3D Printers

You can use our 3D printing equipment and supplies for a variety of creative projects. To get started, walk in during our open hours or make an appointment (select “3D Printing”).

3D Printing

Like the rest of the equipment in our spaces, the 3D printers are available to all students, faculty, and staff for personal and academic projects.

The Makery staff can help you turn your vision and design into a tangible object using our 3D printers. Design or download your object file. We’ll use a program called Cura to convert that design file to a set of instructions that tell the 3D printer what to do.

The Makery has Fuse Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printers, which are the most common type.  We supply PLA filament and assistance with setting up the print.


All of the 3D printers in our spaces are first-come, first-served; reserving a 3D printer is not allowed. Furthermore, due to time it takes for most 3D prints to finish and the limited number of printers we have available, patrons may only use one printer at a time. 

Due to the high number of 3D printing requests and the range of user experience, prints that will take over 18 hours must be approved by a manager.

All prints must be recorded in the 3D Printing Log, via an online form. Prints not found in the log will be cancelled and disposed of.

We reserve the right to deny printing questionable and inappropriate objects, including: weapons, weapon replicas, weapon parts, drug paraphernalia, lewd or sexually suggestive objects, etc. 

More Information

Build Volumes

This describes the maximum size that can physically be printed, and is represented as “length x width x height” (or: x, y, z).  Note that materials supply, equipment availability, and/or time constraints may effectively limit the size of your print as much or more than the printer’s physical capacity.

  • Ultimaker S3: 9 x 7.4 x 7.9 inches
  • Ultimaker S5 & S7: 13 x 9.4 x 11.8 inches

Filament Types

We offer free 3D printing in PLA almost exclusively, and this is currently the only filament type you should assume we have in stock.  Projects requiring other filament types will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, are typically reserved for faculty projects, will require more planning with our staff, and you may need to supply the filament yourself.  The majority of our patrons’ projects are well-served by PLA.

PLA (polylactic acid) is the most commonly used filament at The Makeries and can produce strong, high-resolution prints. Note that finished prints will warp if exposed to high heat (i.e., left inside a hot car), and are too porous to be considered water-proof or food-safe.

Finishing a Print

We DO NOT remove support structure from prints started by patrons. 

Removal of PLA support structures can be done using either pliers or tweezers. If there are rough patches on the model after removal, sandpaper can be used to achieve a smoother finish. We have these tools available for your use in The Makery.

We have a large variety of acrylic paints available if you’d like to paint your prints.

Safety Considerations

Safety is the number one priority while operating and maintaining the Ultimaker 3D printers and finishing completed prints. 

Please keep all body parts and tools out of the 3D printer while it is printing or undergoing maintenance that requires parts of the machine to move. Do not touch the nozzle, build plate, or any extruded filament until it has completely cooled to avoid burns. 

Take precaution while watching prints closely, as hair, facial hair, clothing, and jewelry can get caught in moving parts and cause serious bodily injury in addition to damaging the printer. 

When removing support structure with sharp tools, never point the tools towards your body and always be aware of your surroundings so that you do not injure yourself or others. 

If using a filament type other than PLA, turn on the printer’s filtration system. If the printer does not have a filtration system, do not use any type other than PLA. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. “What are the settings I should use for [print]?” 

In general, a layer height of 0.15mm and an infill of 20% is sufficient for most prints. Finer settings and additional infill more often than not slow the printing process without providing any advantage.

Even if the model may not need them, it is usually preferable to add supports and to turn on the brim adhesion setting.  

2. “Can I print this [very large object]?” 

We encourage you to take advantage of the resources we provide! However, prints that will take longer than 18 hours must have prior approval by a manager. For class and research projects, we almost always approve the print. We often approve longer prints for personal projects, as well. Our goal is to provide equitable access to as many in the JMU community as we can.

3. “Can I print in [color]?” 

In general, a patron may only print using the colors or materials already loaded in each of our printers. Limiting the amount of material changes conserves plastic, reduces wear and tear on the machine, and increases the longevity and reliability of the printers.  There are many colors of paint available in the Rose Makery for coloring 3D prints, among other things.

