To print a 3D file on the Makerbot, you need to use their proprietary software, Makerbot Desktop. You can access this program on the iMac in the Makerspace, or you can download it on your computer: http://www.makerbot.com/desktop
If you don’t have a file to print already, you can find a whole database of 3D files on Thingiverse, Makerbot’s repository of free designs. Access Thingiverse from the “Explore” tab on Makerbot Desktop. Once you find a file you like, all you have to do is click the red “Prepare” button. It will then take you to the “Prepare” tab.
If you have your own file, first make sure it has a .stl or .obj file extension. You can then add it under the “Prepare” tab by clicking “Add File.”
Most files on Thingiverse are ready to print, but when you add your own file, you may have to make some adjustments in Makerbot Desktop to make it printable. This could involve rotating, scaling, or moving it on the build platform, which is all possible from the controls on the left of the application. It’s important that the build is directly on the platform.
Once the object looks good on screen, click the “Settings” tab at the top of the application. You want to make sure “Raft” is selected, giving your print a platform. This will prevent warping and make it easier to remove the print from the build plate.
If your print has any overhangs, then you’ll want to select “Supports.” Supports are necessary to make sure the overhangs will print successfully and not sag down. You do want to make sure that you orient your print in a manner to avoid as many overhangs as possible, as supports are somewhat difficult to remove and are often an unnecessary use of filament.
Make sure “Extruder Type” is set to “Smart Extruder +” and “Material” is set to “Makerbot PLA.” The higher you set the quality, the longer it will take to print, so Standard is often sufficient and Low is the fastest. These are the most important settings; for more information, visit: http://support.makerbot.com/learn/makerbot-desktop-software/print-settings/basic-print-settings_11932. Once you are done changing settings, click OK.
If you have your computer connected to the Makerbot through USB, then you can click “Print” in the top right of the application. It should load the file onto the printer and prepare to print.
If you want to put your file on a USB drive and then put the drive into the Makerbot, you can choose “Export print file” in the top right of the application. Then transfer it to your drive and eject.