This post documents the experience of getting a print from the Penn State Maker Commons service.
The good thing about Maker Commons is that you don’t need direct access to a 3D printer nor do you need to learn how to load plastic media or make sure the nozzle is properly cleaned and aligned, because the Maker Commons staff is there to do that for you. However, you will still need to interact with some media software, most of free and you will need to an investment of time, especially for your first print. And there are some restrictions you might have to keep in mind.
Build a Model in Tinkercad or Wherever
If you’re interested in building a basic model, you may want to get a free Tinkercad account. It’s a cloud service which lets you build a model from scratch or import and edi a model/vector graphic file. MakerCommons has some Tinkercad tutorials on their tutorials page.
Another non-cloud option is Google SketchupMake. Maker Commons also has tutorials for this service. Or you can find and download a 3D model. Or you can use a graphics program which allows you to export a 3D model.
Edit in MakerBot
No matter how you create your model, you will need to import it into the free MakerBot Dekstop editor. This software is designed for the MakerBot printer and will let you resize your image, set print quality and export it for print.
It’s important to follow the guidelines from MakerCommons or your print could be rejected or ruined. An important one is a relatively new 100 gram plastic restriction. Another is a size restriction of 9.9 inches L x 7.8 inches W x 5.9 inches. Finally, your Quality setting needs to be “Low” or “Standard.”
You also need to make sure the print is to be centered and lie flat on the print bed. The guidelines show you exactly how to do this.
Submit the Print
Here you will need to submit your model file through Makerbot Innovation Center with your Penn State email address. This will allow you to choose the model and even select the color plastic you want. Again, it’s important to follow all the instructions.
Ready to submit? Then click the Submit button on Maker Commons site. You will receive a message when the print file is submitted to the queue, when the job begins to print and when the print is complete.
Pick up the Print
Once you receive an email that the print is ready to be picked up, head to either Patee/Paterno at University Park or a location at another campus. You will need to bring your Penn State ID as verification.
If all has gone well, you will receive your print in a clean brown paper envelope. Take off the “raft” and enjoy.