3d printing wiki

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Welcome to our 3d Printing Wiki.

Please read the following to ensure your 3d Prinitng experience is the best it can be. A lot of this information can also be found on Reddit. More information will be added on here from various sources around the internet. It is my intention for this 3d Printing Wiki to be the best on the internet. Thank you and enjoy.



Most 3D printers use a form of filament that is fused to a previous layer to perform additive manufacturing. 3D printing has been around for a very long time. Stratasys is one company that created FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) machines. Stratasys owns the trademark on FDM.

FFF, or Fused Filament Fabrication, is a more correct term for the printers you see today without any ties to a specific company and with no trademarks.





Even the smallest and slowest printers on the market can print practical items like a dishwasher wheel, a safety latch for the kitchen cupboard, or a replacement knob for appliances. Other small items for around the house can also be printed. Larger printers will allow for larger objects, but even the smallest printers on the market today have practical applications around the house, shop or office.


The 3D printing industry has somehow settled on two sizes of filament – both 1.75mm and 3mm filament is supported and offered by most filament producers. Generally, either size will work as expected in a machine that it was created for there may be a few factors to help you choose on a filament diameter if you’re building completely new.


3 mm

  • 3 mm is more rigid which can be beneficial with some exotic filaments, HIPS or flexible plastics
  • 3 mm print quality is less affected by diameter tolerances
  • 3 mm can extrude faster with the same extruder motor
  • 3 mm does not tangle as much

1.75 mm

  • 1.75 mm requires less force to push/melt, allowing for smaller/lighter extruders
  • 1.75 mm is more flexible, making it easier to use in Bowden designs
  • 1.75 mm has a higher surface/volume ratio, which allows for more uniform and faster melting inside the hotend
  • 1.75 mm may be more readily available in your area

Big-name printers and their diameter choice:

3.00mm 1.75mm 1.75mm
Ultimaker Makerbot MakerFarm
Lulzbot Printrbot MakerGear
Afinia Maker’s Tool Works
Up! Velleman
Solidoodle FlashForge
Type A Dremel

NEVER try to use the wrong size filament on your printer, even if you ordered the wrong one and always check which nozzle you have! 1.75mm will never work in a 3mm printer because it is too thin and could either jam or print very sporadically, on the other hand 1.75 in a 3mm can permanently damage your extruder!


Food safety is tricky. You’re not getting anything FDA approved off of a 3D printer.

Actual safety is a bit trickier. Keep in mind that anything on this wiki is conjecture and that the editors are by no means experts on the matter.

ABS plastic is generally food safe, but there are lots of additives to it that aren’t. There’s no real way to verify that any given filament manufacturer hasn’t added something dangerous, but the worst you’re probably going to get would be similarly dangerous to BPA or a mild carcinogen. If you purchase from a good supplies, odds are pretty good it’s pure ABS.

PLA is generally food safe and much less likely to have weird additives. Sadly you can’t use acetone vapour smoothing, and it’s thus less tenable.

The problem is that hobbyist (FFF) 3D printers create a rough semi-porous surface. Bacteria can live in those holes. If you’re using an FFF printer you need to run it through an acetone vapour chamber to seal up those holes. This presumably would result in a more appropriate surface finish, but rigorous testing on this has not been performed. If nothing else, the parts could be washed more easily after this treatment.

As for services like Shapeways or i.materialise, they mostly use SLS based printers. They don’t tell you what their plastic actually is, and it’s unknown how safe their surface finish is.

Shapeways offers glazed ceramics that they say is food safe.

PET/PETG is another good option if you are looking for a safe material, keep in mind though that you will still want to seal this after you print it to avoid bacteria growth.


Note: Since this portion of the wiki was written a new joint study has been conducted. Here is a link to the study and here is a link to a brief summary by hack-a-day.

The good news is that their recommendations largely match our previous wiki article, so no major revisions have been undertaken at this time.

The most common filament is ABS, and a common question is whether it is safe to use indoors. There has never been a study directly linking ABS use to adverse effects, and it is commonly used in a wide range of household products. However, Acrylonitrile, Butadiene, and Styrene are all either classified as carcinogens or mutagens. In other words doing things like breathing them on a regular basis over a long period of time is known to give you cancer or alter your DNA. To be fair, that is true of a lot of other things as well.

