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Innovation Space: FAQ

How much does it cost to have something 3D printed?

The Innovation Space charges $0.25 per gram of material used to complete your 3D print request for FDM printing, and $0.25 per gram for resin printing.

Making objects smaller or adjusting the infill (material used to fill the inside of objects) reduces the total material used, and reduces the cost.

The Innovation Space does not charge for failed prints.

The Innovation Space will email you an estimate of the cost of your requested job and to obtain clarification of your manufacturing needs before beginning the printing process.

3D print projects up to and including 25 grams of filament or resin will be available free of charge for items intended for research, education and patient care only.

Specialty filaments and resins not included.

What can 3D printers be used for?

3D Printers are flexible tools that have applications in a broad range of disciplines. However, there are two limitations concerning 3D printing; hardware limits, and creativity limits.

Hardware limits are the boundaries imposed by the existing resources of a lab and/or the state of 3D printing technology. Every 3D printing lab (including the Innovation Space) has a limited budget to acquire equipment and technology, and every lab is different. While one lab may have machines that can print in resin, another may specialize in biocompatibile printers. The Innovation Space at the Ginsburg Health Science Library is primarily equipped for rapid prototyping in plastics or plastic-like materials. As a prototyping tool, 3D printers allow people to rapidly manufacture custom parts and test them prior to sending them out for production. This can be done as swiftly as a designer can put their ideas into a CAD program. Prior to this one would have to create a design, send it to a fabricator, and have them design and custom mill injection molds or mill the part from large stocks of material. Using this traditional process can often cost designers hundreds to thousands of dollars and a great deal of time. 3D printers allow designers to make their creations in a matter of hours from the comfort of their own home or work, with very little personal cost.

While the Innovation Space offers an array of plastic types (particularly in conjunction with the Scholar's Studio at Main Campus' Charles Library, as well as the Digital Fabrication Studio at the Tyler School of Art), we are not currently equipped to mass produce 3D prints, create finished products (such as things made of biocompatible materials or metal), or fabricate parts that can be used inside a human body (3D printed materials are not approved by the FDA for internal use; please see our page).

Creativity limits are the boundaries imposed by one's capacity for coming up with novel solutions to problems and/or the state of 3D printing technology. As a still-emerging technology, many aspects of 3D printing are still developing. Experimentation is required in order to make the most of the technology, and overcome obstacles to 3D printing's usage in achieving individuals' goals. The in-flux state of 3D printing makes the ability to improvise paramount. Often projects fail or succeed based on the participant's ability to think critically and create original solutions to problems no one else has yet faced.

Right to Refuse, Privacy, and Guidelines

The Innovation Space at Ginsburg Health Sciences Library reserves the right to refuse any 3D print request.

The Innovation Space's 3D printers may be used only for lawful purposes. No one will be permitted to use the Library’s 3D printer to create material that is prohibited by local, state or federal law, obscene or otherwise inappropriate, or in violation of another’s intellectual property rights. For example, the Innovation Space's 3D printers will not be used to reproduce material subject to copyright, patent or trademark protection.

Prints utilizing patient CT scans MUST be anonymized before Innovation Space staff will proceed with a request, in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA).

Only designated Library staff will have hands-on access to the 3D printers.

Can I create 3D prints designed to be implanted or used inside people?

3D printing has NOT been approved by the FDA, and therefore the Innovation Space at Ginsburg Health Sciences Library does not approve prints intended as implants or for internal body use. 3D printed objects are for prototyping purposes only. Patrons who use 3D printing for clinical applications are solely responsible for following appropriate safety protocols.

Can I print objects explicitly designed to cause harm?

As part of the medical community, the Innovation Space at Ginsburg Library has an obligation to do no harm. This extends to 3D printing. The Innovation Space reserves the right to refuse to print and/or dispose of any requests that they believe are intended to hurt others.

Where can I find models for 3D printing?

Often the best place to start with 3D printing is by printing an existing model. The best place to look for models already available is online. Try some of these sites to get started:


NIH 3D Print Exchange

Embodi 3D

*Protip* - When looking for a 3D model to print, not all existing models have been tested. It is best to choose one that has already been printed by others (known as "makes"). A good place to discover whether a model has been printed before is in the comments section for that model. People will often describe difficulties they had while printing, and will help you determine the best models to meet a particular goal or objective.

How can I submit a 3D printing request?

Submitting a request is simple, no emailing, no phone calls, only a brief online form that can be found at the link below.

3D Printing Request Form

It is important that you remember to include a link or upload the file you wish to print prior to submitting the form. After the form has been submitted you will be contacted by Ginsburg Library staff to acknowledge your request and inform you of your position in the queue. Please be aware that 3D printers generally take a considerable amount of time to build models, and that your print will take time to make dependent on the material, size, and complexity. We will do everything we can to expedite the process; however, it is your responsibility to adhere to any deadlines you may have. Submit your requests with plenty of time to spare.

