3D Printer

Over the years that I’ve been futzing with 3D printing and laser cutting, I have amassed a list of sites that are useful in some fashion.

Some offer designs in various formats for download, others are commercial sites form which one can purchase consumables (or devices), and others are just tutorials or collections of information that provide inspiration.

As this is a living list, I have pushed it from being a folder in Safari to a document stored in GitHub.

This information, along with other “makeables” sort of stuff can be found in my GitHub repository.

Laser Cutter & 3D Printing Resources

A collection of sites and resources that I've found somewhere between interesting and invaluable to my adventures with 3D printing (an Ultimaker Original) and laser cutting with a Glowforge.

This is a living document. Bits will go out of date. New bits will be added.

In no particular order.

Price column meaning is as follows. Read the terms carefully. Always double check the licensing before selling anything!!

Price Meaning
Free Totally free.
Personal Free for personal use. Commercial licenses may be available.
Commercial Need a license to do anything with it.
Varies Licensing varies for each asset.

Some sites have a mix of licenses.

Designs for Download

Site Licensing Description
The Noun Project Personal Incredible HUGE collection of icons. Both bitmap and vector (SVG). Very reasonable personal subscription price & commercial licensing.
Thingiverse Varies Huge collection of models and designs. Mostly 3D printing but lots of laser cutting stuff, too
Free Picture Stencil Maker Free Turns images into stencils. Rest of site is a for-pay collection of tools.
Public Domain Files Free Tons of public domain fonts, clip art, and artwork of varying quality.
Open Clip Art Free Tons of public domain clip art.
Illustrations, Vector Graphics & Clipart Personal Lots of high quality graphics. Typically free for personal use with commercial licenses available
Obrary Varies Interesting, varied, collection of designs. Includes both finished designs and various templates and swatches. Checkout the living hinge swatches and the laser cutter engrave calibration plates.
Snowflake Generator Free Generates SVG snowflakes! Incredible for quickly generating a ton of interesting snow flakes for the annual ornament rush!
Jigsaw Generator Free Generates a jigsaw SVG. Lots of parameters for controlling generation. Engrave and add this on top? Instant jigsaw!
Make a Box Free Makes simple boxes assembled with tabs.
SVG Repo Varies Huge collection of mostly entirely free SVG files. Mostly icon sort of things.
Makercase Free Generates various sorts of boxes (and 3D printed marble runs). Basic, but useful.
Boxes.py Free Incredible assortment of various box, tray, drawer, and other generators. Lots of knobs available to control exactly what is generated.
Elliptical Box Maker Free Makes elliptcial boxes. Inkscape extension.
Vector Ruler Generator Free Generates SVG rulers!
Tabbed Box Maker Free Inkscape plugin for creating tabbed boxes.
templatemaker.nl Free Really interesting templates targeting folding paper. Applicable to laser cutting.
Rasterbator Free Wall art generator.
Maze Designer Free Laser cut 3D maze designer.

Material Sources

Site Description
Ocooch Hardwoods Lots of wood with many specifically rated for use in a laser cutter.
MatterHackers Excellent source for mostly 3D printing machines and consumables. Their education section has an incredible collection of knowledge.


Site Description
Designing a Laptop Stand with F360 A fantastic, easy to understand, tutorial showing how to use Fusion 360 to create a laptop stand. The skills within are applicable well beyond just a plan old laptop stand.
Intricate Wood Inlays Made Super Easy Learn how to make wood inlays with a laser cutter.
Pen Plotter Art & Algorithms A neat toolkit for generating plotter art. Since plotter art is really just SVG vector art, it works great on a laser cutter, too!
The Ultimate Guide to Laser-cut Box Generators An inventory of box generators. Some of which were mentioned above.
Laser Artisan A slew of demo videos of someone designing and asemblying various laser cutter based projects. Great inspiration.
The Wood Database A database of all kinds of wood.
The KnotPlot Site Free

Redesigned Keyboard Cap

v1.0, pictured below, proved lacking.

v2.0, in red, appears at the left.

The size difference between the end cap and the bit that rests against the end of the keyboard was widened considerably. The old piece would slip over the keyboard and the closed end would activate the power button. The open end combined with the wider overhang, seems, so far, to be a better, more durable, design.

Yes, my printer’s belts need to be tightened.

Thingiverse Updated.

Apple BT Keyboard End Caps

Recently, I’ve been carrying an Apple Bluetooth Keyboard with my iPad mini so I can compose relatively long emails. Nothing beats a keyboard for text entry!

While I love the keyboard, it does have an annoying habit of turning on when floating about my murse.

A few minutes in Autodesk Inventor Fusion and I whipped up some printable caps that slide over the ends of the keyboard. The cap protects the power button from accidental activation (there are two styles of caps, one more defensive than the other) and by placing a cap at both ends, they can be left in place while using the keyboard and it remains level.

