With very few stipulations, the AOC's services and facilities
are open to all currently enrolled students, faculty and staff at SAIC;
some services are open to alumni as well. Please see the individual resource
sections for details. [top]
The laser cutter is a computer controlled 2½-axis cutting device.
It uses a laser (a finely focused beam of light) to burn
into flat sheet materials. The laser cutter can make both engravings
and through-cuts. Cuts are controlled by
a computer file set up in Illustrator, much the same way a plotter
You should use the laser cutter to make intricate or variable cuts that are impossible or very difficult on traditional shop or hand-cutting equipment. [top]
Who can use the laser cutter?
The laser cutters at the AOC are available to currently enrolled students,
active faculty and staff at SAIC. All users must attend an authorization
prior to using the laser cutter.
The laser cutters are self-serve, so users must run cutting jobs themselves, with the supervision of an AOC lab monitor. See the Laser Access Policy page for details. [top]
How do I get authorized to use the laser cutter?
The AOC staff conducts authorization sessions on a regular basis, as frequently as every day during Fall and Spring semesters. Sessions take about 45-50 minutes.
Check the authorization schedule and sign up here. Authorizations last for one calendar year. See the Laser Access Policy page for details. [top]
Can I reserve the laser cutter ahead of time?
Yes, authorized users can reserve time on the laser cutters. When available, either machine
can be used for walk-in cutting. Check the laser
cutter schedule for each day's availability.
Generally, the laser cutters are available for use from the time
the AOC opens until 30 minutes before closing. The
laser cutter schedule is posted online
listing times set aside for reservations, maintenance, etc.
Times that are unreserved may be available for walk-in use or reservations.
See the Laser Access Policy page
for details. [top]
How many laser cutters are there? Are they different?
The AOC currently has two laser cutters: the 150 watt (Universal) and the 120 watt (Trotec).
The Trotec is a larger machine with faster raster speeds. The Universal has a smaller bed but more power and a rotary tool. Both machines can cut through materials of up to 1/2". [top]
No. Materials from the Approved Materials List must be purchased by the user prior to laser cutting, either from Resale or an outside supplier (see the Links page for references). Non-Resale materials must be labeled by the manufacturer or accompanied by an invoice stating what the material is. Please keep in mind that many sheet materials will have to be cut to fit on the laser cutter's 18"x32" bed. [top]
Where can I get materials for laser cutting?
The Resale center located in the Sullivan Fabrication Studio is a common source for laser cutter materials. Materials can also be purchased from outside suppliers, including art supply, hardware and industrial supply stores. Please see the Links page for references to preferred suppliers. [top]
What's the thickest material the laser can cut through?
Both machines can cut through materials of 3/8" and for some materials 1/2". Cuts on thicker material have a tendency to be slightly angled. Also note that thicker materials can still be engraved as long as they are flat and able to fit in the cutting bed. [top]
What's the biggest sheet size that will fit on the laser cutter?
The Trotec laser cutter bed is 39"x24" and the Universal laser cutter bed is 32"x18"". It is recommended that larger sheets be cut to slightly below these dimensions to ensure a proper fit. [top]
Can the laser cutter cut through metal?
No. Neither of the AOC's laser cutters are powerful enough to penetrate metal. You'd need something like this or this. [top]
Maybe. New materials can be added to the Approved Materials List if they are safe to cut. To determine a material's safety factors, you must submit an MSDS sheet for the material along with this form to the Advanced Output Center. Requests are usually processed in 1-2 weeks.
Please note that MSDS are very specific to each product, as different manufacturers can use different ingredients/processes to make the same or similar products. To speed up the evaluation process, please make sure MSDS are obtained from the manufacturer of the product in question. [top]
Is there a charge to use the laser cutter?
Yes. There is a charge for making reservations as well as a charge for walk-in use. A flat fee is paid up front for a 45-minute reservation; walk-in use is charged per-minute from the time a user checks in with a lab monitor until they are cleaned up and finished cutting.
These charges are in place to help cover cleaning and maintenance supplies for the cutters, as well as to discourage unproductive use. All payments are made via ArtiCard through a lab monitor. Please see the Laser Access Policy page for details. [top]
What file types does the laser cutter accept?
