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3D Printing: Printing FAQ

A guide to 3D printing in Media Services.


What is 3D printing?

3D printing is creating a physical 3-dimensional object from a digital model. There are several types of 3D printers. The printer that we use is the Ultimaker 2+ which performs a Fused Filament Fabrication technique (also known as Fused Deposition Modeling - FDM) to create the final 3D printed object. In this method a lightweight plastic filament is fed through a nozzle, heated up to its melting point, and extruded onto a build plate surface where it hardens on impact. This process continues, depositing the melted filament layer by layer, until a 3-dimensional object is formed. The Ultimaker also has a heated build plate which helps the object adhere to the plate during the build process. 

What is the material that is used to create the prints?

The filament used in Media Services is PLA, a biodegradable thermoplastic polyester derived from renewable resources such as corn starch or sugar cane. It comes in a variety of colors so contact us to ask which colors we have on hand.​

What is an .stl file?
The stl file format is the most frequently used file format in 3D printing. For a description for the lay person, see the article here: 
.STL 3D Printing File Format: Explain Like I’m Five

What are some examples of practical uses for 3D printing?

3D prints have numerous applications such as prototypes for entrepreneurs, architectural models for class projects, and for any other low-volume custom-prototype needs. Here are some examples of practical uses in an educational environment:

  • Fine arts - creating 3D objects from digital designs; incorporating 3D prints into other media; designing and printing jewelry, sculpture, etc.
  • Education - creating manipulatives for hands-on learning
  • Advertising / marketing / business / entrepreneurs - having a 3D prototype of an item to show potential clients
  • Nursing / medicine/ athletics - creating 3D replicas of anatomy
  • Chemistry / physics / biology - creating accurate 3D visual aids such as DNA or chemical reactions

For more reasons to include 3D printing in education, see this blog entry from Sculpteo.

How large an object can you print?

The maximum build volume for the Ultimaker 2+ as described by the company is 223 x 223 x 205 mm (8.78 x 8.78 x 8.07 in.). 
If your model exceeds this size, we will contact you for permission to print your model at a smaller scale, or offer other options. With creative design, you can print larger simply by separating your model into smaller printable pieces. Media Services staff can help you find software that will split existing designs and optimize the parts for 3D printing.

How long does it take to print an object?

It depends on the size and complexity of the print. Objects can take 15 minutes to 15 hours, depending on nozzle size, layer height and other slicer software settings.  A finer, higher resolution print will take longer, but will look smoother. Media Services staff will help you choose settings that will balance your quality needs with reasonable print time.

Who can use the 3D printing service?

The 3D printing service is open to all faculty, staff, and students of Augustana University and Sioux Falls Seminary. The actual printing process is performed by Media Services staff. If you have a class of students who wish to 3D print, contact us first to discuss the assignment so we can review our policies with you and discuss any limitations or problems you may encounter in printing.

What type of 3D modeling program should I use to create a printable design?

We do not limit you to any particular modeling software, but the resulting model must be saved in one of two file formats -- STL or OBJ.  As long as your software can save or export as one of those formats we should be able to print your model. See the Modeling Software and Tutorials tab at the top of this page to find links to software that can either be downloaded or used online for free.

Contact Us

Media Services
Lower level of Mikkelsen Library
Open weekdays: 7:45 am - 6:00 pm
Phone - 605.274.4920
Email -


Cura Software is used in Media Services to
slice your design into layers and prepare it for printing.

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