The STL files and some more photos can be found on thingiverse.com.

Aside: I clearly need to reprint that piece. I had some schmutz on the print bed, leading to the end not being smooth. That and it looks like my belts need tightening. I’ll switch colors to clear and re-print someday soon.

Aside^2: Something snapped in my brain since the last time I messed with Inventor Fusion. In particular, I went from nerver using to completely embracing the construction feature. Basically, construction allows you to place axis or planes relative to features on the model. Thus, if you want to bisect the model to, say, make the inside wall of a tube a bit fatter for a few millimeters near the end, you simply place a plane parallel to the end face, offset a few millimeters into the tube and then bisect the model with the plane.

Since picking up an Ultimaker nearly a year ago, I’ve printed many things (and wrote a very well received article for Make: Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing).

These are many of them and some lessons learned from each.

Printed Ornaments

Koch Snowflake Tree Ornament Baubles

This is Thingiverse Object #35561.

Every year, we have an annual ornament exchange in our neighborhood. Last year, I used EMSL’s Egg-Bot to create an Eichler themed ornament.

This year, I started down the path of custom designing an ornament for printing, but grabbed the Koch snowflake baubles from Thingiverse.

Lesson Learned: Design software is hard to use. 3D design software is harder. You’d think a simple circle with some stars and words extruded in 3-space would be easy to do. Still, people totally dig the unique texture and shapes of these. In hindsight, I probably should have used Inkscape (awful, but works and is what is used for the egg-bot) to do a 2D design and then extrude that.


Update: Thinking about it for just a moment, I realized the print quality would likely be higher if I printed in “launch position”. Doing so would greatly improve the wing quality while also, hopefully, improving tail quality in that there would be fewer really small layers (that cause the print head to slow way down, causing blobbing). The disadvantage would be a lot more support material, especially around the engines, and, thus, a potentially difficult, if not destructive, post print cleanup.

And it worked! I only lost one control jet off the back during cleanup, even!

There are more photos of the final printed piece and of the print in progress in my Flickr feed (link goes to a photo in the middle of the set).

I remember watching the first Shuttle launch way back in 1981. If you’d told me then that I’d be casually printing a small copy of the Shuttle on my own personal 3D printer 32 years later, I might have thought you were crazy. Or, at 11 years old, I probably would have have asked, “Why so long from now?”

3D Printed Shuttle

NASA has kindly dumped a treasure trove of 3D models available for free download.

Obviously, these beg to be printed. Doing so is a matter of jumping through a couple of file conversion hoops. The files start out as Autodesk 3DS files.

Meshlab can be used to import said files and then export them to STL. You might need to do some mixup after. Using netFabb, I found several errors in the model’s geometry and fixed it. I believe Meshlab can do the same, but I’m not familiar enough with the tool

Slicing for printing is tricky. The models give zero consideration, no surprise, for 3D printing. In fact, they are entirely sub-optimal for printing. For example, the shuttle’s cargo bay is empty, leading to a bit of a support mess, and it would print much better if the wings sat flat on the print bed. Thus, even the simple Space Shuttle model has a curved bottom. You’ll probably want to enable support when slicing. Some of the models, like the lunar landers, are unlikely to be able to be printed using an extruded plastic printer without support material that can be dissolved away afterwords (i.e print in PLA or ABS with PVA support material.

As a first print, I sliced using Cura with 20% infill, 0.2mm layer height, and support material turned on. It actually turned out better than expected!

After a while with the Ultimaker, a series of notes on the various things one can do to tune the 3D printing experience.

Some of this is specific to the Ultimaker, but most of it is not. Much of this is personal preference and, frankly, there is probably some stuff in here that is wildly sub-optimal. But, hey, it has worked for me and it worked better than it did when I started.

I.e. feedback and corrections are quite welcome!

First, a note on consumables. I have stuck with PLA (polylactic acid) exclusively. It is a plant derived material that requires a lower temperature and is quite thoroughly non-toxic (there are lots of articles about fume-venting ABS… not so with PLA). As well, when I screw up — which is often — the resulting garbage is biodegradable (however, I’m donating my “pile of PLA” to someone who needs input into a PLA scrap-to-usable-filament project).

PLA also doesn’t require — though it can benefit from — a heated print bed. ABS, the other common material, seemingly really does (though one can live without).

Thus, these tips are optimized to PLA.

These tips are also somewhat ordered in the steps that they should be done to maximize benefit. In some cases, that is because the earlier steps have a bigger ROI than later ones. In others, it is simply that the later steps really require the earlier steps first.

