3D Printing – Walk Up Printing FAQ

Open-Access 3D Printing provides a quick and cost-effective way for students to create, ideate, play and invent. Below are some common questions (and answers) for using the walk-up 3D Printers.

Frequently Asked Questions

The PrintrBot 3D printer uses a process known as fused deposition modeling (FDM) where a plastic filament is heated and extruded to form layers of plastic. These horizontal plastic layers create a 3d object, much like building a stack of pancakes or a layer cake.


Come to the lab with your part STL file on your flash drive and we’ll help you through the rest. Printing is first-come-first-serve.
No. the printer are a limited resource and it would not be fair for one person to use more than one at a time.
As long as the print is started before the end of the hours it is OK for the print to run over night and you can come  pick up the part the next day.
If none of the currently printing parts are finishing before the end of the day, you will have to come back the next day.

Guided 3D Printing  Hours

We do not queue parts for the printer past the end of the day. Each day is a new start.
No we do not allow reservations of the printers
Yes. As long as all of the the parts fit on one build plate, there is no limit to how many parts you can print at once.
When printing on the PrintrBots, use PLA plastic only. While the printers have used ABS plastic in the past, we’ve found that ABS does not work well in the PrintrBots. ABS plastic melts at a higher temperature than PLA, and the PrintrBots have to strain to melt the ABS. This results in clogging the print heads and damaging the printers.


Polylactic Acid (PLA) is a plant-based, biodegradable plastic. When it melts, it gives off fewer fumes than ABS plastic and it tends to warp less. It melts between 150-160°C (302-320°F) PLA also has a shinier appearance than ABS, which is typically more matte in appearance.

Unlike ABS, which bends under pressure, PLA tends to snap. (It is, however, quite a strong material!) For more information, the UM3D lab has Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on all of the materials used in our lab.

The printing area is 4″ x 4″ x 5″ on the PrintrBot Play and 4″ x 8″ x 5″ for the PrintrBot Play Max. For best printing, however, we suggest going a little smaller.
Yes– to an extent. Imagine a model of a person standing straight up with their arms to their side. The PrinterBot could print this without problem, layering plastic layers on top of each other. Now imagine a model of a person with their arms out to their sides. The PrintrBot could print this, too, but only if supports are turned “on” when preparing a model in the Cura software prior to printing.


The supports created by the PrintrBot will usually snap right off. Using a sharp X-Acto knife, needle nose pliers, or snips seems to work best to remove a raft from the bottom of your part. (Should you do this, work carefully and with caution!) Additional plastic can then be sanded or filed off.

If you want to print cleaner overhangs, consider using using the 3DLab’s Dimension Elite FDM printer; it prints supports using a separate material which dissolves after printing. (No trimming, cutting, or sanding required.)


There is a computer in the UM3D Lab near the middle of the lab that is delegated for PrintrBot use; it has the Cura software pre-loaded on it. This computer is available on a first-come first-serve basis during UM3D Lab hours.
First, look at your CAD model and look at its edges– does it look “closed”? Are the edges showing the ‘interior’ of the object? (Imagine a smashed cardboard box where the edges don’t meet up.) If so, this will be a problem for printing: re-work your part to have closed edges, or consult your program’s help menu.

Some programs like Rhino allow you to see if your part is closed, or watertight– if it is, chances are it will print! For more information on how to fix or alter parts, check out the UM3D Lab’s Magics tutorials

Prepare your parts for 3D printing!
The Cube 3 is a self-service machine– this means you don’t have to pay to use it, but you are also responsible for learning how to use the machine. The Cube uses PLA plastic, a compostable plant-based plastic. It prints in the lowest resolution (around 0.2 mm) of any of the UM3D Lab 3D Printers. The Cube 3D printers are only available to University of Michigan students, faculty and staff.


No. While you are responsible for learning how to use the machine, sometimes problems arise– the consultants at the UM3D Lab are only a quick jaunt away; they are familiar with the Cube and are happy to answer any questions you may have.