Guide to your new 3D Printer

Guide to Your New 3D Printer

When Daniel Zeiger walked into my office with a new 3D printed prosthetic hand:

I immediately took it from him:

Then I thought for a second, “let’s make a guide that walks our libraries step by step through the process themselves!”

We identified the following steps, components and resources for your review:

  • Identify Object
  • References
  • Components
  • Resources
  • Assembly
  • Outreach

Identify Object

So a patron comes in and asks, “Hey, I read in the news about libraries where you can actually print prosthetic limbs. Is that something you can help me with?”

“Of course we can,” you say, while quickly going to to figure it out.


First, you buy a 3D Printer (we used the Afinia H800 for this print, find more printer options here).

Then you unbox it – here’s a reference video.


Once you’ve unboxed your printer, what else do you need? First, you need filament. Many printers come with a starter roll, but here is a list of filaments and where you can get them:

  • MatterHackers, ProtoPasta, ColorFabb – They carry all types of filament from standard PLA/ABS to carbon fiber, elastic and wood.
  • OEM filament from Makerbot and Afinia.
  • SainSmart – Works great in our Makerbot 2. Reducing extruder temps to 215 with this filament may give you the best results.
  • Hatchbox and Mitus (found on Amazon) provide a cheaper alternative with surprisingly decent print quality. Worth trying out.

For this printer, we suggest Afinia ABS filament:

For more, here’s an Initial setup video.


Now that you’ve plugged it in, what do you do next?

Connect it to a desktop or laptop – Usually a PC (depending on the printer) but if it’s compatible with Mac, all the better.)

Download and install the Afinia software & drivers. (the URL should be in the instructions in the box, but it probably looks something like this.)

Now you need to configure your printer settings for first use. Here’s a page that explains how to do that step by step on a similar machine.

Now you are ready to find a model file of the thing you want to print. Just like Word documents end in .doc or .docx, these files usually end in .stl. There are plenty of websites that host pre-made 3D designs that usually have been tested with most common printers. You can find an object you want to print on one of these websites (or one that came preloaded with your device) and read all comments and instructions for the print.

One website to find these models is Thingiverse. Another is pinshape.

If you are interested in advanced prosthetics, check out the enabling the future site for lots of really good resources and free downloads.

(Here’s the URL for the hand we printed.) The files will come with (usually) a creative commons license that looks like this:


Flexy-Hand 2 by Gyrobot is licensed under the Creative Commons – Attribution – Non-Commercial – Share Alike license.

What does this mean?

  • You must attribute (give credit) to the creator of this Thing.
  • You must distribute Remixes under the same license as the original.
  • Remixing or Changing this Thing is allowed.
  • Commercial use is not allowed.

Once you print a basic object you can move on to more complicated objects requiring rafts, supports or even multiple moving parts. You can also try your hand at making your own 3D models or scans.


Once you download the file onto your computer, you load it into the 3D printing software that you downloaded previously.

Here’s a video of us printing the Empire State Building:


If you want to make sure your patrons get familiar with your 3D printer and all that they can do with it, be sure to check out this page of 3D Printer InfoGraphics. They can be used as handouts or to advertise your makerspace.

For more information and/or inspiration, check out this video that explains how printing prosthetic limbs got started.