How can I prepare 3D models myself?

You may find that you hit a point where printing out other people's work is no longer an option. Now what? The answer is to create your own models. There are three basic steps to the process. If you would like a more thorough walk through of this process, please refer to our tutorials page.

Step 1- Identify the Problem

Necessity is the mother of invention. When you cannot find an existing model to suit your needs, you will need to either modify a model or create one from scratch. The ability to design and create physical artifacts to custom specifications is the true power behind 3D printers. Identify your exact problem - is the model not detailed enough? Do all of the pre-existing models have extraneous parts that you do not want to include? Is there simply no pre-existing model that meets your needs? Then spend time brainstorming how it can be resolved. Draw pictures, sketch out preliminary designs, take measurements, and finally draw up a prototype.

Step 2- Design

You have identified your problem, sought a solution, and put your solution on paper. Now its time to design your prototype. In order to do this choose a 3D design software program to create the digital model. A list has been provided below. It is advisable to choose a software and familiarize yourself with the 3D design program by utilizing our tutorials,, and internet communities. Some software packages are good for one application but bad for others; Innovation Space staff can help you choose the program that fits your needs.

Tinkercad - Freeware - Browser interface, simple to use, streamlined for performance. Limited in functionality. Good for models with simple geometry (90 degree angles, simple curves, etc.). Not good for artistic purposes.

Google Sketchup - Freeware - Drafting software, simple UI, lots of functions. Great for architectural design and designs that require a high degree of precision.

Autodesk Inventor - Free Student License - Assembly CAD software. Complex UI, high degree of functionality, full assembly design (design a machine with every individual part ex. and engine or gear box).This tool is for engineers. If your desired print is mechanical and requires multiple parts, this is the program for you. It is also a wonderful tool to use if you intend to patent your designs because entire assemblies can be exported straight to technical drawings that are required when submitting a patent. This program has a steep learning curve from other 3D design software options, requiring more time and research for users to become familiar with its ins and outs.

Autodesk Mesh Mixer - Freeware - Simple to use, versatile tools developed specifically for 3D printing. Can do everything from creating 3D models to cleaning up unprintable files. This program is in many ways a prototyper's swiss army tool.

Autodesk 3DS Max - Free Student License - Advanced software for 3D modeling. More tools than you will ever need. Designed to allow 3D modelers to have full control of their meshes. Good for artistic modeling, but also good for architecture and precise models.

Blender - Freeware - Advanced software for 3D modeling. More tools than you will ever need. Designed to allow 3D modelers to have full control of their meshes. Good for everything, very similar to 3DS Max.

Autodesk Maya- Free Student Licenses- Advanced software for 3D modeling. More tools than you will ever need. Designed to allow 3D modelers to have full control of their meshes. Very good for animation and developing complex meshes.

Step 3- Printing, Testing, Iteration

Once you have a model you are happy with, it is time to export it to a .stl file format and submit your request. Once submitted, Innovation Space staff will communicate with you via email, checking to make sure that there are no potential issues with printing your design due to hardware limitations. Innovation Space staff will also provide you an initial estimated cost for your request, as well as give you an estimated timeline for completion of your print. Innovation Space staff will work with you to test your solution, iterating until a result satisfactory to you is reached.

How can I use the resources of the Innovation Space in a relevant way?

Due to the flexible, still-evolving state of 3D printing, the limits of the technology is largely up to the users. Here are some applications we have seen:

Orthopedics: Doctors and researchers can take CT scans of patient's bodies isolate skeletal structures of interest and 3D print them. 3D printed models like these have been used to give physicians a much better look at what is happening under the skin than they would have received by studying 2D slices from the scans.

Cardiology: Scans can be taken of patient's hearts prior to surgery, these scans are then made into an ultra accurate printed model of that patient's heart. This allows the surgeons to practice on the next best thing, identify unforeseen issues, and educate their patients.

Dentistry: Accurate models have been made of human jaws allowing a cheap and plentiful model for students to practice and study with.

Research: Researchers designing assays for their studies have used 3D printers to prototype and implement custom lab equipment in their research. Those working with animals have designed and created restraints for lab animals. 

Biology: Students have utilized 3D scanners to take high resolution scans of animals, then using 3D animation software to rig the models with accurate joints. Doing this allowed students to create realistic decoys, realistic enough to fool predators.

Recreation: Some of our more creative patrons have used the 3D printers to produce pieces for board games like Settlers of Catan, or create miniatures of characters and environments for Role Playing Games like Dungeons and Dragons.