Evolution of a Design


When I started this, as can be seen in the image at left, the case was two parts that fit together in a semi-complex manner (Actually, the very first version just had a little plastic square that covered the AVR, but nothing else). It was hard to print with any quality and, frankly, the front looked awful. So I simplified it such that the IR LED could stick out a small hole, as seen in the middle. But then it dawned on my that the translucent plastics might just be transparent enough to IR that no hole was needed at all.

And sure enough, it just worked!

Thus, the design is now even simpler (assuming you have translucent filament).


Both professionally and as a couch surfer, I’ve found myself interacting with a great deal of devices that can be controlled via infrared remotes. Often, remotes lost in the depths of a couch or misplaced in the fridge (it happens). Clearly, I needed an IR blaster that could be controlled from a computer to both eliminate the “losing the remote” problem and to integrate control of multiple devices into a single UI. Conveniently, Arduino micro-controllers with integrated USB ports are commonly available and quite cheap. Adding an IR LED to an Arduino is trivial, as the ever popular TV-B-Gone project demonstrates.

Thus, the Teensy IR Blaster was born. I started with the Teensy v2.0 AVR-based micro controller that includes USB support. It unofficially supports Arduino using the Teensyduino extension. To this, I added Ken Shirriff’s IRremote library modified fro the Teensyduino environment and

Out of the box, the Ultimaker shipped with a stable, but relatively ancient, version of the firmware. This, combined with the stable, but relatively ancient, version of ReplicatorG available from the Ultimaker site was sure to produce useful prints with a relatively minimal of fuss, but nothing that remotely approaches either the blazing speed or amazing quality possible from this printer.

To achieve that requires some significant upgrades to the software stack. And, in some cases, it requires outright replacing some of the pieces entirely.

While this writeup is specific to the Ultimaker, there is a lot of general knowledge in here, and the various bits of software are largely universal to a number of printers. When my Printrbot shows up, I’ll write a revised version specific to that printer while generalizing this a bit.

Note that this is all moving very quickly. When I first wrote this, it required about 3x more steps and was considerably more fragile. It is improving rapidly! However, there is still a long way to go before any of this is easy.

Note: At the time of writing, you need to perform both of these upgrades simultaneously. ReplicatorG really does’ want to talk to the new firmware (of course, by the time I write this, it’ll likely be fixed).

This is a short video of the printing of an Octopus I’ve been using as a test model. The Ultimaker is printing at 250% of normal speed. I started at 100% for the first layers until a solid base was created and then cranked the speed to 250%. It could go faster, I think.

At that speed, the quality of the print suffers a bit. I believe, is mostly due to slop in my belts. I need to print some belt tensioners which will take up the slack nicely.

The print quality is both better than the out of the box experience and tons faster.

This is the result of a combination of upgrades:

  • Upgraded the Ultimaker’s firmware to the latest beta version. It has all kinds of features that enable both higher quality and higher speed prints.
  • Upgraded to using Pronterface to send the G-Code to the printer. It allows for communication at 250kbaud and doesn’t periodically pause like Replicator-G does if you forget and leave the temperature monitor panel open.
  • Moved to using SkeinForge-48 as the slicer.

All three of these tasks were a downright pain to do. All three have been written up in another post.

For now, enjoy some 3D printer music….


Some build notes from my Ultimaker build experience…..

Overall, it took me roughly 4 days to build the Ultimaker. The first two days were a couple of long stretches and the last two were much shorter. Tuning the device to yield usable prints has taken a bit more time, too, and I still have a long ways to go.

At left is a print made using the default firmware with relatively default settings in ReplicatorG. Stringy as heck, but otherwise quite good! Software and hardware tuning are reserved for another article.

This is some random build notes from the build and roughly correspond in order to the assembly instructions themselves.

By and large, assembly was relatively straightforward. The only real disaster I had was with the cooling fan used on the extruder. When I tried to mount it, it shattered — literally disintegrated into dozens of pieces — in my hand.

The Ultimaker arrives in a surprisingly small, heavy, box. No surprise; wood is heavy and the Ultimaker is largely a wooden box with some very crafty electronics built into it. Frankly, the laser-cut wood based construction is, in and of itself, a bit of a hobbyist kit revolution. Wood is cheap and very strong, yielding kits that can be quite precise, extremely durable, and still remain accessibly affordable.

Random notes below the fold…

Stack Exchange Q&A site proposal: 3D Printers, Laser Cutters, & Personal Manufacturing

The stack exchange sites have a proposed site for all things 3D printing, rapid prototyping, 3D scanning, etc…

If you have a 3D printer, have expertise in this area, or have technical interests/questions, please commit to the site and participate.

StackOverflow — a site I’ve been active on for a few years — has been an unbelievable asset to the software development community and there is even reason to believe it will be an equally as huge asset to the rapidly evolving manufacture-at-home market.