VCU Libraries

Research Guides

Use the 3D printers

VCU Libraries is excited to announce the availability of three 3D printers in the Innovative Media department on the lower level of Cabell Library. Explore the guidelines and other materials to help you use them effectively.

3D Design Files and Conversion for Printing

The Innovative Media printers can fabricate 3D models from any 3D design software that is capable of exporting the file as a .stl, .obj, .maker, or several other 3D file formats. The files must be converted to a 3D printer build file before printing, which can be done for the Makerbot with MakerBot Desktop Software; for the Ultimaker 2 with Cura for the Ultimaker; for the Lulzbot TAZ 5 with Cura for the Lulzbot (the software is actually more cross-compatible for advanced users, but that's an easy way to keep it straight). Several computers in Innovative Media have MakerBot Desktop programs installed. Moreover, various 3D design software packages are available including AutoDesk Maya, AutoDesk 3ds Max, and Google Sketchup Pro.

Sticking with .stl and .obj files assures the widest range of uses among our 3D printers.

Software that Helps

Sites with downloadable designs

Design tools: when you want to design your own objects

  • Blender is a powerful, free and open source 3D animation suite you can use for 3D models.  Enable the 3D Printing Toolbox.
  • OpenSCAD is free software for creating solid 3D CAD models - it  might be the application you are looking for when you are planning to create 3D models of machine parts.
  • Sketchup comes in free or pro versions. Get the Sketchup STL from the Extension Warehouse.
  • Tinkercad is a browser-based 3D design platform, now part of Autodesk (free version available).
  • 123D Design is a free, powerful, yet simple 3D creation and editing tool from Autodesk.
  • List of additional free software packages from
  • Workstations in Innovative Media also have more powerful commercial 3D design software, including Maya and 3ds Max.

Object integrity tools: to make sure your design has the structural integrity and completeness needed for 3D printing