Wednesday, November 25, 2015

3D Printed Beads

3d printers are huge right now.  People are creating all sorts of things with them, everything from food to household items, medical devices and so much more.  Just google "What can you make with a 3d printer?" and you'd be amazed at the things that will come up!

My husband built a 3d printer, gave it to his brother and then purchased another one (he's working on building another at the moment).  I wondered what it would be like if we tried printing beads.

Our M3D printer from
Our particular printer works in two different types of plastics.
Spools of PLA 
For making our beads, we are using spools of PLA (polylactic acid).  This is a biodegradable plastic derived from renewable resources.  This type of plastic is popular for making prototypes and comes in a wide range of colors.

Running the printing software
In order to print, you create what you want using design software (google sketchup).  Then you take what you designed and process it through a software program called a "slicer".  This takes the object you designed and cuts it into many tiny layers that the printer can print.  Once this is done, you run it through the printing software that turns your design into a 3D object.

Before you start to print you must first heat the tip of the printer head and then insert the plastic until it comes out the other end of the extruder.  Then you are ready to go!  As you can see in the above video, the printer first creates a base for the object to be printed on top of.  

Here you can see the bead starting to form.  Think of it like icing on a cake.  The plastic is being pushed through the extruder and then builds layer upon layer.  Instead of icing, it's heated plastic that will cool and form into a solid object.  

Plastic bead in progress
Once the object is complete, you can remove it from the printer.  The base is removed by popping it off with a sharp object (Xacto knife).

Finished low resolution bead
For this bead, we ran it in low resolution so it's pretty rough.  You can print your objects in higher resolution and then do some clean-up work to them.

This particular design came from Thingiverse.  Thingiverse is an open-source site from MakerBot where people upload their designs and share them for free.

If you'd like to learn more about 3d printing, then check out MakerBot.

Happy Beading!


  1. So interesting and totally amazing! Your husband must be some sort of genius!

  2. This is fascinating. I've always been confused by how a 3D printer works. Now I know, but it still seems like magic!

  3. That is really cool! Thanks for sharing.

  4. That looks amazing, I'd really love a 3D printer, not sure why, but they look great fun!

  5. We've got a printer too but have yet to try printing beads (though it's definitely been on on my mind). I'm glad to know you've tried it and are sharing how it all works. I have a tough time explaining 3D printers to people myself!


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