Archive for the ‘Tips and Tricks’ Category


When you get a new 3D printer using the most common FDM technology such as the MakerBot Replicator 2, one of the first things you will notice are the instructions on how to level the build plate. Doing a correct leveling adjustment of the build plate is one of the key factors in getting a good 3D print, as if the distance between the extruder’s nozzle and the build plate is not right you may have all kinds of trouble when trying to print. Most of the more affordable 3D printers that use thermoplastic material for printing do need manual build plate leveling adjustment from the user and the manufacturers of these have thought of various ways to make it easier for the users to do the calibration. There are also some newer more expensive printers that have automatic mode for leveling the build plate, but that may not always work great, although it may sound as a good idea to have as a feature. Normally you will level the build plate before the initial use, but you may also need to do some readjustments after printing several 3D models on the device – this depends on the 3D printer and what you are printing on it.

So what are the symptoms of the build plate not properly leveled up? There are two common ones, depending if the printing nozzle is too high from the build plate or if it is too close to the build plate. If the printing nozzle is positioned too high from the build plate the thing that you will observe while trying to print a 3D mode is that the extruded material will have a hard time sticking to the base. And if the first layer cannot stick to the build plate, then there is not chance for the printer to print a proper 3D model. The other problem that you might have is if the printing nozzle is positioned too close to the base, this will cause the extruded thermoplastic to stick to the nozzle instead to the built plate. If the build plate is properly leveled you should have no trouble with the printing of the first layer, it should stick well to the base and should look squashed and not round on top (a sign that the nozzle may be a bit higher than needed). So make sure that you have the build plate properly leveled up before starting to print, especially if you haven’t used the printer for a while.


There are multiple specialized websites that serve as communities for users making 3D models for printing on 3D printers to share their work, some are freely available, and others offer their work for a price and you can even order the model to be printer and sent to you as well. If you are interested in downloading some free STL models for trying out your new 3D printer then you might want to check the following popular websites as a good starting point…

Thingiverse – a large community operated by MakerBot, a manufacturer of 3D printers, where you can find a lot of 3D models shared by users and available for free download in STL format. There are a lot of new 3D models added every day and many of the published models come with instructions and photos of successful prints, though be careful that even if some models may be available for download in STL format they may not be optimized for 3D printing and may need some extra work fixing them, but these are usually not many.

Youmagine is an alternative to Thingiverse, also operated by a 3D Printer maker – Ultimaker. Not as big as the first one, but also a good place to check often as it has some interesting designs and also apparently some of the Thingiverse users have decided to move here. Not as many new models added and users interacting and sharing photos and comments when printing an object, but the place has the potential to grow.

Cubehero is another smaller platform made to help 3D printer users to interact and collaborate on projects they are making. This project is not operated by 3D printer maker and while there are still not that many projects available, you can still find some interesting 3D models, so do check it out.

GrabCAD is not your typical place to just download free STL 3D models for printing, it has many CAD models a lot of which are also available in STL format, but not all are. You can download 3D models in other formats and also try to convert them in STL for 3D printing, but you may experience trouble with more complex ones. Nevertheless many interesting things available so do check the website out.

SketchUp 3D Warehouse is the place for 3D models for the SketchUp software previously owned by Google, but then sold to Trimble. There are a lot of SketchUp models available, though you will need to export them in STL format from the software with the help of an STL Import/Export plugin and then to print them.

TurboSquid is one of the largest 3D model resources, both free and commercial ones. Even though the 3D models available there are not specially designed for 3D printers you should be able to convert many of them into STL format and then print them.

There are other smaller resources available providing some free STL models for 3D printers as well as other 3D models not designed especially to be 3D printed. The good news is that if it is a 3D mode of something you may be able to convert it to an STL file and print it on your 3D printer. This process however could not be as easy as just opening a 3DS, DXF, OBJ or another file format and exporting it as STL model and may require some more extra work, so if you are still new to 3D printing you might want to stick for now to places that have free 3D models available in STL format to make your life easier.