3D Printing


Self-Service Cube 2 3D printers

3D Printing is the creation of physical objects from 3d computer models.

Whether you are looking to gain experience in the world of additive manufacturing using one of our self-service 3d printers or you have a project you would like to have 3d printed on a high end rapid prototyping machine by professional staff, the UM3D Lab is here to help you with your 3d printing needs.

  • Overview

  • Our Machines

  • Materials

  • Other Resources


3D Printing is a name associated with a form of manufacturing called additive manufacturing. Unlike traditional manufacturing methods, 3D printers don’t cut away, bend, or deform a raw stock of material into the desired shape. Instead they build up objects by selectively applying material in layers. This is done without the need for jigs, fixtures, dies, or molds. The additive process of 3d printing allows for the “free” fabrication of complex geometry.

The UM3D Lab offers a variety of 3D printing options but they can be grouped into these two broad categories:

Self-Service 3D Printers

Initiated in 2013, self-service 3d printing at the MLibrary was funded via the Third Century Initiative. The original proposal was to leveraging existing spaces and expertise within the Library, namely the UM3D Lab, to offer several low-cost 3D printers to the U-M community as an extension of existing services focusing primarily on an open access, hands-on model targeted at student users. With over 1000 registered users, hundreds of reservation, and thousands of 3d print hours much was learned. The MLibrary is working on a new support model and seeking partners to provide a sustainable solution to meet the needs of the community.

Walk-up Printing FAQ

Full Service 3D Printers

Our full service 3d printing operation addresses the needs of those who lack the time to operate a 3d printer or require parts that exceed the capability of the walk-up 3d printers. Our collection of commercial grade 3d printers are capable of producing strong ABS plastic parts, or high resolution ProJet parts in various UV curing resins to include bio-compatible, investment casting, and ABS like materials. We will inspect, quote and 3d print parts.

Full Service Printing FAQ

Here are some important questions to consider while choosing which service model and 3d printer best fits your needs:

  • What is the use of the part?
  • How strong does it have to be?
  • Do you need to use a specific material?
  • How big is the part and the detailing on it?
  • What is your budget?
If you can’t decide between two printers or need more details, we can help you work through these questions. Just email um3d-rp@umich.edu or come in for a visit.

Our Machines

There are many ways to create a digital 3D model based on what your needs are. Similarly we have a variety of printers to create the ideal part based on your priorities.

Cube 2

Walk-up 3D Printing – Cube 2

On December 28th 2015, 3D Systems dropped support for the Cube 2 and Cube 3 platforms. The last of the Cube 2 3d printers died July 1st 2016, 925 days into the project; far longer than originally anticipated. The UM3D Lab no longer provides 3d printing via the Cube 2 3d printer.

Cube 3

Walk-up 3D Printing – Cube 3 (Upon Request)

As the Cube 3 is the next generation of the Cube 2 it is still easy to use, is free to use (except material), and can produce everything the Cube 2 could. Similar to the Cube 2, we only allow PLA plastic on our printers. The Cube 3 also has a few additional capabilities. It comes with 2 resolutions, 200 microns and 70 microns. However, it has been extremely unreliable and rarely finishes the entire cartridge. If you need to use the Cube 3, come into the office and talk to Shawn O’Grady and we can help you set it up.

Dimension elite

Full Service 3D Printing – Dimension Elite

The 3D Lab has two Dimension Elite 3D Printers that print in ABS plastic. Layer resolution can be either 254 or 178 microns so they are suitable for more polished prototyping. Because of the support structure that dissolves away, you are able to print pieces with overhanging parts, or parts inside of other parts. Larger parts can also be printed because the build plate measures 8×8″. The cost of printing depends on the volume of model and support material used on the part.


Full Service 3D Printing – ProJet 3500 HD Max

Our Projet 3D Printer is our highest resolution machine at 16 microns, making it suitable for projects that require a high degree of precision or models that feature small scale details needing to be preserved. It is capable of printing in precast for mold-making purposes but also allows you to print in a biomedical plastic suitable for implanting in the human body.


There are several materials that our printers can print in. So if you’re looking for a specific material for your part, we can help you figure out which machine you should use.



Cube 2 and Cube 3 printers in our lab exclusively use PLA plastic. PLA is a biodegradable plastic that is made from renewable resources like cornstarch or sugarcane. It is also recyclable and results in no property loss when it is done. When compared to ABS, PLA is a bit less flexible and tends to snap instead of bending. If the part does not need to be be extremely strong, PLA is a good material to start with.

ABS Plastic

ABS Plus

For a design that is a final product or needs the strength to withstand testing, ABS plastic is recommended. It has a higher melting point then PLA and has a higher yield strength. The Dimension Elites are the only printers that print with ABS plastic. It is also available in many different colors including blue, maize, orange, red, ivory, white, and black.

ProJet Resin

ProJet Resin

M3 Crystal is a bio-compatible, acrylic-based resin that allows parts made with this material to be used in numerous medical devices. Also unlike the PLA and ABS part, these do not break along the lines where the layers are joined. In general, the material behaves like it was cast together.

ProCast parts can also be printed on the ProJet, which means that molds can also be made from a 3D printed model with investment casting.

If you need a strong part, then ask us about M3 X.

It is important to note that all ProJet materials are more costly when compared to PLA and ABS.

Other Resources

  • 3D Printing Process Overview
    3D Printing Process Overview
  • Cube 3D Printers
    Cube 3D Printers
  • Fused Deposition Modeling
    Fused Deposition Modeling