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3D Printing

How does 3D printing work?

There are different types of 3D printers available FDM, Stereolithography and SLS. One of the most popular and widely available is the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM).

FDM is an additive process, where a model is created by heating and extruding plastic, pieced together layer by layer.

Stereolithography is a more complex and higher quality type of printing. Stereolithography also uses the additive process but instead of extruding plastics, the process utilizes an ultraviolet light beam to harden a model from a pool of photosensitive liquid.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is the third type of printing, which involves lasers and powders instead of UV light beams and liquid. A laser is used to melt the powder, creating a layer of the printed material. This allows some models to print metal objects, which is not possible in the other two processes.

The Grand Forks Public Library provides two FDM printers for public to utilize. The two materials required for 3D printing are Poly Lactic Acid (PLA) and Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS). Both are thermoplastics that will become soft and malleable when heated, frozen when cooled. They are sold as 1kg (2.2 lbs.) spools of filament. PLA is a biodegradable plastic that is derived from corn starch. ABS is a petroleum-based plastic with strength and flexibility, similar to the material in LEGOs. PLA is much safer to use in public areas, whereas ABS requires a ventilation hood for toxic fumes. The library only uses PLA type filament in our printers for your safety.

Here are a few videos that can give you a visual explanation for each type of 3D printing technology:

FDM Video:
SLS Video:
Sterolithography Video:

Getting Started

Create a 3D object using software like CAD, Solidworks, or Sketchup.
You can also download objects created by others from the web using sites such as

Once you have a 3D file, you can click here to fill out a form, or stop in and complete the form at the reference desk along with your 3D file.

When your item has been printed, you can pay for your print at the Circulation desk and take it home.


What kind of 3D printers does the Library have?

We have two Cubify 3D printers.

What is the cost for printing?

We are charging $2.00 per hour with a Minimum $2.00 charge.

How do I sign up to print?

Each person may only have one appointment at any time. All projects must be approved by library staff.

What software do I need to design my 3D object?

Any 3D drafting software will work, as long as you can convert your file to the .stl format before you send it to the Library. We recommend Trimble SketchUp, a free online download at Also consider, software that works in a browser without the need to download an application.

What file format do I send the Library for printing?

.stl – A free plugin that allows you to export .stl files from SketchUp can be found here: (You may need to create a free Google account.) Files are ultimately readied for printing in Cubify. Cubify can be used to change the size of an object, adjust the object’s location on the build plate, and add ‘rafts,’ ‘supports,’ and other printing aids. Cubify also previews the print and estimates final print time. The library will view all files in Cubify before printing your job.

Where can I learn about designing 3D objects?

For SketchUp help, visit

Where can I find 3D object design and inspiration?

Try or These sites also have designs you can download and print.

Do you have any tips for object design?

3D printers don’t like files that have large overhangs. Things in the shape of a tree, with wide tops and narrow bottoms, are more difficult to print.

Do I need to come in to the library to print my object?

Yes. You must request an appointment and be present to start your print job. Library staff will be available to assist you.

Do I need to be present the whole time my object is printing?

No. Most jobs are quick, but for longer jobs, we understand you may need to go and come back. We do recommend you either stay for the length of your print, or check in with your print periodically. Errors in printing are common, and if they occur while you are not present to fix them, you may need to reschedule your print job for another day.

How long will my job take to print?

It is sometimes difficult to estimate exact print times. Library staff will make an educated guess about the length of your job. We will only print objects that estimate to take less than 4 hours. If you have an evening appointment, we will only be able to accommodate a 2-hour print job.

Where does the printing take place?

Your object will be printed in the library.

Will you hold my object for me if I cannot be there to see it finish?

Yes. The library will hold your print jobs for 7 days. You may collect them at the Circulation Desk.

Can I choose my filament color?

Yes. The library currently has many colors available, including orange, blue, light blue, green, light green, black, and purple.

Can my job use more than one color?

No. Our printers can only print in one color at a time.

Can I print more than one object?

Currently, the library will only schedule one print per day. If possible, the library will accommodate multi-part jobs as long as you are present in the library to oversee the different parts.

Can I print something else later if I want to?

Yes. You can sign up to use the printer. You may only be signed up for one appointment at a time.

How large can my object be?

The maximum size you can print will be 5.50 height x 5.50 length x 5.50 depth. The library will only print objects that will take less than 4 hours.

Is it possible to print anything that I want to?

We reserve the right to refuse any print request. The library will not schedule print jobs for weapons or dangerous objects. Obscene or inappropriate projects will not be printed. Additionally, the PLA filament used by the 3D printers is not the type used for some of the dangerous prints you may have seen on the news. The 3D printers will not be used to print copyrighted material.

Are 3D printed objects ‘food safe?’


What happens if my file doesn’t print correctly?

Errors with 3D printing are common. If the error can’t be fixed on the spot, you may need to reschedule your job for another day.

I am under 8 years old. Can I use the 3D printer?

If the applicant is 8 years old or younger a guardian’s signature is required.

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