3D Print Your Ideas in the Lab

Amanda Mellor, Administrative Clerk, Octavia Lab,
3D printed image

Ever think about designing your own toys, creating a personalized gift, prototyping your invention, or even replacing a broken oven knob?

You can 3D print all these ideas in the Octavia Lab, but you can get started learning how in the comfort of your own home. It’s all possible with a super easy software, TinkerCAD.

There will be some links at the end for various projects you can work on before you come visit us in the Octavia Lab!

Getting Started

The first step is to get familiar with TinkerCAD, a free online software that helps you design projects for 3D printing.

The TinkerCAD website offers easy walk-through tutorials where you learn how to create shapes, make holes, add text, and more.

Additionally, thanks to your library card, you have access to Lynda.com where you can explore their straight-forward and comprehensive TinkerCAD video tutorials, which range from 30 minutes, to an hour and a half.

screen shot from tinkercad program

Easy Beginner Project #1 - 5 Minutes

Explore the variety of tools that TinkerCAD offers, like the Scribble tool which lets you draw a freehand design with your mouse.

It’s as simple as dragging a shape into the workplane and then selecting the Scribble tool.

Screenshot from Tinkercad program

For my project, I picked a rectangle and wrote “way cool!” in cursive with my mouse. Then I dragged my scribble on top of the rectangle, grouped them together, and boom.

way cool 3D printed image

Easy Beginner Project #2 - 5 Minutes

You can also import .svg image files into Tinkercad. I really love cats and so I used a search engine to look for public domain/copyright free .svg files of cats.

Then I clicked the ‘Import’ button:

tinkercad screenshot image

Next, you can upload a file or URL from your computer:

tinkercad screenshot imageI then turned the cat image into a "hole" and grouped it together with a square shape.

3D printed pink waving cat


But don’t worry. If you feel like you need more instruction when you visit the Octavia Lab, we will provide you will detailed walk-throughs that will help guide and inspire you!

Preparing for Printing - 5 Minute Project

Once the designing is done, you can now prepare the files for printing.

A second software, Cura, is required to transform three-dimensional designs into layers, which is what the 3D printer actually understands. The 3D printer needs to know how much filament to release at a time. Eventually, layer after layer of filament leads to a three-dimensional shape.

First, export the TinkerCAD design to the file type .STL

screenshot of Tinkercad program

Then, open the file in Cura:

screentshot of Cura program

Cura converts the project into a g-code file and saves it to a removable storage device. Safely eject the removable storage device and now it’s ready to be placed inside the 3D printer.

For more information, explore our library databases or check out some helpful books on 3D printing designs and ideas!

3D Printing Books and More

3D Printing: The Revolution in Personalized Manufacturing
Koch, Melissa

3D Printing: Build Your Own 3D Printer and Print Your Own 3D Objects
Kelly, James F. (James Floyd),

3D Printing: Science, Technology, Engineering
Otfinoski, Steven

3D Printing
Coward, Cameron

3D Printing by Terence O'Neill and Josh Williams
O'Neill, Terence

3D Printing for Artists, Designers and Makers
Hoskins, Steve

3D Printer Projects for Makerspaces
Cline, Lydia Sloan

3D Printing for Dummies
Horne, Richard (Electrical engineer),

3D Printing at School and Makerspaces
Boozarjomehri, Keon

3D Printing Techniques and Processes
Degnan, Michael

63 Ready-To-Use Maker Projects

Mastering 3D Printing in the Classroom, Library, and Lab
Horvath, Joan