A traditional computer printer involves the user inputting a digital file into software, which then generates a series of instructions and transmits them to a machine (the printer), which interprets them to create a physical copy of that file. 3D printing is similar to that, except that the end product is a three-dimensional object.

The basis of a printed 3D object is a model created using computer-assisted design software (“CAD” for short). It contains numerical data describing the object’s width, height, depth, and overall shape. To prepare it for printing, another program divides the model up into thin layers or “slices” before sending it to the 3D printer. The printer then uses heated plastic filament to draw a two-dimensional shape onto a gradually descending surface, building it layer upon layer into the final product.

The 3D printers at Glencoe Public Library exclusively use Polylactic Acid plastic filament, otherwise known as PLA. Derived from corn starch, tapioca root, or sugarcane, this polyester is a popular material in 3D printing due to its safety and ease of use. PLA can be recycled and will biodegrade under certain conditions, which makes it useful for rapid prototyping and outdoor applications (such as agriculture). When heated, as in 3D printing, PLA emits a mild, inoffensive, syrupy aroma.

Glencoe residents in good standing with the library may submit designs in .STL format using the form provided below. All submitted designs must abide by the library’s guidelines for 3D printing. See policy listed above for more info.

Items will be scheduled for printing on a first-come-first-served basis. If your item cannot be printed as submitted, you will be notified and advised of possible corrections to the design.

When your print is complete, you will also be notified, and the item will be held for you at the circulation desk for two weeks. Any prints unclaimed after that time window become property of the library.

How 3D Printing Works

The Dremel 3D Idea Builder is a 3D printer that turns digital models into physical objects. Once a 3D model is designed or scanned, and converted to a .STL file, you can use Dremel 3D software to build the model on your Idea Builder. Using the 3D model as its map, the 3D printer lays down the first thin layers of a filament called PLA, a plant-based, recyclable form of plastic. The layers of filament stack up one by one until – ta da! – a complete physical object is formed.


Lynda, which can be accessed through our website (library cardholders), features several videos and tutorials concerning 3D modeling and printing.
TinkerCAD – a web-based program which is very simple to use and features several excellent tutorials for beginners. For additional features and functionality, try its downloadable cousin 123D Design.
Meshmixer – This program is useful for evaluating your designs for stability and adding support structures if needed.
Sculptris – A slightly more artistic approach to 3D modeling. Whereas programs such as TinkerCad use basic geometric shapes as building blocks for your designs, modeling with Sculptris is more akin to shaping a piece of virtual clay. If you have an iPad or Android tablet, you might also be interested in 123D Sculpt, which has a similar functionality with an interface designed for touchscreens.
Free shape depositories
My Mini Factory
Smithsonian X 3D— Iconic Smithsonian collection objects
NASA 3D Resources— 3D models, textures, and images from inside NASA