Making a 3D print
Here’s how you print your first 3D model…
1 Find a model
We’ve been using the Ultimaker 2 and having won multiple awards, it’s a great machine for newcomers. However, despite Ultimaker’s own model repository youmagine. com being a great place to find free models, MakerBot’s thingiverse.com has a much broader selection. We’ve chosen this spiral vase (thingiverse.com/thing:481259), and we’ll be using colorFabb’s fluorescent green filament (colorfabb.com/fluorescent-green).
2 Download the file
To download 3D files from the Thingiverse website you need to first click the icon titled Thing Files that’s shown on each model’s page, and then select Download All Files. Once you’ve got the files on your Mac, you need to open your slicer software of choice (for us it’ll be Ultimaker’s excellent Cura app) and open the STL file you downloaded from thingiverse.com. Typically, 3D print files are actually quite small at just a few megabytes.
3Open your STL file
Now you need to open your STL file in your slicer app (as we mentioned, we’re using Cura). You will now see your model, rendered virtually, within a three-dimensional canvas. You can zoom in on your model, change scale, or pan around it to check detail. And our default view enables us to choose preselected settings for four quality levels. Notice that you’ll get an accurate time for printing the model at the top of Cura’s interface.
4 Check scale
The first thing we’re going to do is reduce the scale a little. An 11-hour print is a bit much for our first outing, so we’re going to scale things down to 70% – still a seven-hour print! To do this you first click on your model, and then select the ‘Scale’ icon at the bottom of the Cura interface. In the window that pops up, type 0.7 into one of the fields, and it will automatically copy into the others, ensuring that your model’s ratio is maintained.
5 Fine-tune settings
Now let’s jump into expert view, by selecting Expert > ‘Switch to full settings’ from the menu. You’ll now see more settings on the left. At the top is ‘Layer height’, which is the most important setting to know (as it determines the quality of your print). The Ultimaker 2 can print from 0.06mm to 0.25mm, but, generally speaking, 0.1 is fine for most prints. Experiment with these settings though, as small adjustments can often save you a lot of time.
6 Save and print
You can leave other settings at their defaults (though experimenting is part of the fun), but make sure the ‘support type’ is set to ‘Touching buildplate’. This means you’ll get a 3D print version of scaffolding around your model, for areas that overhang. Once you’re done, go to File > Save GCode and, for use in an Ultimaker, save it to an SD card, which you then insert into your printer. Depending on the object it can take many hours to complete.