Once you have a 3D model file (.stl or .3mf) of the item to be printed, you’re ready to print it. If you don’t have a model file, learn how to create or download one on our page.
What you do next depends on your 3D printer and the software that comes with it. The main steps are:
! . Turn the 3D model into a set of simple step-by-step “g-code” commands that your printer can understand.
Your 3D masterpiece is “sliced” into tens or hundreds of thin layers. For each layer, a slicer program generates 100’s of “g-code” commands telling the 3D printer exactly what to do (move here, draw a line of plastic, move, draw another line, move up a little and do the next layer).
! . Get the g-code file to the printer and have it print the item.
Some printers connect directly to the computer. Once the g-code file is created, it’s sent directly to the printer thru a USB cable or over WiFi.
Other printers use a memory card like the one pictured here. You save the g-code file on the memory card and then insert the card into a slot in the printer. A small control panel on the printer allows you to select the g-code file to print.
Your 3D printer will include recommendations on which program(s) to use and instructions on how to go from an .stl file to a completed print.