Illustrator (.ai) files are the most common filetypes used to print
to the laser cutter. Files can also be sent directly from AutoCAD.
Other programs, including Vectorworks, Rhino and more are capable of
exporting vector paths into Illustrator or AutoCAD, which can then
be sent to the laser cutter. [top]
3D printing is a fabrication technique that starts with a 3D computer model of an object, and ends with a physical prototype of that model. To make the prototype, a 3D printer slices the computer model into many thin horizontal sections, which are then extruded or cut into physical layers, and either re-assembled or laid down on top of each other.
3D printing has many different uses, from testing product designs to making working parts to creating sculptures. See the Links page for more detailed descriptions of the process. [top]
Who can use the 3D printers? Do I need to be authorized?
The AOC's 3D printers are open to all currently enrolled students,
faculty and staff and alumni at SAIC. While there is no authorization
required, users must have a good understanding of 3D
solid modeling in order to prepare files correctly.
3D printing is a technician-run service, so users do not need to
be at the AOC to submit jobs--just give us an order
form along with your valid, preprocessed file and we do the
How do I submit a 3D print job?
To submit a file for 3D printing, use the online order form (available here) and follow the instructions. For details about STL files, Catalyst, Objet Studio, and order form options, please see the 3D Printing File Prep Guide. [top]
Can I submit a job online?
Yes! In fact, that's the only way to submit a job. Just fill out the order form (available here) and follow the instructions. You can share your files with us using Google Drive (preferred), deliver them in person, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. [top]
How long will my 3D print job take? Can I reserve the printers ahead of time?
Turnaround time varies greatly depending on size and shape of model, color choice and queue length. Small pieces can take less than a day, while large runs can take a week or more. Check with a lab manager for an estimate.
Since 3D printing is a technician-run service, the printer cannot be reserved; jobs are processed by a technician in the order they are received. New jobs are added to the queue when they have been properly submitted with a valid file and completed order form (Available here). [top]
What's the largest thing I can 3D-print? What's the smallest?
The printing volume of the Dimension printer is 10"x10"x12". The printing volume of the Objet printer is 11.81"x7.87"x5.9". The Formlabs volume is 5.7"x5.7"x6.9". Anything smaller than those dimensions will be able to print in a single run. Larger items can sometimes be modeled and exported as smaller sections, printed in sections and re-assembled.
The thinnest wall thickness of your model should be no less than 0.04" (1mm). This will help maintain the structural integrity of the printed piece. For design guidelines regarding model detail, please see the 3D Printing Guide. [top]
What materials are available for use with the 3D printers?
The Dimension SST 1200es prints using ABS plastic, an opaque thermoformable material available in several colors. ABS is a relatively soft plastic, however it is durable enough to withstand handling and even to make some usable parts.
The Objet 30 prints using a UV-cured resin which is available in several colors and qualities. The two resins available for printing are Vero (acrylic-like) in white, black, and blue/gray, high temperature (in white) or Durus (Polypropylene-like) in white.
The Formlabs has four materials available. An acrylic like plastic for white, gray, black and clear prints, a semi-flexible plastic in light grey, a blue color for castable resins, and a dark teal for abs like plastic.
These are the only materials available for 3D prints at the AOC, however there are many other types of 3D printers in existence which use other materials including casting sand, multi-color material, clear material and extremely durable material. Check out the Links page for references to other 3D printing services outside the AOC. [top]
Is there a charge for 3D-printing?
Yes. For the Dimension, there are charges for model material, support material, and base squares printed on. For the Objet, there are charges only for model material and support material. The Formlabs charges on how many milliliters of resin you use. All 3D printing charges are payable via ArtiCard through a lab monitor when the job is picked up. For rates and instructions on how to estimate cost before submitting, please see the 3D Printer Guide. [top]
The 3D printers accept only solid STL files. STL is a general-puropose polygon file format, which can be exported from many different 3D modeling applications. A file that is 'solid' is a continuous surface with no open edges.
Certain applications, including Rhino, Rapidform and SolidWorks, have built-in tools that make it much easier to create solid models; other programs like Maya are not optimized for solid modeling and thus make it much more difficult to correctly prepare a file for 3D printing.
