MakerBot Learning Tips: How to Lay Out Files in MakerBot Desktop


You’ve downloaded, designed, or scanned a 3D file. You’ve imported it into MakerBot Desktop and are staring hard at that Print button. We know you’re itchin’ to print; but before you do, you always want to find the best layout for your file in MakerBot Desktop. Doing so will ensure greater overall success and a better foundation once you start printing.

3D printing is like building a house; if the foundation isn’t solid, the house probably won’t be stable. To set you up for success, this MakerBot Learning Tips video offers general guidelines for laying out your design file in MakerBot Desktop. We also provide more info and tips later in this post.


Leveling and Layout

Your print is created when one layer of filament is fused on top of another. One key ingredient to this process is a level build plate. A level build plate means that the distance between the nozzle of the extruder and the build plate is the same at every point. If it’s level, then each layer of filament will be applied evenly and consistently; if it’s not, your print will have issues. Before you begin printing, you can follow the assisted leveling procedure on most current MakerBot Replicator 3D Printers.

Pro Tip: Learn how to use Z-Offset to fine tune the gap between the nozzle and the build plate in this video.

Even with a level build plate, the layout of your design in MakerBot Desktop can still affect the success of your print. Ideally, you want a sturdy, wide base so your print-in-progress won’t wobble or shake as the extruder moves back and forth.

Choose the Largest Flat Surface or Largest Surface Area

Once you import your design file into MakerBot Desktop, rotate it so the largest flat surface is parallel to the build plate. Your design should appear as if it’s on top of the build plate. If it looks like it’s hovering in mid-air, click the “Lay Flat” button. In the event that your design doesn’t have a large flat surface, go with the side that has the most surface area and consider using supports.

Pro Tip: First try using Auto Layout under the Edit Menu or (Cmd/Ctrl + L) and make adjustments from there.

Orienting your design in these ways can help ensure greater print success. Also when you have multiple files for one print job, you’ll have an easier time finding the correct orientation first. Then you can move the designs around laterally to find the best position on the build plate.

Position Objects Near the Center

We recommend moving your files near the center of the build plate. This area is where the build plate is most level, which can help minimize warping. When you have multiple files to print, a good guideline is to keep at least 1 mm between your files on the build plate.

Experimenting with Print Layout

An overhang can cause your filament to droop, so supports are necessary to hold up the layers as they build. By experimenting with orientation along the X, Y, or Z axis, you can possibly minimize the support structures required. Try to find an orientation where the majority of your design’s surfaces have minimal overhang. We recommend supports if your overhang is beyond 68º for PLA and over 45º for ABS . If you are unsure about the angle, then use supports. You can find examples of overhangs that can be printed in MakerBot Learning’s Overhang and Bridge Test.

We encourage you to download MakerBot Learning’s A MakerBot Desktop Example to see how printing the file in three different orientations can affect a model’s characteristics such as surface quality and strength.