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3D Printing: 3D Printing Tips

A guide to 3D printing at Joyner Library.

Please Read Before Submitting Your First Print Request


What kind of printer does the library use?

Joyner Library has a FlashForge Creator Pro, a Lulzbot TAZ 5, and a Fusion3 F-400-s. All three printers build models using Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) with PLA or ABS filament, both of which are thermoplastics. We use both PLA and ABS filament with the FlashForge and Fusion3, and only PLA with the TAZ 5 at this time. If you are interested in printing with specialty filaments (e.g., flexible filaments or wood, brick, or metal composites, etc.) please email us.

How do I create a model?

You can begin creating your model in using a 3D modeling program. The 3D Modeling Software tab lists options for beginners through advanced users. Whichever program you use, be sure you are able to export your file as an .stl file.

As you create your model, please refer to your software program’s help files, tutorial videos, and community forums. The 3D printing community is vibrant, and more than willing to share their knowledge. Remember, your model cannot have any 2D planes, lines or other elements. (See STL Geometry Check below.)

Dimensions/Units of Measurement

Your 3D model must fit within the build envelope of the FlashForge or TAZ 5. The FlashForge's build plate can handle objects as big as 225mm x 145mm x 150mm (8.8" x 5.7" x 5.9") while the TAZ 5 can print objects up to 290mm x 275mm x 250mm (11.4" x 10.8" x 9.8"). The Fusion3 F400-S build plate can print objects up to 360mm x 365mm x 320mm (14.17" x 14.37" x 12.6")

If at all possible, construct your model using millimeters as your unit of measurement. The majority of 3D design software programs use millimeters by default, and it is the unit of measurement Joyner Library uses when working with print requests.

File Format

To print a model with any of our printers, the model must be saved and/or exported as an .STL file. Most 3D modeling software and CAD programs can save or export in this format. If you are given two .stl files (Binary or ASCII) to choose from when you save or export your file, Binary .STL is preferred because it will reduce the file size.

In an effort to eliminate confusion when you submit a print request, please name your files in this format: PirateID.stl (EX: smithjoh13.stl).

STL Geometry Check

The “mesh”, or outer shell, of the 3D model must be free of mesh errors. Specifically, all faces of the object must be connected to each other without any gaps. When these faces aren’t connected, the gaps or holes in the mesh can adversely affect the quality of the print. Therefore, you should perform a geometry check of the .STL file before submitting your design to print.

There are a few free mesh repair programs you can download and use to check your model(s):

  • Meshmixer – From the makers of Autodesk, Meshmixer provides mesh editing, repair and analysis features where you can also design 3D models from scratch. Meshmixer also has a number of tutorials, a user manualand a robust community forum. also provides a basic introduction to Meshmixer with two 90 minute courses and a full 6hr 30min course complete with sample .stl files to practice with. Simply search for “meshmixer” after you log in.
  • Netfabb Standard -- Also from Autodesk, students and educators can use the basic features of Netfabb for free after the 30 day free trial expires. You can import, analyze and repair models as well as modify and optimize models for production. Tutorials aren't as extensive as other Autodesk products, but their Getting Started page will do just that.
  • MeshLab -- MeshLab is “an open source, portable, and extensible system for the processing and editing of unstructured 3D triangular meshes.” While the number of tutorials are limited, MeshLab does sustain a blog and has an active community forum.

Submit Your Model

You're ready to print! You have two choices:

  • Do-It-Yourself (DIY) printing: Stop by the 3D Print Studio any time we are open to print your model. Trained staff will be available to help you use the software and operate the machines. Our Fall 2017 hours are:
  • Monday -- 10:00am -- 4:00pm & 5:00pm - 9:30pm
  • Wednesday -- 5:00pm -- 9:30pm
  • Thursday -- 2:00pm -- 8:00pm
  • Friday -- 10:00am -- 4:00pm
  • Full-Service Printing: Once you have completed your model, you can submit it by filling out the 3D Print Request Form and uploading the file. Uploaded files must be under 15MB. If the model is too big to attach to an email, you will need to re-export the .STL file using the Binary .STL file option. You can always email us for further instructions‚Äč.

Confirmation Email

Shortly after you submit your file via the 3D Print Request Form, you will receive an email from us with information about your model. We may inform you that you will need to fix certain problems with your model. The email you receive should contain information about the problems found. Please refer to any advice or links emailed to you to help resolve the issues.

Printing Estimate & Cost

Once your model is repaired and accepted to be printed, you will be emailed a printing estimate which includes the projected cost and how long it might take to print. Once you reply to that estimate, your part will be added to the print queue for first come, first serve printing.

The cost for DIY 3D printing is determined by the amount of time it takes to print your model. We charge $2 for up to one hour of printing plus $1 for each additional hour for generic filaments (ABS, PETG, PLA), and $3 for up to one hour plus $1 for each additional hour for specialty filaments (Carbon Fiber, Nylon, TPU, Glow in the Dark). Full-service printing is based on the amount of filament or base material used and any rafts and supporting material. We charge 30 cents per gram of filament used. There is a $5 minimum charge. Patrons will pick up their payment slip at the TRC desk and pay for their print at the Circulation Desk on the first floor of Joyner Library. 

How long it will take to print is dependent on how many prints are in the print queue and the size and complexity of your model. It could take anywhere from a day or two to a few weeks. In some situations, we may be able to combine print jobs with other users to save on the overall print time. Once the object is printed, you will receive an email with information about pickup. 3D printed items will be held at the TRC’s service desk for 30 days after you are notified it is ready.

3D Printing Help


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Text Message:  Send a text to (252) 391-8428.

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Phone:  Call our Research desk at (252) 328-6076.

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Email:  Email us at

  We will answer you within 24 hours when classes are in session.


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Schedule a 3D Printing Consultation:

We are only available to consult in person at this time:

Visit the Consultation Request tab for more information.