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3D Printing

Last Updated: May 8, 2024 4:19 PM

Build Plate Sizes

3D Printer Build Plate Parameters

Each branch's build plate volume is expressed as Length x Width x Height in millimeters. These are the maximum possible dimensions but some print settings required for a given print may reduce the potential size.

To see the size of an .STL or .OBJ file you find online, use to check it's size in millimeters. You'll find that information on the right after opening your file, this is very important if your shape is scaled a certain way.

Depending on 3D printer maintenance status not all branches listed may be available to accept submissions. 

Centreville Regional Library
169 mm  x 153 mm  x 144 mm 

Chantilly Regional Library
169 mm  x 153 mm  x 144 mm

George Mason Regional Library
170 mm  x 160 mm  x 145 mm 

Herndon Library
169 mm  x 153 mm  x 144 mm 

Kingstowne Library 
169 mm  x 153 mm  x 144 mm 

Martha Washington Library
169 mm x 153 mm x 144 mm 

Oakton Library
125mm  x 150mm  x 145mm 

Pohick Regional Library
170mm  x 160mm  x 145mm 

Reston Regional Library
169 mm  x 153 mm  x 144 mm 

Richard Byrd Library
170mm  x 160mm  x 145mm 

Sherwood Regional Library
295 mm  x 195 mm  x 165 mm 

Thomas Jefferson Library
169 mm  x 160 mm  x 145 mm 

Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library
169 mm  x 153 mm  x 144 mm 

Woodrow Wilson Library
170mm  x 160mm  x 145mm 

What Kind of Filament and What Colors Are Available

At this time FCPL uses only polylactic acid (PLA) filament in our printers. This article gives a useful overview of the basic properties of PLA filament and its uses. We do not recommend using 3D printed parts from FCPL in environments with high temperatures, chemical solvents, cooking, or being subjected to torque or stress.

Colors are limited by what each branch orders, and while you can add a color preference to the note field of the submission page availability varies at any given time. If you need a specific color, please call your selected branch to see if that color is available.

  • Centreville: 703-830-2223
  • Chantilly: 703-502-3883
  • George Mason: 703-256-3800
  • Kingstowne: 703-339-4610
  • Martha Washington: 703-768-6700
  • Oakton: 703-242-4020
  • Pohick: 703-644-7333
  • Reston: 703-689-2700
  • Richard Byrd: 703-451-8055
  • Sherwood: 703-765-3645
  • Thomas Jefferson: 703-573-1060
  • Tysons Pimmit: 703-790-8088
  • Woodrow Wilson: 703-820-8774

What Kind of Files Will Print Successfully?

Fairfax County Public Library branches use fused deposition modeling (FDM) style 3D printers. This means plastic filament is fed into a heated nozzle which moves back and forth depositing layers of plastic on top of one another. This style of printer generally prints better when an object is bigger along the bottom and gets smaller at the top (like a pyramid).

Very complex shapes with wings, teeth, horns, antennae, or tiny details which protrude from the sides may not print exactly how you see them on your computer screen. Take these two velociraptors for example:

This raptor we found at is very simple and was designed to be printed on our style of printer. His body is wider at the bottom to bond firmly to the build plate and his details taper off as he gets taller. This kind of file will print very easily!

Image of 3d design  Image of 3d print


This more realistic raptor we found on has more complex skin, teeth, eyes, and limbs. His feet are very small and his body gets heavier and more complex at the top. This kind of model, with skinnier parts that bond to the build plate and details hanging out in space, will be more difficult to print successfully on an FDM printer. When necessary, our software prints "supports" (extra material to act as scaffolding and hold a model up during printing) but removing these can be tricky and result in a loss of detail.

Image of 3d design  Image of 3d print

The supports were needed to hold up his tail, arms, chin, and belly during printing because the printer cannot create parts floating out in space. Even trying to carefully remove those supports, both his arm and a leg snapped off. Also his teeth and tongue did not finish with the same detail you see in the preview picture.

Image of 3d print  Image of 3d print

Other types of 3D printers work differently and can better handle highly detailed models like this one. FCPL may one day invest in those types of printers, but until then choosing or making simpler shapes will help you get a more successful print.

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