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3D Printing at Education Commons: Print 3D

Printer Policy

The 3D printers at the Education Commons are available to the Penn community of students, faculty and staff. At present, we have one Makerbot Replicator and two Makerbot Minis. You can use the printers to make three-dimensional objects in plastic using a design that is uploaded from a digital computer file.

(The Biomedical Library has a Stratasys 3D printer - please see their 3D guide for details.)

I.  Our 3D printer may be used only for lawful purposes. No one will be permitted to use our 3D printer to create material that is:

  • Prohibited by local, state or federal law.
  • Unsafe, harmful, dangerous or poses an immediate threat to the well-being of others. (Such use may violate the terms of use of the  manufacturer.)
  • Obscene or otherwise inappropriate for the Library environment.
  • In violation of another’s intellectual property rights. For example, the printer will not be used to reproduce material subject to copyright, patent or trademark protection.

II.  Penn Libraries reserves the right to refuse any 3D print request.

III. Only designated library staff will have hands-on access to the 3D printer. This is not a self-service facility.

IV. At a later date, we do expect to make Makerbot Mini printers available for individuals to borrow for use in any of the spaces within the Education Commons.

How to print 3D@EC

What can I print? 

File Format 

To print a model on the Makerbot or Makerbot Mini, it must be exported as a Stereolithography file, with an STL extension (.stl).  Most CAD programs can save or export in this format, as can other free 3D modeling software packages, such as Sketchup Make, AutoCAD's 123D, TinkerCAD and Blender. The Makerbot software is available for use on several of the Macbooks at the Education Commons, as well as our video-editing workstation. You can download and install free Makerbot software on your personal laptop.


The 3D model must fit within the build envelope of the Makerbot or the Makerbot Mini.

Makerbot Replicator: The build volume is 9.9 x 7.8 x 5.9 in., and the minimum thickness of a layer is 100 microns (0.01cm), or 0.004 in, so the smallest features that will accurately be produced must be at least this value. It is recommended that part thicknesses be at least 0.254 mm or greater.

Makerbot Replicator Mini: The build volume is 3.9 x 3.9 x 4.9 in., and the minimum thickness of a layer is 200 microns (0.02cm), or 0.008 in, so the smallest features that will accurately be produced must be at least this value. It is recommended that part thicknesses be at least 0.254 mm or greater.


You can print in black, grey, white, red, orange, yellow, green, or purple.  However, the printer only works with one spool at a time, so in order to have a multi-color part you must design it in such a way that the colors will be consecutive. 

Additional colors are available from the Makerbot Store. If you'd like us to order another color for a specific reason, please email us at with your request details. Please provide advance notice for ordering processes.


Manifold or Watertight

The mesh or surface of the 3D model must be watertight and a solid. More technically, all faces of the object must construct one or more closed volume entities. When the faces are not fully closed, they produce gaps or holes in the model and those holes and gaps will keep the model from printing correctly.  

How much does it cost?


3D printing is currently available at no charge for Penn students, faculty and staff. (We may charge for supplies at a future date.)

Submit your Model

Printing an Object

When you are ready to submit your print request, please email your .STL file to with the subject "Pennkey_3dp_MM-DD". MM-DD stands for the month and the date on which you are submitting your files. Use the same naming convention to name your .STL file - "Pennkey_3dp_MM-DD.STL". Please note that your Pennkey is not your PennCard number, but the name portion of your email address!

Example:- Subject: "educom1_3dp_05-15"; STL files: "educom1_3dp_05-15.stl" or ""

After we have reviewed your file to ensure that it will print correctly, we will email you with an estimated printing duration and pickup time. We will do our best to print your object as soon as possible, but many people are interested in the printers and there may be delays. This is a pilot service and we will fine-tune details based on your feedback, so please let us know how this process works for you.