Should 3D designers share their STL files? That can be a hard nut to crack, especially when you’re talking about an educator wanting to use it for educational purposes. How do you manage to help people with your content without having to lose control over it? Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard answer these questions in response to a request by a middle school STEM teacher to access the STL file of their peace angel 3D model. Listen and learn about how you can benefit from other designers’ content without infringing on their exclusive rights.
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Can I Get Your 3D Angel STL File?
This is Ask Us Anything segment.
This question came to us both in an email and on Facebook from Joe Rife. He’s an eighth-grade language arts teacher.
He came across one of our 3D design models that have been out there. He saw it on a former competition site. He’s a teacher and he’s involved in 3D printing. He’s a STEM certified middle school teacher in Central Indiana. He’s asking if we would share our STL file of one of our designs with him, our three-dimensional model of peace angel. If you haven’t seen it, you can see it on our website.
2014 was peace and 2015 was harmony.
We’ve changed it up a little bit but it’s a tough thing for us to decide. We’d like to help you out Joe and let you use the file for educational purposes but the tough thing for us is once we let that STL file out, we’ve lost all control of it. Even though you may have the best intentions and be an honorable person yourself, others may take that file, want to use it, start making a bunch of it, and sell pieces of it to help their school or community or whatever.
This is timely because as we were preparing to do this episode and answer your question, we also got hacked yet again on our website. This is the second time we’ve been hacked.
Our 3D Start Point site was completely down.
This is where I’m beginning to wonder if they’re hacking our site because they believe that our design models are on there. We’ve been getting a lot of international requests. I get emails all the time saying, “We must have your stuff on our website. We must have your stuff in our design library.” Usually, it’s bad English from some other country and I have no way of verifying their company but that’s what I’m getting asked for all the time for the content. I answer back and say, “Okay, but it costs you,” because I want to see how serious they are. That’s my typical response to that. Usually, that’s when they back down.
They don’t want to pay for it. They want it for free.
That makes me wonder whether or not it’s a sign of how valuable the content is. This put us into a little conundrum here. Do we offer up our files for educational purposes? If so, how do we control them? Do we have a method by which to deliver you this STL file, Joe? We would like to help. You can learn geometry from anything. You can learn it from that angle. It’s quite interesting.
I’m sure your students would learn a ton from it and be fascinated with a lot of aspects of it. I’d like to participate in that. Also, we need to have a way to do it that protects the value of all the time and effort we put into it because that model took a lot of hours to create. Not only in the first place in CAD but a lot of hours to test and dial in the settings, so it prints well, which comes to another point. We also don’t want representations of our file out there that are printed badly that may paint the model as not a good quality model because it’s not a good print. As students are learning to print it, they’re going to make failed prints and they’re not going to be perfect.
We’re all going to make failed prints. We all do, but it took us a long time to dial it in for our particular printer. Unless we have yours, we can’t do that for you and provide a g-code that we know works. That would be one way to do it but that’s not the case here. There are a bunch of issues that we’re mulling over and trying to figure out how it is. One of the things is we call them our friends at 3DPrinterOS, Aaron Roy. We asked him, “What about 3DPrinterOS? Is this a great way for us to stream it?” He had great news for us that it was and that they have an API, which is an application that you put into your website, a plugin for those of you who don’t know.
It has to be coded into your website. They have an API that will allow us to have our angel file up there and allow it to be served directly to your 3D printer. We can give you permission on a case by case basis to do it.
What I was thinking is that we could normally charge for it but if you got permission from us, you could have a discount code for zero for educators. It’s something like that. It would allow us to keep control in the commerce situation, but provide it and donate it in a way for educational purposes.Once you let your STL file out, you lose control of it. Click To Tweet
It will allow you to print it and allow your students to print it, but you won’t have the STL file. We feel a little bit more secure in that. We haven’t let the keys to the castle get out there. We’re protecting it a bit and that’s one option. Another option is maybe we need to come up with some files or create some new ones that we’re going to allow people to have the freedom to test and those are specific files for that purpose and not some of our more precious files or high-profile files or something. We’re considering a lot of different things because we want to participate in this community.
We believe in this industry and in education for 3D printing. We want to be a part of that but it’s going to take some time. Even with this API from 3DPrinterOS, we’re looking into it and we’re having our developers who build our website, check it out. It’s going to take some time for them to code it in, test it, and get it working. Aaron also told us at 3DPrinterOs that this API has a new version coming out that has some important features that we need. We’re going to have to wait for that one and code it in.
You bring up a good point that has to come to the forefront of our thinking in the scope of the things that we’re doing here. We do recognize and appreciate how much you all love our tie, our angel, and the designs that we’ve done. We want to find a way to help everyone and yet still keep control over our content. This is a common problem for many designers out there, too. Hopefully, as we start to resolve it, we find ways that are efficient, economical, and useful at the same time.
I would say appropriate. I have no problem with donating time to a school and certain things but there’s a certain risk. We need to protect ourselves and it’s not only for us, but it’s also thinking about all the other designers out there that are faced with the same issue. Let’s find a solution.
Joe, we are working on it.
We want to make sure you know about it so you’ll be hearing from us. Maybe we have worked out a specific solution for your situation. We do appreciate it. One of the things is if you’re in a local school here in the California area, we’d love to come to talk to your school about it and we’re happy to give demos and things like that. That’s something that we can do. That ties into one of our episodes, where we talked about how to convince your mom to let you buy a 3D printer.
One thing would be for your school to sponsor someone to come in and talk about 3D printing. It doesn’t have to be us. There are lots of experts. We have some great experts that we know in Canada and great experts all over the country. We have Brian Federal, who travels all over the place. He’s our friend from North Carolina. Brian travels all over to talk to people. There are lots of people we can refer you to. Reach out to us. Hopefully, we’ll be able to help you with that and it’s at @HazzDesign everywhere on social media.
We hope that it at least answers your question in a little more detail than we were able to do in email. I know it’s not absolute, “Yes, you can have it now,” but it’s also not a complete, “No, we’re working on it,” and we’ll figure out a way we can work together.
Let’s try it and make it a goal by our angel because we tried to do a different version. We’ll hopefully have it resolved by then. That would be fun if all of you out there get to print our angel for the holidays. It would be a fun thing to do.
It’d be a great thing for students to learn if they’re learning how to figure out what settings to do and how to make it the best thing to do. You can have a little competition around the same file and you know everybody’s competing on the same base.
This could be our WTFFF?! gift to our audience to have free file access for a specific file. Maybe we can have a way to do that. We’ll see. We are working on it and as we work it out, we will keep you abreast of how it’s working.
We’ll have to point you to a part of our site, it’s where you can find where that is that and streams to your printer.
Hopefully, it’s not down long for those hackers, but twice in two weeks, it’s happened.
I hope it’s a sign that we’re doing a good job and we’re wanted and not that somebody dislikes us.
The developers say we’re popular.
It’s a good thing.
Please reach out to us on our website. There’s Info@3DStartPoint.com and anywhere on social media @HazzDesign, which Joe did. He reached out to us both on Facebook and email. Good for you. We did get it and took us a little time to get back to you.
Thanks for reading.
- Brian Federal
- @HazzDesign – Instagram
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