

If you are new to 3D printing, the steps below are how you can print something in the Inspire Maker Lab. Faculty are welcome to contact us for personalized help, especially if they are interested in creating their own 3D designs.  We can walk you through the process and make it as easy as possible to create the desired outcome.

1. Create or find the 3D model that you would like to print. Make sure that it is in an STL format.


2. Submit a 3D Print Order Form online via Google Forms. Complete the form, upload your file, then click "Submit" on the original form page.

3. The attendant will check your file to make sure it is formatted properly.

4. The person in charge of 3D printing will process your order.

5. You will be notified via phone or email when your print job is complete.

6. Pick up your print from the Tech Desk anytime when the Tech Desk is open.

leonardo da vinci 3D relief

3D printing terms to know

FDM - Fused Deposition Modeling is the layer by layer process that a 3D printer uses to make a complete print.

.stl - the file format accepted by most 3D printers and 3D modeling software.  Stands for STereoLithography, and contains the 3D modeling information as surface geometry (triangles).

g-code - the code that the 3D printer runs in order to print.  .stl files are turned into g-code using a slicer, and the g-code gives the 3D printer "instructions" on how, where and how fast to print an object.

CAD - Computer Aided Design.  CAD software is where most 3D objects are built. Common CAD programs are AutoCad, AutoDesk Maya, Tinkercad, and Blender. 

Slicer - a program that "slices" a 3D model in order to help the printer understand the layers needed for making an object.  Slicers also are helpful for doing last minute clean up for objects before they are printed. Common slicers include Cura, Slic3r, Simplify3D, and Netfabb.

Filament - the material that is put into 3D printers used to print objects.  Typically plastic, other filament types can be flexible plastic, wood, or even metal.

PLA - stands for Polylactic Acid, and is a type of plastic that can be 3D printed.  This is one of the two options available at the Belk Library and Information Commons. Better option for hobbyists.

ABS - stands for Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, and is a type of plastic used in 3D printers.  This is one of the two options available at the Belk Library and Information Commons.  Stronger plastic that is a better option for engineers.


Need Inspiration?

3D printing repositories are a great way to get started with 3D printing.  Makers from around the world create items and then upload the files and instructions. These can help faculty, staff and students to get inspiration for possible projects as well as grab designs that can be manipulated into creating a new product.


Thingiverse is the largest online community of makers who share their ideas and designs.  Simply go to the site and type in the type of object you are interested in making.  Ex. bookmark, jewelry, box, business cards, etc.

thingiverse demo search


Run by Ultimaker as a rival to Thingiverse, YouMagine is a similar free, open source repository for 3D models and other things to Make.


GrabCAD Library

Another online repository of things to make, focusing on those who enjoy engineering.  It is great for finding parts or building tools.


AutoDesk 123D

AutoDesk 123Ddesign repository

Build a 3D model

Resources and hands on help are available for faculty and staff.  For those who are new to 3D design, there are workshops available to learn the basics, as well as one-on-one consultations to work on specific projects.  The following programs are recommended for 3D design and are available either for free or through the library.


The easiest program to use, Tinkercad is perfect for beginners.  Use basic shapes to build items to print.  Tinkercad is also web-based, so you can access your 3D models anywhere!  Here is a quick reference guide to Tinkercad.


Fusion 360

3D modeling software that is easy to learn, and available free through the library for faculty.  If you need this program, the library can provide you with a license to get started. This program has more capabilities and features than Tinkercad, but is still a relatively easy program to learn. We are happy to give assistance in learning this program to faculty and staff who require it.

Fusion 360 icon


3D modeling software that is easy to learn, and available in the Digital Media Studio. This is a much more complex program, so it requires a grounding in basic 3D design concepts first. That said, it may be the program that is required to design your object.

rhino logo


Design anything with AutoDesk's ultimate program, AutoCAD.  This is a slightly more advanced program that would work well for engineers or architects, and is available in the Digital Media Studio.


A part of the AutoDesk suite, Maya is a 3D modeling, animation and simulation software.  Available in the Digital Media Studio.

Sketchup Make

A free, 3D drawing tool.

3DS Max

A high powered animation software perfect for game design. 

Image credits

stl file: LaurensvanLieshout, via Wikimedia Commons. cc.

flash drive: AlMare, via Wikimedia Commons. cc.

yoda: Creative Tools via Flickr. cc.

Leonardo Da Vinci: via Deviant Art. cc.