The thing that in our opinion could make this dangerous is that much like trees; waves at the beach; a pan full of olive oil; or Graphene; 3D printers create small particles called UFPs or ultrafine particles.1, Especially relevant are this passage:

One important limitation to this study is that we have no information about the chemical constituents of the UFPs emitted from either type of 3D printer, although condensation of synthetic organic vapors from the thermoplastic feedstocks are likely a large contributor (Morawska et al., 2009). In addition to large differences in emission rates observed between PLA- and ABS-based 3D printers, there may also be differences in toxicity because of differences in chemical composition. As mentioned, thermal decomposition products from ABS have been shown to have toxic effects (Zitting and Savolainen, 1980 and Schaper et al., 1994); however, PLA is known for its biocompatibility and PLA nanoparticles are widely used in drug delivery (Anderson and Shive, 1997 and Hans and Lowman, 2002).

And this one:


In this work, we present some of the first known measurements of which we are aware of UFP emissions from commercially available desktop 3D printers. Emission rates of total UFPs were approximately an order of magnitude higher for 3D printers utilizing an ABS thermoplastic feedstock relative to a PLA feedstock: ~1.9 × 1011 # min-1 compared to ~2.0 × 1010 # min-1. However, both can be characterized as “high emitters” of UFPs. These results suggests caution should be used when operating some commercially available 3D printers in unvented or inadequately filtered indoor environments. Additionally, more controlled experiments should be conducted to more fundamentally evaluate aerosol emissions from a wider range of desktop 3D printers and feedstocks.

The primary concern with ultrafine particles is not that they exist, but what they are made of. Any material that the human body is unable to metabolize properly could be dangerous if it becomes an ultrafine particle.

Also, it is relevant to note that printing ABS releases HCN (Hydrogen Cyanide) which is neurotoxic in humans when chronic exposure takes place.2 And:

The toxicity of ABS thermal degradation products has been evaluated by five methods … no apparent toxicological difference exists between the flaming mode and the non-flaming mode.3


Acute exposure to lower concentrations (6 to 49 mg/m3) of hydrogen cyanide will cause a variety of effects in humans, such as weakness, headache, nausea, increased rate of respiration, and eye and skin irritation. link

So if you get a headache when you print ABS, immediate changes are needed to ensure the safety of your air supply.

Some commercially available home air filters are effective in mitigating UFP and HCN exposure, but they are unlikely to eliminate exposure. 4,5

Since carcinogenic exposure appears to be more or less cumulative 6 we encourage everyone to examine this information and draw their own conclusions, but we highly recommend the use of outside ventilation, or a HEPA, FEF or ESP filter if outside ventilation is unavailable. We have not found any evidence suggesting that PLA is dangerous, though dyes and other additives in PLA filaments could put humans at risk.


  • If you use a 3D printer indoors vent the exhaust outside or get an air purifier.
  • It may be best to avoid non-biodegradable filaments.
  • These steps may not be necessary, but the health hazards involved could have severe repercussions for you and those around you decades from now.



/r/3Dprinting can be a pretty helpful community, but there are a lot of 3D printers out there and a lot of people need help. If think you are having electrical or mechanical issues with your printer check out the reprap troubleshooting wiki. You might want to double check either the troubleshooting guide or the Pictorial Troubleshooting Guidefrom the RepRap project, Ultimaker and Simplify 3D have also posted guides. It might also be best to check the help site or wiki for your specific printer or manufacturer.

If you are still unable to fix the problem, feel free to ask for help on /r/3dprinting, but when you ask for help provide us with as much information as possible about your printing setup and the issue you are experiencing.

A few ideas for good things to post include:

  • What kind of printer you’re using. (make and model if available, does it have a heated bed, etc.)
  • What kind of filament you’re using. (brand, diameter, composition, where you acquired it, etc.)
  • What settings are you using? (general settings like overall layer height and temps will usually be good enough to start, but a dump of your Cura or Slic3r settings won’t hurt.)
  • A way for us to examine the model that you’re having problems with. (where did you get it? provide a link, if you made it yourself can you share it on dropbox? etc.)
  • Are you using any special modifications or additives with the printer? (tape or hairspray on the bed, glass, etc.)


