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3D Modeling and Printing

This guide provides an introduction to 3D printing resources and procedures at Temple University.

Getting Started

It is possible to generate a model for 3D printing in a variety of ways, including downloading existing models, scanning real-world objects or designing your own model.

Downloading Existing Models

There are a number of online resources for people to share, download, and even print 3D models:

The most common files for 3D printing are .stl and.obj (including color information for advanced printing). While there are sites to purchase 3D printable files, these sites listed below have robust communities that share their models for free:

  • Thingiverse is a forum to upload, share, and download 3D models for free (most protected by Creative Commons License). This is a great resource for 3D printing, as many of the models were designed with it in mind.
  • GrabCAD offers tools specifically for engineers to help collaborate on their 3D models. They have a great library of 3D printable files.
  • Institutions such as NASA and the Smithsonian (Si3D) provide the public with an assortment of 3D files from their collections.  A good tool for education.  
  • Sketchfab is a great source to upload and share 3D models in an interactive manner. Only some models are available for downloaded and intended for 3D printing  (those that aren't, might need additional modeling to fix design/mesh problems).  A useful tool for those interested in VR or 3D animation.

Scanning Real World Objects

If you'd like to produce a 3D model of an object that already exists, Photogrammetry and 3D scanners offer options, though models might need to be edited to fix design or mesh issues.

  • Photogrammetry is the use of photography to map and measure distances. Specialized software recognizes common points between photographs and generates a three-dimensional point-cloud that can then be used to produce a 3D-printable mesh. 
    • Recap (formally 123D catch), is Autodesk's photogrammetry software.  Free trials are available to download, but unlocking the programs full functions cost money to use.  
    • PhotoScan offers more functionality, though costs money. LCDSS computers have this software for community use.
  • 3D Scanning is the use of lasers or structured light to collect data on its shape and color.