Print It

Have you wondered how a company - or you - gets an object printed?

Here are some broad categories of 3D printing methods:

  • Laser sintering (creating objects from powders)
  • Stereolithography (additive process that uses a liquid photopolymer resin of a type that cures when exposed to a beam of UV; printers cost $100k-500k, photo-curable resin costs $80 to $210 a liter).  Formlabs created a consumer level printer - the Form 1 3d – that costs $3,300 and the gray colored resin costs #150 per ?? doesn’t specify.
  • Most common and most affordable for people like us is FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication).  In this method, filament is heated, melted, extruded, and laid down layer by layer onto a platform (the process is likened to a hot glue gun)
  • An interesting idea is the "3Doodler" -- a hand held pen that extrudes melted filament


Printers for industry

3D Systems ( makes several models of the ZPrinter from a single color model to the ZPrinter 850, which has 5 heads and can print 390,000 colors (according to the manufacturers website).  They also make the consumer level model called the Cube carried by Staples office stores.

Stratasys LogoStratasys, Inc. (  makes Dimension and Objet 3D Printers and the Fortus production model on which the Scimitar Cat skull was printed.

Envision TEC ( makes the 3D-Bioplotter that prints biomaterials and scaffolding for medical uses, like bone and soft tissue regeneration.  Materials printed include collagen, chitosan, fibrin, agar, alginate, tricalcium phosphate, titanium.


Printers for the masses

The RepRap project ( is a product of the open source revolution.  The RepRap moniker stands for “replicating rapid prototyper.”  The initiative is aimed at creating RepRap printers that can print most of their own parts!  They are relatively inexpensive desktop 3D printers due to their open design and free software license (the GNU General Public License).  On the website, you will find that inventors & DIYers have uploaded plans for 3D printers that you can build for the cost of the parts.  They charge nothing for the instructions. RepRap models are the Original Mendel, MendelMax, Prusa Mendel, RepRapPro Tricolour Mendel, Wallace, RepRapPro Huxley. put together a list comparing 140 different 3D printers (most are consumer level models).  Click the link ( to see the list. 


Printing Services

And, you don’t need to buy a 3D printer.  You can snail mail, email, or carry your raw idea, a photograph, or a design to a company that will print it for you.  There are retail stores popping up all over the world.  You can walk into stores like iMakr in London, Makerbot Store in New York City, The 3DPrinterExperience in Chicago, or Printing3D in Evanston and drop off your CAD files.  Or use one of their printers to do it yourself.


The Maker Community

The Maker movement or maker community are contemporary names given to the culture of DYIers (Do-It-Yourselfers) and DIWO (Do It With Others), known variously as hobbyists, crafters, inventors, Makers, hackers, etc.  Interests range from traditional arts and crafts to sophisticated technologies.  The maker community believes in sharing ideas, and many groups have set up Maker shops where members can learn about and use the shop's equipment.

Community workshop spaces in nearby Champaign-Urbana include (this list is not comprehensive):

  • Makerspace Urbana "Makerspace Urbana is dedicated to enabling the blend of arts, humanities, science and technology. Our mission is to provide an open community lab where people of diverse backgrounds can learn, teach, tinker, collaborate, share, innovate, socialize, and create."
  • Several Maker spaces are located on the University of Illinois Campus
    -- Illinois MakerLab is part of the College of Business, in the Surveying Building
    -- Beckman Institute is home to the Visualization Lab@ Beckman Institute
    -- Center for Nanoscale Chemical-Electrical-Mechanical Manufacturing Students (CEMMS) at UIUC has the 3D Printing Lab
    -- Department of Mathematics runs the Illinois Geometry Lab
  • CUCFabLab has partnered with entities in their community to help them set up their own maker spaces.  Some of the groups CUCFL has helped are the Tap In Leadership Academy, Urbana Free Library, schools, and a Boys and Girls Club.  Read about it at

The Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago has opened a Maker space, offering classes in 3D printing and use of the printers during open lab hours.  On July 9, 2013 the Chicago Tribune published an article by Christopher Borrelli, "3-D printers debut at Chicago library; future uses still to be imagined."  You can read his article at,0,6014356.column?page=1, or you can watch a WGN TV news piece at

RAFT (, which stands for resource area for teaching, is a non-profit that creates resources and workshops promoting hands-on-learning experiences for teachers.  RAFT BayArea's Green Room ( is a an example of one of its creative workspaces.

Here are some places you can learn about the Maker movement:

  • Make magazine,
  • The Maker Shed sells stuff to help you make
  • a regional Maker Faire, which are held at several locations around the world
  • a mini Maker Faire
  • BoingBoing weblog

Here are links to everything you might want to know about Hackerspaces