  • DeltaPrintr Mini: As the name implies, this hotend was designed from the ground up to be best suited to delta printer designs, though it is not limited only to such designs. An incredibly light, small hotend, it is well suited for any weight sensitive application. One of the quickest to heat designs, and capable of printing at up to 270C, the hotend sits right in the middle of typical temperature ranges. Fastens to the printer with two M3 screws, rather than the more typical groovemount used on other hotends.
  • DyzEND-X: Rated to sustained print temperatures of 500C, with an all stainless steel and titanium construction, the DyzEND-X is a durable hotend designed for abrasive and/or difficult to print with materials. Due to its construction, it is somewhat heavier than other hotends, and may take somewhat longer to heat up.
  • E3D V6: Rated to 300C with included thermistor or 450C with optional thermocouple. Whole ecosystem of add-ons and upgrades. Be sure to get an original E3D, clones may look nearly identical to the real thing, but are all but certain to be vastly inferior. The E3D features a modular design overall, with variants on the heat sink or heat block available to easily convert existing equipment to dual, or even quad-extrusion systems all in one integrated part. Also available is the Volcano attachment, which makes for a significantly longer heat chamber and can in some cases rapidly increase print speeds with its larger diameter nozzle orifice. Newer models have a silicone boot to keep the heat block and nozzle clean, as well as ensure temperature stability. The E3D v6 features a user-replaceable heat break that allows this part to be easily replaced in the event of damage, and also allowing further innovation using the E3D cold-end (see the Diamond Hotend).
  • E3D Lite6: Using a simplified design with a PTFE liner and a steel heatsink instead of an aluminum one, the E3D Lite6 is a low cost entry-level variant of the v6. Its design limits it to temperatures under 245C (as opposed to the 300-500C possible with the typical E3Dv6), it still functions well to print PLA, ABS, and other lower temperature materials. Also compatible with other E3D components, which means with only a few new parts the Lite can be upgraded to the full v6. The Lite6 heatsink and its heat break are a single unit, which means in the event of deformation, this unit must be replaced entirely.
  • Hexagon: Well respected all-metal hotend capable of reaching temperatures up to 300C. A silicone boot is included with newer Hexagon kits to avoid needing adhesives to secure any parts, and ensure temperature stability when a cooling fan is active.
  • Hexagon AO: Similar to the Hexagon, the Hexagon AO is a custom hot end co-designed by RepRapDiscount and Aleph Objects. It features a longer heat block, shorter cooling area, thermistor retention plate and ground screw lug. Used primarily on the Lulzbot line of printers by Aleph Objects.
  • Genuine J-head: Once the most popular hot end, production of this hot end has been stopped by its creator. Not all J-head hot ends are created equal – most products claiming to be “J-heads” now are clones, and universally considered inferior to a proper J-head. While reliable, the J-head can be seen as somewhat antiquated, due to its non-removable nozzle and average temperature range. A J-head is still a respectable, durable part, however, and if it is certified as genuine is still a viable option.
  • Pico: The Pico features all-stainless steel construction with a vertical heater cartridge, fiberglass covered connectors and is mostly a single piece (unlike the e3d and Hexagons which come in several parts that must be assembled). The Pico includes options for 300C or 500C operation when ordering.
  • DisTech Prometheus V2: The Prometheus is unique in that it was built to be as configurable as possible. The design of the hotend can be modified in many ways to facilitate working with specific materials. Because of this, the Prometheus design diverges in a few ways from typical hotend design. Its biggest difference comes in its nozzle design. Unlike most hotends, the nozzle and melting area of the Prometheus are a single, continuous unit. Also unlike typical hotends, the bodies of the nozzles grow longer as the diameter becomes wider, which allows for higher flow rate, and further customization.
  • Ubis: Printrbot’s line of hot ends. Available in both all-metal and PEEK variants, the Ubis hot ends are something of a self sustained ecosystem, used rarely outside of Printrbot machines. Several deviations from “typical” hot end designs exist, such as a ring shaped heating element as opposed to the more standard cartridge based systems, and completely different nozzle designs.
  • Diamond: The Diamond hot end is an innovative design for multi-color printing. Three E3D cold ends provide filament to a single hot-end, allowing colors to be selected during a print without using additional print tools.
  • Clones: These are very hit or miss, mostly miss. There are many clones available from various sources that often do not meet the quality or reliability of original equipment. Some hot end producers offer assistance in finding original equipment re-sellers, such as e3d’s Genuine Check Page, which allows one to check if a seller is certified by the company to be carrying their products. Otherwise, there is no real guarantee of the components working upon arrival, and support from the company will be sparse if problems arise.


