Makerspaces and 3D printing

3D Printing

You can design and print 3D designs at Christchurch City Libraries. We have several 3D printers that can be used to make small objects out of plastic. The plastic we use is called PLA. It is derived from corn starch and is recyclable and biodegradable, but not garden compostable.

Designing your own 3D model and getting it printed at the library

To design your own 3D model, you can use the web-based 3D design software Tinkercad. This is free to use, but requires you to sign up for a user account. Tinkercad has great tutorials starting with how to create simple shapes such as spheres, cubes, cylinders, wedges, pyramids, etc., which you can move, stretch, squash, rotate, twist, make holes in, add text to, and combine in various ways to make increasingly complex shapes.

Once you have modelled an object to print, use our 3D printing form to submit your .stl file for printing. We are unable to print your files directly from a USB or other drive when you visit the library. The purpose of our service is to support prototyping and printing small quantities, as we are a non-commercial organisation. It takes up to 21 days for us to print your files.

Help with your 3D printing

Come to one of our Open Creative Time drop-in sessions around the network and talk to a specialist about your 3D printing, get help with your design, and print your model yourself (subject to time constraints and printer availability. There is no charge for these sessions, and no need to book. Feel free to come along, even if you are just curious and do not have a specific project in mind. Please note: these sessions do not normally run during the school holidays.

Creative Times at Tūranga

Creative Time at New Brighton

No related upcoming events.
Can't make it to a Creative Session or require expert guidance to kickstart your journey?
No problem! "Book a Creative" session with one of our Creative Specialists, who will provide you with valuable support and insights.

File formats

In order for our 3D printer to be able to print your file, you will need to convert your 3D model into an STL file. This is a standard file format for 3D models, and these files always end with “.stl”. As well as exporting your own Tinkercad file as on STL file, you can also find STL files that you can download from various websites, often for free. A useful website for searching for STL files is called Thingiverse, or you could use the search engine Yeggi to search across lots of different sites.


Once you have an STL file that you want to print, we need to convert it into a series of horizontal layers, or slices, that the 3D printer can make. This process is called slicing. Each layer consists of a series of movements of the extruder, which creates a layer of plastic. The printer’s base plate then moves down by a fraction of a millimetre so that the next layer can be added on top. Because layers are added on top of previous layers, we need to make sure that your file can be printed with each layer supporting the one below. This is not the always the case as not every 3D model you find on the internet is designed to be printed.

This is also when we decide:

  • Which way up to print your model.
  • How big it should be.
  • How densely the inside should be filled with plastic.
  • Whether to build your model on top of a plastic raft.
  • Whether it needs supports to hold up parts of it during printing.

This is a complex process that requires some advanced understanding and experience. It is sometimes necessary to experiment, problem solve, and tweak various settings to find a way to print complex models.


The cost for a 3D Print is 20 cents per gram of plastic. You can pay by cash or card when you pick up your printing. See the picture and table below for a rough pricing guide. All of these examples are printed at 0.2 mm layer height with 10% infill, which are our defaults, and the settings that we will use unless you instruct us otherwise.


Blue boat 5 gm $1.00
Red boat 10 gm $2.00
Black boat 25 gm $5.00
White boat 50 gm $10.00

Our 3D printers and filament colours

We currently have three types of printer. The maximum dimensions are shown below, but anything close to this size is likely to exceed our maximum print time of 8 hours. For submitted jobs that exceed this limit, we will get in touch to discuss your options, which could include scaling down, or splitting your model into several smaller parts that can be printed separately.

Makerbot Replicator 2 (maximum build volume of 28.5 cm L X 15.3 cm W X 15.5 cm H)
Prusa i3 MK3 (maximum build volume of 25.0 cm L X cm 21.0 W X cm 21.0 H)

Models are printed in a single colour. We generally have black, white, grey, blue and orange-red in stock, plus a variety of other colours. Please provide up to three colour preferences when requesting your 3D print. If you have no particular preference we will use the existing filament in the first available printer.

Intellectual property and privacy

Customers are responsible for understanding their legal obligations under copyright, trademark, patent, and industrial law as well as their moral obligations to protect their own and others' intellectual property. Our libraries are busy public places. While we will endeavour to do our best to protect the privacy of your work, we cannot guarantee that it will not be seen by other customers. The Library reserves the right to refuse any 3D print request.

Read our 3D Printer Policy and Procedure.

Find 3D resources in our collection

Learn how to make a 3D printable emoji using Tinkercad

Follow along with this video to make your first emoji smiley face. You will learn the basics of 3D modelling as you go.
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