For more information about solid modeling, please see the 3D Printer Guide. [top]
How do I learn 3D modeling/solid modeling?
If you are inexperienced with 3D solid modeling, or new to 3D modeling in general, we recommend that you work with a faculty member who can guide you through the modeling process. Remember, modeling is a skill; it can take months and even years of practice to become proficient. [top]
A 3D scanner is a device that analyzes a real-world object to collect data on its shape. The collected data can then be used to construct digital, three dimensional models useful for a wide variety of applications. Common applications of this technology include industrial design, orthotics and prosthetics, reverse engineering and prototyping, quality control/inspection and documentation of cultural artifacts. [top]
How many 3D scanners are there? Are they different?
The AOC has three 3D scanners: the Artec Eva, the Handyscan and the Nextengine. The Artec Eva is a white light scanner, that uses a semistrobe light to project a grid over the surface for capture. The Handyscan and Nextengine are optical red-laser scanners--that means that they need to be able to 'see' everything they scan. Objects that are transparent or have deep recesses or undercuts may be difficult to scan. All scanners fall under the same rules for access and authorizations. [top]
Who can use the 3D scanners? Do I need to be authorized?
The 3D scanners at the AOC are available to
currently enrolled students, active faculty and staff at SAIC.
All users must attend an authorization prior to using the 3D scanner.
The AOC staff conducts authorization sessions on a regular basis. Sessions take about 90-120 minutes.
Check the authorization schedule and sign up here. Authorizations last for one calendar year. See the 3D Scanner Access Policy page for more details. [top]
Can I reserve the 3D scanner?
Yes. Once you are authorized, you can reserve the 3D scanner for up to a day at a time. See the 3D Scanner Access Policy page for more details. [top]
Is there a charge for 3D scanning?
There is currently no charge for regular use, including reservations. There are fines for misuse and damage. See the 3D Scanner Access Policy page and the Fines page for more details. [top]
Can I get someone to do a scan for me?
The 3D scanners are self-serve, so you are responsible for conducting your scans. AOC staff is available for troubleshooting specific scanning and file-processing issues, however we cannot scan objects for you. [top]
What materials can I scan?
The ideal material for our 3D scanners is a hard solid with a matte white finish. Transparent materials and materials that change shape can be challenging to scan. Ask an AOC staff member for more details about specific materials. [top]
What's the biggest/smallest thing I can scan?
The smallest scannable object is around 6"x6"x6", though smaller details can still be picked up. Large items are limited by the amount of prep and computing time that you're willing to invest--it is theoretically possible to scan extremely large objects (e.g., airplanes). [top]
What filetypes does the 3D scanner create?
The 3D scanner's capture sofware generates a polygon mesh file called an STL. [top]
What can I do with my 3D scanned file?
You can use your STL to extract measurements or surface information from a scanned object, or clean the STL and reproduce it on the 3D printer. This can be done in several different 3D modeling applications; Rapidform is one that is made specifically for editing 3D scans. Like most 3D modeling programs, there is a somewhat steep learning curve. While the AOC staff cannot teach you these programs, we can direct you towards tutorial and training resources that will help you get started. [top]
The AOC's large-format printing resources consist of one color inkjet and one black-and-white laser printer. The color printer is stocked with 42" width paper and the b/w is stocked with 36" wide paper. Any length is possible. Additionally there are color and black-and-white small-format laser copier/printers available for printing/copying letter and ledger-size documents. [top]
Who can use the AOC's large-format printers?
The AOC's large-format printers are open to all currently enrolled
students, faculty and staff and alumni at SAIC. Printers are self-serve; lab monitors
can offer assistance during lab monitor hours,
but printing is theoretically possible at any time during self-serve
hours. There are no authorizations required to use the large-format
printers, and print queues are automatically processed in
the order they are received. [top]
Where are the printers located?
The large format printers are located in the front room of the AOC, 1232A in the Sullivan building. The department copiers are located outside room 1257 and in the 12th floor lounge. [top]
What types and sizes of ink/paper/printing are available?