A kilogram of plastic filament usually runs in the US$20~$40 range, depending on how the company arranges for shipping. One kilogram of 3 mm filament in PLA or ABS is roughly 100 meters long. PLA is 800 cubic centimeter per kilogram and ABS is 960 cubic centimeter per kilogram, so a cubic centimeter of plastic filament runs about US$0.04. Someone printed 392 regulation sized chess pieces on one kilogram of filament. That makes about US$0.08 per chess piece.

A cubic centimeter of SLS model runs about $1.40 in Shapeways’ most popular “strong white and flexible” material. If you make your parts hollow, you save a LOT of money on the design. Of course, Shapeways also offers sterling silver and other expensive exotic materials which cost more.

Also check out the Wikipedia article on 3D printing for more details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_printing


Generally, the term “printing” has come to be used for additive methods where the model starts with nothing and is built up layer by layer by converting raw materials into the finished shape; by contrast, “milling” techniques are subtractive and start with a solid chunk of raw material and any undesired material is cut away to leave the finished shape exposed


G-code is a file type that tells a printer what to do. Slicing software takes 3D files and turns it into G-code. If your printer uses something proprietary instead of G-code, then it’s much harder to troubleshoot and modify. You can’t benefit from future improvements to the software, unless the specific company you’re backing supports it. For example, this is on kickstarter right now. It’s not exactly useful, but it’s something new. For a more useful example, take a look at BotQueue, which lets you manage a bunch of 3D printers of the web. There’s also no gurantee your 3D printer will work with different types of filament or nozzle diameters unless it uses G-code, and you won’t be able to use things like the Universal Paste Extruder (a 3D printable extruder that uses icing) or upgrade your print to use multiple extruders.


  • FFF – filament deposition modeling or extrusion methods work like a hot glue gun: the printer melts a rope of plastic into a thinner rope of plastic, and lays that down on a flat surface, layer by layer, and allowing it to cool. This is the only real choice, unless you are willing to spend a lot of money. It’s a lot newer, the other technologies have existed since the 80’s, and the price is still about the same.
  • CJM – Color Jet Modeling (Full Color Printing). Using a gypsum based powder, layers are spread as thin as a human hair then a binding solution (clear or colored) is applied to fuse layers together every successive layer. Generally no support material is needed for this process and is one of the most popular full color options. Knows as Full Color Sandstone for it’s sandstone-like texture.
  • SLS – selective laser sintering or powder methods work by melting a layer of powder until the desired areas clump and fuse together, then a new layer of powder is added and the process repeated; when the print is finished, the part is removed whole from the bin of powder and cleaned. This is what websites like shapeways and i.materilize use. They’re a lot more expensive.
  • DMLS- Direct Metal Laser Sintering. Identical to SLS but uses metal and is currently one of the most expensive processes out there. Finished parts are 80-90% (roughly) as strong as cast or formed pieces.
  • SLA and DLP – stereolithography and digital light processing methods work similarly to the powder methods, but use a liquid resin or gel instead of solid granules.


The RepRap project at its heart is a community goal of evolving a 3D printing platform that can produce all or most of the parts to make another 3D printer. The only parts that don’t come from a 3D printer should be simple commodity hardware like threaded steel rods, motors and (for now) circuit boards. “In RepRap jargon, a vitamin (also called an imported part or non-printed part) is anything that you need to make a RepRap, which a RepRap cannot itself make.” A RepRap compatible printer means you can use existing software, and take advantage of improved algorithms as people make them. Some printers, like the Cube or “UP!” aren’t RepRap compatible, and you have to wait for the company that owns them to add new features to software, if they ever do.


