3D Printing

Traverse Area District Library is excited to offer our patrons access to 3D printing technology. 3D printers are housed and on display at the district’s main library in Traverse City, but patrons across the district are welcomed to use the service. Whether you want to design an object of your own or just want to print one of the over 1 million items with plans available online, the library is ready to help make your wish a reality. Please review the list of frequently asked questions below and click here to submit a job for printing, or email your file, or a link, to 3d@tadl.org. Let us know if you have any questions about this new service.

Submit a 3D Print Request


Frequently Asked Questions

What is 3d printing?

3D printing is a manufacturing technique used to create a physical object from a 3D digital model. It works by layering multiple layers of melted plastic to build a shape.

There are two steps to the 3D printing process:

  • Digital design, in which the 3D digital model is created using design software.
  • Printing the actual object.

How do I get started?

  • Download a free ready-to-print 3D design through MakerBot’s Thingiverse community, or another online resource.
  • Create your own design using a Computer Assisted Design (CAD) software program. We recommend starting with TinkerCAD, a free browser-based program.

Where do I find models?

Pre-made model files can be obtained from these websites:

How do I make my own models?

The programs used are CAD based programs.  There are several free programs available that can be used online or downloaded to be used on a computer or mobile device.

TinkerCAD (Email Required)

SketchUp (Email Required)

3DC (Android, IOS

Blender (Computer Download)

OpenSCAD (Computer Download)

Sculptris (Computer Download)

Maker’s Empire (Android, IOS) (K-8)

How do I submit a print request?

You can submit a print request by filling out this form, or by emailing a file or link to 3d@tadl.org. We’ll contact you via email with any questions, and also to let you know how long it will take to print and to give you an approximate cost.

Accepted file type extensions are .stl, .obj, and .3mf. Our printers can accommodate files up to 25cm x 21cm x 21cm, but larger prints take a very very long time, and may be more sensitive to failure. We also may not be able to print objects that take longer than 12 hours to print.

Please familiarize yourself with our 3D Printing Policy before submitting a request.

Are there any things that can’t be printed?

Other than items prohibited by our 3D Printing Policy, we’ve had problems printing very small figurines, particularly those with flat bases attached. Our printers are FDM-style printers, which deposit molten filament material one layer at a time, building an object from the bottom up, while SLA printers use light (DLP or Laser) to cure a liquid resin, typically from the top down. Small figurines print much better on printers utilizing SLA technology. We may get one of these types of printers in the future. This article explains the difference between SLA and FDM pretty well.

What does it cost?

3D Prints will have a minimum cost of $1.00. Printed objects weighing more than 10 grams will be charged at a rate of 10¢ ($0.10) per gram.

What materials can be used to print?

While it is possible to 3D print with a variety of materials including wood, metals, and plastics, for now we are only supporting printing with PLA (polylactic acid, a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources). In the future we may expand our offering to include PETG, ABS, or flexible materials such as TPE or TPU.

Keep in mind that PLA material is not the strongest of plastics. It can be brittle and is prone to shattering if impacted (say, with a hammer). That said, if you care for your items (and don’t hit them with a hammer) they will be fairly sturdy, but not as sturdy as PETG or ABS, which are materials we hope to begin offering in the near future.

How will I know when to pick up my print?

We will email you when your item is ready to be picked up. Finished items can be picked up and paid for at the Circulation Desk.

Can I bring my file in to watch it print?

Unfortunately, no. Your print request may not be printed right away. Print requests are processed in the order in which they are received, and objects can take from 20 minutes to 12 hours to print. You will be contacted when your object is available for pick up. We do currently have one of our 3D printers set up in the Public Computing Center at our Main Library, and you are welcome to watch it print whatever it might be printing at the moment.