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Category Archives: 3d Printing

3Bee Printing

In eLearning, we offer a 3D printing service for University staff and departments.  Using two printers, we create 3D models, parts, and equipment out of extruded plastic.   Sometimes staff request objects as teaching resources (models of bones and molecules, for example), and sometimes they request objects to aid research projects.  A fun aspect of our work here in eLearning is that these requests offer us a very minor (but fascinating) glimpse into the experiments and projects that are going on in departments across the University.

An especially endearing request came through recently from Dr Jenny Jandt in Zoology, who required a set of sugar dishes to set up as bee-feeders.  The dishes fit together pefectly with a standard specimen jar, which is filled with sugar water and then inverted.  Special notches in the dish allow the bees to dip their proboscides and feed on the sugar solution, without all the liquid draining out of the jar.


Like all of us, bees have to eat. And thanks to 3Bee printing, this little bee can.

Dr Jandt conducts research on the behaviour of bees, and on how bees are influenced by the environment.  Dr Jandt’s webpage can be found here.  We admire Jenny not only for her scientific discoveries, but also for encouraging her students’ profound mastery of bee-related puns and wordplay: ‘The Honeymoon suite’, ‘No place like comb’, and so forth.  The title of this blog post is a weak homage to these efforts.


The Honeymoon Suite: a perfect confluence of good science and good wordplay.

More on our 3D printing service can be found here.  We warmly encourage contact from any departments who think this service may be of use, even for projects less adorable than Jenny’s.  We are always happy to discuss requirements and possibilities.  Thanks to Jenny for keeping us up to date on the project, and for providing the photos for this post.


3D Mapping

One of the small projects we’ve been working on over the last few weeks is printing out some 3D height maps (or terrain maps).  We’re working with the Department of Geography, who are interested in using these in their first-year labs next year.

You may be familiar with Thingiverse, a website containing thousands of 3D models that you can download and print on a 3D printer.  If you search for Dunedin, you’ll find a 3D elevation model created by Luke Easterbrook-Clark in the Geology Department.  This was one of our first prints on the Makerbot and it turned out pretty well in high quality using ABS plastic (it curled a bit in the corners, but that’s a post for another day).

3D Print of Dunedin City

3D Print of Dunedin City

The next step was creating our own custom maps, which will eventually be of various locations around the South Island.  First of all, you need a greyscale elevation map, where white is the highest elevation and black is the lowest, which you can extract from GIS software (such as ArcGIS); or by cropping an image from (for example) the Landcare Portal.  I found that an a png file about 600x600px is ideal for a print about 20cm wide.  Then, the image needs to be turned into an STL file – a 3D model.  To do this, I used the Heightmap to STL script available on Thingiverse. The last step before printing was to repair the file in Netfabb to make sure all the edges are joined and there are no holes.  I’ve glossed over a lot of the details here, so if you need any more information feel free to leave a comment.

Alexandra Heightmap

Alexandra Heightmap

As for the print itself, it prints out fairly well on the Makerbot, high quality, using ABS plastic.  However, our best results so far have been on the Up Box, using the fine quality setting, with PLA plastic.  It takes about 14 hours to print a map approximately 20cm wide, so we left this job printing overnight.  Below are the results.

3D print of Alexandra

3D print of Alexandra

If you’d like to talk to us about 3D printing, please get in touch.

3D Printers have arrived at eLearning

Teaching and Learning Facilities have purchased two 3D printers: a Makerbot Replicator 2x and an UP Box.

The UpBox (on the left) and the Makerbot in their natural environment.

The UP Box (on the left) and the Makerbot in their natural environment.

Over the last month or so we have been learning about what we can do with them to support the Teaching and Learning Facilities department, as well as how they can be used in teaching, learning and research (more on that in upcoming posts). A few examples of what we have designed and printed:

iPad stands

iPad Stand

Used to hold up the iPads when we are setting them up to go out on loan.



For the new mobile recording boxes used by Media Production, to hold equipment in place.

These are just the first items we are printing –  we are keen to print out as much as we can. If you have something you think might be worth printing, whether it’s for your teaching or your research please let us know, either by commenting below or getting in touch with the Service Desk.