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 consumer grade 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 grouped into two categories:

Educational 3D Printers

Whether you are just getting started or have prior experience with 3D printing we have resources available to you. Our “Guided 3D Printing Service” is a perfect match for those who are just getting started. An on staff consultant will help you through the process of 3D printing and even send the job to a 3D printer provided a machine is available. If you are already experienced with 3D printing and need access to a 3D printer our “Self-Service 3D Printing” option is for you.

Educational 3D Printing FAQ

Production 3D Printers

Our production 3D printing option addresses the needs of those who lack the time to operate a 3D printer or require parts that exceed the capability of the educational 3D printers. Our collection of commercial grade 3D printers are capable of producing strong ABS plastic parts, or high resolution bio-compatible acrylic parts. We will inspect, quote, queue, and 3D print your parts for you!

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 need 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.

Guided 3D Printing – PrintrBot Play

For those who are just getting started with 3D printing, we are happy to introduce a new 3D printing service we call “Guided 3D Printing”. You are in charge of setting up your build! Simply add your part to Cura, select the print quality, rotate and scale the part, and save your gcode (PrintrBot instructions). If a PrintrBot is available, a consultant will send it to 3D print! To get started see the links below for hours and please remember that Guided 3D Printing is an education tool with limited resources. We make no guarantee that your part will 3D print as expected, nor do we queue 3D print jobs when utilizing the Guided 3D Printing service.

Cube 3

Self Service 3D Printing – Cube 3

The Cube 3 is easy to use, and is free to use (you bring your own PLA cartridge). The Cube 3 can 3D print in 2 colors, use dissolvable support structure, and offers a maximum layer resolution of 70 microns. However, it has been extremely unreliable and rarely finishes the entire cartridge without catastrophically stripping the filament. If you need to use the Cube 3 simply watch the training videos and bring your own material (when available and at your own risk). Due to health concerns of 3D printing with materials such as ABS plastic on open chassis 3D printers, we only allow for the use of PLA plastic on our consumer grade 3D printers.

Dimension elite

Production 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.


Production 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.



PrintrBot 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. When compared to ABS, PLA is a bit less flexible but uses less energy to form, is less likely to warp, and is safe to use. With it’s low cost and environmental qualities, PLA plastic is a good material to start with.

ABS Plastic

ABS Plus

ABS plastic is recommended for a design that is a final product or needs the strength to withstand testing. It has a higher melting point then PLA and has a higher yield strength. The Dimension Elites are the only 3D printers at the UM3D Lab the fabricate parts in ABS plastic. The material is 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. Unlike the FDM process, the ProJet chemically bonds the material at each cross sectional layer creating parts with greater strength uniformity. In general, the material behaves as if it was cast and much less likely to break in the z-axis.

If you have a large batch of parts that require the strength of ABS plastic ask us about the M3 X resin.

It is important to note that parts 3D printed on a ProJet are cost considerably more than PLA or ABS parts due to higher material cost, fully dense infill, and high use of support structure.

Other Resources

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