3d Model Resources

Where to Find 3-Models for Printing

Thingiverse – When you say 3-D printing files, this is the site that most people think of it. Easy to search, and almost every file posted is designed and optimized for fabrication via 3-D printing.

GrabCAD – GrabCAD is Thingiverse’s older, PhD holding brother. Designed as a site for engineers to share CAD files, GrabCAD models are generally capable of being used for 3-D printing, but additional optimization or repair might be needed.

Modification and Repair

-If you’ve got a file, and it’s not in a shape that you can use, there’s a few options.

NetFABB – A handy tool for chopping apart, inverting and resizing models. It also can convert files from one format to another, which is useful if you need to get a .STL file from another format. It’s available as freeware. Paid versions provide even more usability.

Microsoft STL Repair – If you have a file that won’t slice properly, or isn’t watertight, and causes issues during printing, give it a run through this free tool that NetFabb and MS developed together. This program is super useful since a lot of freely available 3d models aren’t always designed with printing in mind.

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My Printer

When I started looking for what printer I was going to work with, it was early 2014. The market wasn’t quite as saturated as it was now, and I decided early on that 3 qualities were important to me in what I would buy.

1) It would have to be a kit, so that I would have to learn the machine from the ground up.

2) It would need to be cheap, because I had no idea if it would really catch my mind (in retrospect, this is hillarious, as my friends can attest).

3) It would need to lend itself well to modification and possibly being rebuilt into a different machine.

That ruled out the standard workhouses; the Ultimaker 2, the Makerbot Replicator 2 or 2X, and closed systems like the Cubify. I ultimately settled on the simple Printrbot Maker’s Kit, because it was a known and tested design, and it was easy to modify due to its simple and open construction.

When I first assembled it, it used a fairly primitive systems for driving the motion of the X and Y axis via kevlar fishing line. As the printrbot website can attest, they don’t really do them that way anymore!

Once I felt I’d gotten good enough to get reliable prints out of the machine, I set about modifying it. Thanks to Thingiverse user Jon Lawrence, I was able to print a series of modifications, and with a few bearings and parts courtesy of McMaster Carr, I was able to move towards a GT2 belt setup. With this setup, the dimensional accuracy of my printer is amazing. It runs quickly and smoothly, and most importantly doesn’t require constant adjustments to make certain it’s running accurately. Right now, it doesn’t run too much quicker than it did before in terms of MM/second, but that is fine by me.

I utilized his mods (here for the y-axis, and here for the x-axis) and just used standard PLA.

The Y-Axis mod was very straightforward. I wish I had documented all the steps for reference.  You can see, that it’s literally a snap in replacement for the printer. Very little work required.

The x-axis is a bit more challenging. You do have to disassemble the printer, and more scarily, remove the y-axis smooth rods and tap a new drill hole. Definitely the sort of scenario that rewards patience and careful slow work.

I think over the winter, I’ll probably build up a few more mods. I’m very partial to the cable management solution he engineered.

yaxis