In order to print an object from a 3D printer you need a 3D model file, generally an .STL file. Where can you find .STL files? Three places. You can make one yourself, using 3D modeling software like AutoCAD or Google Sketchup. You can scan an object in the real world and convert it into a 3D model (I hope to try this soon). Lastly, you can download an .STL file someone else has made.
Following are the majority of the designs I printed (or tried to print) during the course of reviewing the MakerBot Replicator. Most I obtained through Thingiverse, MakerBot's community-driven repository of 3D object design files, all of which are available to download for free. With 15,000-plus design available on Thingiverse, I barely scratched the surface of its content.
Of the files I pulled from Thingiverse, this is the most impressive item I printed successfully. The cube-shape and the ball come out in a single print thanks to the Replicator's dual-extruder printer head (or "dualstrustion," as MakerBot likes to call it). Design by etrohn at Thingiverse.com. This would make a great cat toy.
These designs came on the SD card that ships with the MakerBot. I also used these for a power drill test, as evidenced by the holes in the black and red sharks. The drill bit went into each shark well enough, but it punched through the opposite side rather roughly.
The inside of each shark is only filled 10 percent of the way to save on plastic. I'm interested to know if the bit would come out more cleanly with a denser infill.
This design, by Thingiverse user tbuser, is one of the more exciting experiments I've seen with dual extrusion. Playing with gradations like this shows how Thingiverse users are still finding new ways to explore the Replicator's creative potential.
High school geometry teacher (and Thingiverse user) mazels uses the MakerBot and the 3D modeling program OpenSCAD in his class to teach the concept of the z-axis, as well as some code. One of masels' students made this design.
Another sample design on the Replicator's SD card, the Spiral Box, however neat-looking, also shows the potential for a less than perfect print. The black marks are from residue on the idle extruder that was loaded with black plastic. Let that be a lesson: clean your extruders!
I really wanted this chair to print well, but failed after several attempts. You can see the front leg on the left didn't form up properly. Worse, the extruder went through the motion of printing the upper rungs, but it didn't lay down any material. I'm not sure why. Still, this print shows the printer's impressive ability to string plastic across small gaps without support material. This is called "bridging."
I hope to figure out how to print this chair eventually. Its design, by Thingiverse user PrettySmallThings, is beautiful.
I tried and failed three times to print a workable iPhone case from a design by Thingiverse user nickfabb. I fixed the stringy print by turning up the heat on the build platform, thus making sure the base would stay in position during the print. I still can't figure how to get the sides to stick to the base.
I'm not giving up on this one. Look at this design on Thingiverse (by user bathsheba grossman) and you'll see how intricate it is.
Like some prints with large overhanging portions, the Metatron requires that you print it with a support structure, which you then break away after the print. Thankfully, the ReplicatorG software calculates the support layout for you when you have the option selected.
While the Metratron did print successfully, it didn't not survive my attempt to remove the support material. I suspect the fact that I reduced the size of the print by half made it more brittle. A full-size Metratron print would take over 10 hours, according to the Replicator software's estimate. I'll have to come in to work early one day.