Design Futures Lab

Tips, Tricks & Helpful Links for 3D Printing

3D printing is a great way to transform your CAD drawing to a tangible 3D model. The following information will give you some helpful hints to make sure you get the best result from the 3D printers.

Design Considerations

We recommend using Solid Modelling programs such as SolidWorks and Fusion 360 for the best results. Rhinoceros and other surface modelling programs can also be good for creating models for 3D printing, but care needs to be taken to ensure the model is suitable. We experience a lot of problems with models created in Sketchup and suggest you do not use it. Staff are unable to help with these problems. If you persist with using it helpful tips can be found here.

An STL file is the standard file type used for 3D printing. It translates the surface of your model into a series of triangles. All CAD software should allow you to export your file into an STL. This STL file then gets converted into a G-code file, which will be read by 3D printers, through a process called slicing. Follow the steps below to export an STL file from your chosen CAD software.


File > Save As...

Set Save As... file type to STL

Options > Resolution > Fine (or Custom) > OK

Fusion 360

File > 3D Print

Under Refinement / Refinement options, select export settings.

Output > untick “Send to 3D Print Utility”


File > Save As…

In the Save As... box, select Stereolithography [*.stl].

> OK > Save

*Tips for 3D printing from Rhino can be found here. All parts of the model need to be ‘closed polysurfaces’ or solid shapes in order to print successfully.

The Design Futures Lab uses CURA to slice 3D models ready for 3D printing. CURA is free to download and will give you an estimation of how long your model will take to print.

You can scale, move, rotate, mirror or duplicate your models in CURA. Note that the orientation of your model can often determine how much support material is needed and how long it will take to print.

Print time can also be altered by changing the layer height, infill density and support material settings.


Common Terminology

Infill is the support structure that is printed inside of a closed model. Unlike other support material, it is not removed and cannot be seen once the print has finished. The infill percentage refers to the density of the support, with a high percentage resulted in a more ‘solid’ interior. A standard infill of 10% produces a satisfactory result whilst being significantly faster to print than a higher infill value. It is suitable for prototypes and display models.


Support material is printed to assist in printing any overhangs that are in the model. The support material is removed once the model is printed. Support material is usually required on parts of the model with an overhang greater than 45°.


A Brim adds a single layer of printed material attached to the base of the model to help it adhere to the bed and prevent warping. Other methods of bed adhesion include a skirt or raft but at the Design Futures Lab, we predominantly use a brim as it is easier to remove from the model once finished.


Learn more 3D Printing Terminology


Visit Glossary


At the Design Futures Lab we can print a range of different filaments. We provide white PLA filament as part of the cost ($3/hr). Other material can be used after discussion with DFL staff.

Common materials include:

PLA – the most common material for printing. Ideal for non-functional prototyping with sharp details. PLA comes in range of colours and textures. Also available is woodfill, metalfill, flexiblePLA and ColourChange PLA

Nylon – Strong and durable with some flexibility, great for functional applications.

PETG – Easy to print, with high strength and moisture resistance

TPU – A thermo-plastic elastomer with low hardness, excellent flexibility and a rubber-like feel.

Many other filaments are available. We recommend Esun, 3DFillies or Bilby3D as suppliers.

Please check with staff before purchasing to make sure the material can be used with the printers in the Design Futures Lab.