Affinia 3D printer

3D Printing

3D printing is the process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file using a printer that extrudes plastic and other substances.

It is a rapidly evolving phenomenon that makes it possible to print 3D models of math concepts, reproductions of historical artifacts, and STEM projects.  The printer itself is like a tiny hot glue gun. It squirts molten plastic in the pattern directed by the computer program.

3D Printing at the Earl Center

The Earl Center has an Afinia H480 3D printer.   It can print various colors of plastic and can handle objects (or parts of objects) no larger than 5.5 inches.  We are happy to provide a demonstration or walk you through the entire process of creating objects.   It is not a fast process so you must allow time for it to complete.  The cost is $1 per hour of printing and can be paid for with Fenway Cash for students or departmental code for faculty.

How to Approach Your First "Print"

There are several ways to do it. 

You can read the following web article, 25 Websites To Download Free STL Models For 3D PrintersHere you will find a list of sites that provide models that other people have done that you can download and print or modify. is a good place to start . You can search to see if someone has uploaded something specific or you can browse to see what people are doing.  Browsing sites like Thingiverse will give you ideas for your own unique designs.

You can also make things from scratch. This entails learning a program like Sketchup or TinkerCad. has a list of 3D design software.   You start by making a virtual design of the object you want to create. This virtual design is made in a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file using a 3D modeling program such as Sketchup Make. The finished file is an .STL file. This file gets sent to the printer which then prints it.

You can download a free copy of Sketchup Make to use on your own computer.  

Wheelock College Library
132 Riverway, Boston, Massachusetts 02215

Earl Center for Learning and Innovation
180 Riverway, Boston, Massachusetts 02215