Each large-format printer has one roll of 24# Bond and one roll of 20# transparent-bond; the color has 42" wide paper and the black and white has 36" wide paper. The Bond paper is very similar to standard white computer paper, while the Vellum is slightly more transparent. The large-format color inkjet printer uses toner based CYMK pearls, and the large-format black-and-white laser printer uses black toner. None of the inks/toners are archival, and neither paper type is acid-free. For high-quality archival printing, please visit the Service Bureau. [top]
No. All printing must be sent over the wired network. All studios on the 12th floor of the Sullivan building are equipped with ethernet ports which can connect to the wired network. [top]
Is there a charge for printing?
Yes. Large-format prints are charged based on sheet length. Printing charges are payable via ArtiCard through the paystation in the AOC. Please see the Large-Format Printing Guide for detailed rates. [top]
What file types do the printers accept?
In theory the large-format printers will accept files from any program that can be sent to a regular desktop printer. Some programs are more problematic than others, and thus are not recommended for large-format printing; these include Preview and Acrobat. Extremely large files will cause a dramatic increase in processing time. This can be due to a resolution setting that's too high, or to a raster document with a large number of unmerged layers. [top]
What's a good resolution setting to use in my file?
We recommend a file resolution of 72-150ppi. There is generally no gain in print quality with file resolutions over 150ppi. Files with excessively high resolutions (over 200ppi) will take an extremely long time to print. [top]
My file is taking a long time to print. What should I do?
First of all, be patient. Large prints, or documents with a large file size, can take a long time (think hours) to process. Printing queues can also get backed up if many users try to print at once. Outdated drivers can also cause printing issues.
We strongly recommended planning ahead for your printing needs; don't wait until the morning of your presentation to start printing! If a lab monitor is on duty, check with them first for queue status and troubleshooting help.
If no lab monitor is on duty, send an email to email@example.com or call 5-3535 from any campus phone with a description of the problem. Stuck prints and/or broken printers will be fixed as soon as possible; the next business day in most cases. Do not re-send a stuck print or try to 'repair' a printer yourself. [top]
I'm not happy with my printing results. What should I do?
A printer is broken/empty/non-functioning. What should I do?
If a lab monitor is on duty, check with them first for queue status and troubleshooting help. If no lab monitor is on duty, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 5-3535 from any campus phone with a description of the problem. Stuck prints and/or broken printers will be fixed as soon as possible; the next business day in most cases. Do not re-send a stuck print or try to 'repair' a printer yourself. [top]
Large Format 2D Scanning Answers
What is large-format 2D scanning?
2D scanning is the optical process of converting images, printed text, documents or objects into digital images. The AOC has two large-format 2D scanners; a flatbed scanner and a roller scanner. [top]
Who can use the AOC's large-format scanners? Do I need an authorization?
The AOC's large-format scanners are open to
all currently enrolled students, faculty, staff and alumni at
SAIC. Scanners are self-serve; there are no authorizations required
to use the large-format scanners.
The large format scanners are located in the front room of the AOC, 1232A in the Sullvan building.
How many scanners are there? Are they different?
The AOC has two large-format 2D scanners; a flatbed scanner and a roller scanner.
The flatbed scanner can scan any non-transparent media/object up to 11"x17" and requires a laptop (Mac or PC) with scanning software to function. Images/objects to be scanned are placed face down on a glass plate.
The roller scanner scans flat paper media only and can accommodate sizes up to 36" wide by almost any length; documents are fed through rollers over a scanning bed. The roller scanner does not require a laptop. Check out the Large-Format Scanning Guide for details. [top]
Are there other scanning facilities on campus?
Yes! There are many other scanners on campus, although most cannot accommodate larger media like the AOC's can.
A scanner is broken/non-functioning. What should I do?
Carefully read the Large-Format Scanning Guide to make sure you are setting up a scan correctly. If problems persist and a lab monitor is on duty, check with them for troubleshooting help.
If no lab monitor is on duty, send an email to email@example.com or call 5-3535 from any campus phone with a description of the problem. Scanner hardware issues will be fixed as soon as possible; the next business day in most cases. Do not try to 'repair' a scanner yourself. [top]