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.

Guidelines and Orientations

Users

VCU Libraries’ 3D printing systems are available for use by all current Virginia Commonwealth University faculty, students, and staff.

Operation and Safety Training

Participation in an Innovative Media 3D printer training session offered by an Innovative Media staff member is required before using the 3D printer independently. Training will be offered by appointment or in group orientation sessions throughout the regular academic year. 

View schedule of orientation sessions (no need for a reservation, just come in during the orientation session for the printer on which you're interested in receiving training).

To schedule an individual training session (only if the above times don't work for you), contact the Innovative Media department for an appointment by emailing libjbcim@vcu.edu. The department also has a Formlabs Form 2 resin-based, high-definition 3D printer.  In order to receive training on that machine, please contact departmental staff by email so that your high-definition project may be approved. 

Scheduling and Starting Print Jobs

Only after you have met with us for training (group orientation or individual training) and feel confident enough to use the 3D printers independently,  will we add you to an authorized user list. As an authorized user, you may use the 3D printer independently. However, please do not hesitate to ask questions and seek further assistance from IM staff at any time. The 3D printer toolkit and logbook will remain by the station. 

Only authorized (trained) users may schedule printer time on the reservation system.  You must be trained on a particular machine before you can reserve that machine. Once you are an authorized user, you can sign up for time on an available printer by reserving the 3D Scanning-Printing station on our workstation and room reservations page.  Be sure to sign it out for the full length of time it will take to print your object, plus add a little bit of time in case of any snags.  You can check your file on the MakerBot Desktop software for the MakerBot printer; on Cura for the Ultimaker 2; on Cura for the Lulzbot TAZ 5; or on PreForm for the Formlabs Form 2 to determine length of print time. 

We encourage you to consult with an Innovative Media staff member for assistance with your first 3D print. The purpose of this initial printing meeting is to give you an opportunity to review procedures, ask questions, perform the calibration, and become comfortable operating the 3D printer.

3D print jobs can take several hours, so plan ahead for lengthy print times when booking time on a printer. It may be possible to leave your print job running overnight, but you will have to start at least an hour before closing and you will need to make sure the print has begun successfully before you may leave it to run overnight.  Please check with staff to make sure your job can be left overnight.

If your print job must be stopped during its print due to the start of another patron's booked time on the printer, the item will have to be reprinted from the beginning, and you may have to go to the back of the queue if others have booked time on the printer in the next day or days. So again, please plan ahead and book sufficient time on the printer.

Responsibilities of Authorized Users

Authorized users are to follow all operating and safety training. As thoughtful members of the growing 3D printing community, our users are expected to be considerate of others and maintain a safe and clean working environment around the 3D printers. Accurate logging of print jobs should be recorded in the Innovative Media 3D Printer logbook. See logbook form for required data logging. Several data fields, such as anticipated material mass and estimated print time, are available within the 3D printer software, as you’ll be shown during training.  

Cost

At this time, 3D printing is being supported entirely by VCU Libraries and is free to you for the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years. Enjoy!  We just ask that you please help spread the word.

What Can and Cannot be 3D-Printed

Users may 3D print any object for research, education, or personal use so long as the printed objects do not violate VCU campus policies (including prohibition on weapons) and comply with U.S. copyright, patent, and other intellectual policy regulations, which do include specific exceptions for fair use. The printers are intended for educational and experimentation purposes. They may not be used to produce an item or items for sale, or for any other commercial purpose or private financial gain. Nor may be they be used for production-level printing (e.g. many copies of the same thing) without permission. VCU Libraries staff reserves the right to refuse any 3D print request.