Getting Started


The MakerBot 3D printer is an inexpensive machine that can be either put together or purchased preassembled and allows anyone to participate in personal fabrication and rapid prototyping . Using a digital design, it prints objects by melting layers of plastic, one on top of the other, to form three-dimensional objects.

The Process

Once you have a STL file , the 3D model needs to be sliced into layers in order to be printed. The software that slices a model is called SkeinForge , and it is incorporated into ReplicatorG , which translates the 3D information into GCode , the common name for the widely used computer numerical control (CNC) programming language). The GCode tells the MakerBot how to print the object.

The Choices

There is no shortage of free or commercially available software at your disposal. Your choice of software tool(s) for use with your students will depend on a variety of factors:
  • The content/theme of your class or program
  • Ability level of students
  • Student interest
  • Budget constraints

We'll be covering the free and/or open source options that are available:
  1. 3DTin
  2. Tinkercad
  3. SketchUp
  4. OpenSCAD
  5. Blender
  6. Wings3D
  7. 123DCatch
  8. MeshMixer

However, if your budget permits you may wish to consider commercial options (read: expensive) such as Rhino 3-D and SolidWorks.

Here are the basic steps involved in printing:
  1. Start with an STL file

  2. Open Makerware

  3. Open the .stl file in Makerware

  4. Generate the GCode file

  5. Either use an SD card or connect your computer to the MakerBot

  6. Print!

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