VCU Libraries

Research Guides

Use the 3D printers

Innovative Media staff

Eric Johnson's picture
Eric Johnson
Cabell Library, Lower Level Room 078

901 Park Ave., Box 842033
Richmond, VA 23284-2033

(804) 828-2802

Innovative Media staff

Ken Hopson's picture
Ken Hopson
James Branch Cabell Library
901 Park Ave
Richmond, VA 23284

About the 3D Printers

All three 3D printers are capable of creating a multitude of 3D objects out of plastic.  They are “fused deposition modeling” systems, meaning that the printers melt plastic filament into fine thread and deposit this thread layer by layer according to a 3D digital model tool path. Files can be sent to the printer via USB or the attached desktop computer.


Each printer has its own difficulty level, with the Makerbot being the most approachable for those wanting to explore 3D printing technology without having background experience in 3D printing. Patrons who are new to 3D printing may enjoy the plug-n-play nature of the Makerbot, since it offers a simple approach to the process of printing with PLA filament. Since many of its functions are automated and less prone to user error, it is the most reliable printer in terms of overall print success.

The Raise N2+ and Lulzbot Taz 5 will be of interest to patrons who wish to print using higher resolution settings than offered by the Makerbot, or those who would simply like access to a wider range of filament or print size choices. The Raise may be viewed as an in-between printer, which retains many of the simplified and automated elements of the Makerbot, while offering a more robust set of options for hands-on control over the process and a larger print size.


The Lulzbot is the most open source printer of the three, and is great for those patrons who are mainly interested in the process of 3D printing and the technology itself. Compared to the Makerbot and Raise, the Lulzbot offers more in terms of user control over the process, more filament options, and is capable of the highest FDM print resolution, but requires more user knowledge and involvement.

MakerBot 5th Generation Specifications

  • Uses polylactic acid (PLA) plastic in a 1.75mm filament
  • Maximum build size: 9.9”L x 7.8”W x 5.9”H (approximately the size of two of the larger Harry Potter books stacked on top of each other)
  • Highest resolution: 100 microns [0.0039 inches]
  • On-board camera
  • Assisted leveling of the build plate
  • Uses MakerBot Desktop processing software, capable of processing .stl, .obj., .thing, and .makerbot files

More information on the MakerBot Replicator 5th Generation printer.

Raise N2+ Specifications

  • Huge maximum build size: 12”W x 12”D x 24”H
  • Use dual-extrusion to print models with two different filaments
  • Many filaments: PLA, ABS, ASA, PC, Flexibles, and more
  • Highest resolution: 10 microns
  • Semi-assisted leveling of the build plate
  • Uses Cura or imageMaker processing software, capable of processing STL or OBJ files from SD card or through direct computer connection
  • Fully enclosed chamber and heat bed

More information on the Raise N2+ printer.

Please contact The Workshop for information about orientation to the Raise N2+. It will be added to our regular orientation schedule shortly.

Lulzbot TAZ 5 Specifications

  • Prints with 3mm (2.85mm) filament in a wide array of materials: ABS, PLA, HIPS, PVA, wood filled filaments, Polyester (Tritan), PETT, bronze and copper filled filaments, Polycarbonate, Nylon, PETG, conductive PLA and ABS, UV luminescent filaments, PCTPE, PC-ABS, Alloy 910, and more every day.
  • Maximum build size: 11.7in x 10.8in x 9.8in (approximately the size of a human head)
  • Highest resolution: 75 microns [0.003 inches]
  • Unassisted leveling of the build plate
  • Primarily uses Cura processing software, capable of processing STL / OBJ / DAE / AMF files from SD card or through direct computer connection. Other softwares are possible as well.

More information on the Lulzbot TAZ 5 printer.

Formlabs Form 2 Specifications

  • Note: this machine is only available on a case-by-case basis after approval by Innovative Media staff.
  • Prints with a liquid photoreactive resin (methacrylate photopolymer) that is hardened by UV lasers in a process called stereolithography. Resin options include standard (in clear, white, grey, and black), tough, castable, and flexible.
  • Maximum build size: 5.7 × 5.7 × 6.9 in
  • Resolution: 25, 50, 100 microns [0.001, 0.002, 0.004 inches]
  • Automated leveling and other functions
  • Uses PreForm processing software, capable of processing STL / OBJ files.

    More information on the Formlabs Form 2 printer.