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3D Printing and Scanning: 3D Modelling Tips for Printing

This guide give you information on 3D printing and scanning services provided by the Radcliffe Science Library, along with links to helpful 3D printing, scanning, and modelling resources and tips.

3D Printing Services

We have relaunched our 3D printing service.

Please note that our 3D printing service is only available to members of Oxford University. Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity to offer printing services to external organisations, businesses or private individuals.

New to 3D modelling?

3D modeling can be overwhelming when you first start out and it can be hard to know where to begin.

Plan your model

Sketching ideas on paper can be a quick and easy way to visualize your 3D model. 3D modelling can be a slow process and you can end up wasting hours if you change your idea halfway through.

Keep it Simple

Keeping your first design simple is a good way to get used to your tools. If you try something overly complex you may be put off all together. You will be surprised how much you can make only by using simple geometry.

Use online repositories

Online repositories hold vast amounts of free 3D models. It is always wourth checking these first in case what you need is already available to download, this can save you a lot of time. Please see our 'Free 3D Models' page.

Designing Parts for 3D Printing

Check for tutorials, here is one for getting started with TinkerCAD 

Learn how to optimize common design features - such as bridges, overhangs, pins and vertical axis holes - for FDM 3D printing using the following Guide:

The Guide was created by Hubs in collaboration with Stanford University - Engineering Department.

3D Meshes in Printing


Models for 3D printing must be ‘watertight’ i.e. the mesh does not have missing sections and is continuous. For example deleting faces (geometry) can cause this problem.


In a .STL file, the model surface is rendered as a series of polygons. The more detail, the smaller the polygons. BUT the printer can only handle a limited number of polygons.

  • Use less than 500,000 polygons. (You shouldn't need anything near this for high resolution 3D printing.)
  • high poly meshes won't affect the print quality.
  • Many CAD packages can hep you check and repair problems.

If you are unsure about the mesh you have, please feel free to email us with any questions:

Fine Details

Adding small details to your models
It can sometimes be hard to print the smallest of details in 3D printing, as there are many things to consider.
  • The printer can vary layers between 50 – 300 microns thick
  • We suggest minimum feature size 2 mm
  • Nozzle diameter is 0.4 mm.
  • As a standard we print at 0.2mm but 0.05mm is possible.
    • Please note that print times will increase dramatically the lower this is set.