You’re probably wondering, is 3D printing really that easy? The short answer is no, and it’s certainly not for the impatient. The process is a DIY project at its most hardcore, one that often requires you to spend hours or even days troubleshooting and banging your head against a wall. For the sake of brevity, though, we’ve outlined an essential two-step method that likely goes into every 3D printing venture. We suggest locating the nearest hackerspace for a more involved guide, but if you don’t troubleshooting, keep reading.
Step 1: Design a 3D model. Websites such as Blender, Google SketchUp, and Tinkercad all offer free tools dedicated to designing and exporting 3D models. Alternatively, you can peruse the robust libraries of Thingiverse or 3D Warehouse for one of thousands of pre-made models designed and posted for your viewing pleasure. Afterward, you merely need to download the proper “coordinates.”
Step 2: Print the 3D model. After creating or downloading the “coordinates” for your design, you’ll need to send the information to a 3D printer to finish the process. The printer will then use a special thermoplastic to turn your virtual design into a physical model. Alternatively, you can use a service such as Sculpteo if you don’t posses a printer of your own. They’ll print and mail you your model for you.