If a specific color is required for the functionality of a print, please ask a manager for assistance. 

4. “Can I print in [other material]?” 

We use PLA almost exclusively. This choice was made to give all patrons a simple and consistent experience and to make regular maintenance more straightforward. We do have a small amount of other materials (such as flexible TPU, water-soluble PVA, etc.) available for special projects, but they often require radically different settings and a different workflow; consult with a manager if you’d like to use something other than PLA.

Starting a Print With Cura

Ultimaker FDM printers use a specifically designed slicing software called Cura. This software is installed on all of our workstation computers. In order to use Cura to slice a patron’s 3D object and begin a print, follow the steps below: 

  1. Check to ensure that there is a 3D printer available for use. 
  2. Remove the USB drive from the desired printer. 
  3. Start the Ultimaker Cura software and open the desired STL file(s). 
  4. Use Cura to adjust the printer and model settings. 
  5. Select the appropriate printer from the drop down menu in the top left. 
  6. Resize and move the model so it fits within the printable area. 
  7. Rotate the model as needed to minimize overhangs or maximize print quality. 
  8. Ensure that the model is touching the build plate using the “Lay Flat” function in the Rotate menu and checking the z-position in the Move menu. 
  9. In the upper right panel, select the layer height and infill percentage. In general, a layer height of 0.15mm and an infill of 20% is sufficient for most prints. 
  10. Click the appropriate checkbox to allow generation of supports. 
  11. Click the “Slice” button in the bottom right corner. 
  12. Check the Preview pane to ensure that the results appear correct. 
  13. Record the print in the 3D Printing Log using the online form.
  14. Save the finished file to the removable drive.
  15. Eject the removable disk and place USB drive in the printer. 
  16. Check to make sure there is at least enough filament on the spool to finish the print. 
  17. Find the file on the “Print” menu of the 3D printer and begin the print. The latest file automatically appears at the top of the list of prints.
  18. Wait a few moments for the bed and nozzle to heat up and for the print to start successfully. 
  19. Make a note of when the print will finish. You’re not required to stay for the duration of the printing. Prints can picked up during our operating hours.

3D Printing Terminology

3D printing is a very specific type of additive manufacturing process and as such, it uses some terms in a specific way that you may be unfamiliar with. Some of the most common ones you will encounter are listed below: 

  • Adhesion: In 3D printing, this term refers to how well the printed object stays attached to the build plate of the printer. Many slicing softwares (“Slicers,” see below) have built-in options to improve adhesion and prevent the final object from warping. 
  • Brim: A method to improve adhesion which adds several printed lines around the perimeter of an object’s first layer to increase the surface area in contact with the build plate. 
  • Extrusion: Refers to the action of feeding plastic through a heated nozzle of the desired diameter to make it malleable. 
  • Infill: Refers to the percentage of the inside of a 3D object which is solid. An object at 100% infill would be completely solid; objects with 0% infill will be hollow. 
  • Layer Height: Refers to the thickness of each horizontal layer the machine will print. This parameter is sometimes also known as resolution. Smaller layer heights will produce more detailed prints while larger numbered layer heights will lead to faster print times. 
  • Overhang: Refers to any part of a 3D object that extends past what is directly beneath it (imagine, for example, of the top parts of the letters T and Y). Different printers have different tolerances for what angles and sizes of overhang they can reliably print without support structures (see below). 
  • Raft: In 3D printing, this is another method to improve adhesion which prints a 3–4 layer thick, solid base underneath the entire printed piece. This method works best for objects with very few points of contact on the build plate. 
  • Slicing: In 3D printing, this term refers to the action of “slicing” a 3D object into discrete horizontal layers. This is typically done by dedicated software packages known as “slicers.” 
  • Support: This term refers to any structures that help print overhangs successfully and avoid printing “over thin air”. They can be procedurally generated by slicing software or added manually in 3D modeling environments. These pieces will generally be removed after the print is finished. 

For more detailed lists of terminology or related information, feel free to ask a manager or to explore articles on All3DP, a popular online 3D printing magazine. 

3D Printing Resources