Editor's Note: This is the fifth of a series of posts excerpted from Jason Griffey's Library Technology Report "3D Printers for Libraries."
Let’s start with a high-level overview of the process FDM printers follow, which is similar regardless of printer. You start with a digital model of your object, in STL format, either created with one of the software packages described below or downloaded from a website. You open the file in a plating and slicing program, like Makerware, Repetier host, ReplicatorG, or Pronterface. The program will show how the object sits on the build platform, and you can manipulate it to some degree (scale it up or down, rotate it for a better fit). You will then choose a number of settings for slicing, things like layer height, infill, and extrusion temperature. Once you have your settings, you will either print directly from the computer over USB or export the STL file as a gcode file and move it to the printer on an SD card. The STL will be sliced into hundreds of layers, and the 3D printer will get instructions on how to build it one layer and a time. Read More »