The CRC group currently manages two FDM 3D printers, both housed in the Imaging Center. The Dimension SST 1200es is used exclusively for academic projects. Our newest printer, the Lulzbot Taz 6, is located in the Imaging Center Gallery, and is available to members of the Bates College community for both academic and personal projects.
Our 3D printers have been used to support multiple faculty projects, ranging from the creation of custom set pieces for the theater department to printing classroom models for the biology and chemistry departments, such as the Rhinovirus print shown here (created for Bio 314-Virology).
3D printing generally requires two different kinds of software. The first, CAD (computer-aided design) or 3D modeling software, is used to create the computer model that will be sent to the printer. There are many different software packages that can be used for this, but some of the most popular are AutoCAD (which is free for students and faculty), Rhino, and Blender (free & open source). If you are new to 3D modeling, Tinkercad is a good place to start. There are also many specialized modeling programs available, such as Chimera from UCSF, which is used to create molecular models.
It is also sometimes possible to 3D scan an object you would like to print, or to simply download a 3D model that has been created for you. There are an increasing number of model repositories online, such as MorphoSource, PDB-101, the Protein Data Bank, or Thingiverse.
The second type of software is responsible for taking the 3D model and preparing it so that it can be printed. The Dimension printer requires special printing software that is only available in the Imaging Center. The Taz 6 supports open-source printing software (Cura), which is available to users in the Imaging Center Gallery and can also be downloaded for free here: https://www.lulzbot.com/cura