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Use the 3D printers

Innovative Media staff

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Eric Johnson
Cabell Library, Lower Level Room 078

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

(804) 828-2802

Innovative Media staff

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

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.

Getting Started: Unloading and Loading Filament


Unload Filament

Unload the previous user's filament to select your own color/type.

1 Use the navigation wheel to select the Filament category on the LCD menu.
2 Select Unload to eject filament from the extruder.
3 The MakerBot will begin preheating the extruder and will display the target temperature on the control LCD panel screen. 
4 Once the target temperature is reached, the MakerBot will eject the filament automatically.
5 If the filament is not ejected automatically, it is ok to use light pressure to pull the remaining filament out of the extruder.


Load Filament

Now, load the filament you want to use.

1 Make your filament selection from what is available (use only Makerbot 1.75mm PLA)
2 Clip off the melted end of filament using wire clippers. This helps to prevent the filament from jamming the extruder.
3 Use the navigation wheel on the Makerbot to select Load. The MakerBot will begin preheating the extruder and will display the target temperature on the menu screen.
4 Once the target temperature is reached, the menu screen will prompt you to begin loading the filament.
Apply gentle force to guide the filament into the opening on top of the extruder.
You will feel the extruder ‘bite’ into the filament and slowly begin to extrude a thin strand of filament from the hot end.

If using a different color filament, allow the extruder to extrude any previously remaining filament.
Once your chosen color is extruded, use the LCD menu to stop extrusion.

The MakerBot is now loaded and ready to print.

Preparing to Print


Preparing a 3D Model

1 Open MakerBot Print software
2 File → Insert File. (For info on finding models, see 3D Printing Resources)
3 Click on your object (indicated by a blue outline around the figure)

Adjust model using tools on the right:

  • Model View - enable to prepare and arrange your 3D models
  • Print Preview - slices the 3D model into layers
  • Model Info - change the units the model is measured in
  • Print Settings - set print settings (see Print Settings below)
  • Arrange - if multiple objects on build plate, select Arrange build plate to move objects to most optimal placement
  • Orientation - rotate object or select place face on plate
  • Scale - change size of the object
5 To see the results of the print settings, select the print preview
6 Use the printer panel send or export to the printer


Print Settings

Remember that 3D printing is itself a kind of experiment. Choose options that you think will work best for your model.

Common elements to adjust in your object include: layer thickness, infill density, shell thickness, raft and supports.

  • Balanced: standard mode - a balance of high surface quality and quick print time
  • Draft: quicker “sketch” mode - favors speed over surface quality. Great for multiple iterations
  • MinFill: fastest mode - uses the absolute minimum amount of internal structure - ideal for large prints that don’t need to be durable
Adjusts the height of each printed layer. Increasing the layer height will result in faster print times but visibly thicker layer heights. Layer height is also referred to as resolution or print quality. Smaller layer heights results in higher resolution/quality, but longer prints.

Adjusts the density of the infill on the inside of the print. If the top of the model is collapsing during a print or the model feels too brittle, increasing the infill density may help. Increasing the density will increase print time. A standard print infill is 20% - you should never go above 60%.

The number of outermost layers of the printer model. Increasing the number of shells creates thicker stronger walls, but slower prints. 2 shells is normal.

Elements of the print that overhang more than 45 degrees need supports to hold it up during the printing process. Below - the Y does not need supports, while the H and T do.

Rafts help models adhere to the build surface and help create an even first layer. Printing without rafts can cause models to curl up and/or become dislodged from the build plate during printing. Most prints on the Makerbot should use a raft.




Via direct connection:

1 Click Print in lower right corner

Via USB stick (if printer not connecting properly, which happens occasionally):

1 Connect USB stick to the computer
2 Select Export in lower right corner
3 Plug USB stick into Makerbot (next to LCD screen)
4 Select file to print


3D Printing Resources

  • - The most widely used 3D model repository in the Maker and 3D printing enthusiast community. Dedicated to sharing user-created digital design files under the GNU General Public License or Creative Commons License.
  • - offers a large range of downloadable 3D printable objects. Each object has been test printed and comes with a how-to section that explains how to achieve the best print.
  • - a 3D printing Wiki with designs and steps to build different kinds of 3D printers
  • - A search engine of available 3D printable files.
  • NASA - NASA offers a variety of 3D Models




Filament is not extruding at all:

1 Filament wasn’t loaded properly. Select unload, and then try reloading filament.
2 The gear inside the extruder isn’t properly grabbing onto the filament strand. This could be because of improper loading. Be sure to clip the end of the filament strand before loading. Also, apply gentle pressure while loading until you feel the gear ‘grab’ onto the filament strand.
3 The gear inside of the extruder can be manually disabled by pressing down the side lever -- this allows you to manually insert filmant once the extruder is preheated.

Prints are not sticking to build plate:

1 Check your software settings and make sure ‘Raft’ is selected. The Makerbot prints best when using Rafts for build plate adhesion.


Need more help?

Ask our Makerspace attendant or check out the LinkedIn Learning tutorial Learning to Use 3D Printers.