Most FFF printers are essentially three-axis computer controlled platforms: the X, Y and Z axes are controlled independently. Delta printers work by triangulating a desired position between three upright shafts using three rigid arms that meet at the print head. At this stage, it’s pretty experimental but there seem to be build-height advantages to make up for the more complicated controller logic. The Rostock project was a pioneer in this area of development, but many derivatives have sprung up.


In FFF materials (filament), there are basically two main types. PLA and ABS. PLA is organic and can partially decompose, making it more environmentally friendly. It’s a new plastic, and for a long time it was more expensive. It also warps less on big prints. ABS on the other hand is derived from petroleum and needs to be recycled. It has some warping issues for big prints, but there are ways to deal with warping pretty effectively. It’s a bit stronger, and you can pretty easily create an acetone vapour chamber that will create a very nice surface finish.

There are a few novelty and specialty filaments out there, like Laywoo-D3, which prints to a wooden finish. They’re always more expensive, and should only be looked at if you need it in particular, not for general printing.

SLS granules have used a wide variety of materials from stainless steel to plastics to silica sand to gypsum. The Irish company Mcor has an SLS-like machine based on shredded paper fiber. Some of these printers can lay down colored materials based on the desired surface coloring patterns described in the model. If you’re buying a printer, you’re almost definitely buying an FFF printer. SLS printers cost thousands of dollars, compared to FFF printers $400-$2500 range.

It appears that most people start out with FFF type printers, and either buy a premade printer or printer kit, or collect parts themselves to get into a homegrown RepRap project. Which is right for you will depend on how much you want to start printing, and how much you want to start tinkering with printer technology. For most individuals, there’s no escaping the “tinkering” part: simple download-and-walk-away turnkey operation is still in the US$10,000.+ range of commercial printers, and these usually are SLS or SLA type machines and even then, service is still unavoidable.

In late 2012, MakerShed came out with a very useful Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing with helpful information about several commercially available premade or kit form printers.


Here’s a list of a few free software packages that are popular with some members of the community. Please note that each piece of software has trade-offs and each piece of software has its strong supporters and its strong detractors.

  • 123d – Free 3d modeling/design software by AutoDesk with a premium option. Has web based and client versions.
  • Makers Empire 3D – Free to use with a premium option. Touch-optimized software – usable by students as young as 4. iPad/Android/Mac/Win.
  • 3DF Zephyr – Premium 3D scanning software by 3Dflow (pictures to 3D model). Has a lite and a pro version. Free web version in beta (3DF Sunny).
  • Fusion 360 – Free CAD/CAM with premium option.
  • Blender – Open source modelling software that can be used for anything from animation to 3d printing.
  • DesignSpark Mechanical – Free to use mechanical modelling tool.
  • OpenSCAD – Open source syntax based modelling. (describe your model in a computer language, the computer renders it.)
  • Sketchup – Free to use with a premium option. Opinions are very polarized. You will either love it or hate it. Does not natively support STL’s.
  • TinkerCAD – Free to use web based editor with a premium option.
  • Sculptris – Free digital clay sculpting
  • Meshmixer – Free software to combine/modify models. Also generates custom support structures
  • Autodesk Inventor = Natively supports STL’s, but most often used for subtractive manufacturing methods.

Please note that this list is not intended to cover every modelling application, only those that are free and popular with redditors. If you want a more detailed list you can check out the reprap software list or head over to /r/3Dmodeling/


Thingiverse is by far the most popular source for 3D models online. Yeggi is a metasearch engine for 3d model sites.

Because of issues in the past concerning user rights, repositories potentially filing patents on user content and various other concerns many members of the community will recommend both posting and searching for 3D models in locations curated by the community.

Below is a list of repositories run by redditors:

One option that is currently in development by /u/traverseda is Rhombik.

A reddit-inspired repository and aggregator developed by /u/scoofy and /u/fruble is Bld3r.

Redditor /u/embodi3d has created a free library of anatomic and biological models at Embod3D.com.

For a list of repositories that are not run by redditors the RepRap foundation also maintains a list of printable part repositories that is frequently updated.

There’s also redpah, which maintains a reddit account named /u/redpah. It’s a marketplace, and expect you to purchase models. Or you can check the platform Cults., where you can find out some free and paid 3D models to print. Their Reddit account is available here too: /u/Cults3D. One other notable repository that is not run by a redditor is the US National Institute of Health repository.