General Questions

  1. What is the AOC?

    The Advanced Output Center is a printing and prototyping lab specializing in digital input and output. The AOC's facilities include 2D large-format printing and scanning, rapid prototyping and 3D scanning, laser cutting, andDC/DVD duplicating and labeling. We are run by the CRIT department, but work very closely with AIADO.

  2. Where is the AOC?

    The AOC is located in room 1232 on the 12th floor of the Sullivan Building, located at 36 South Wabash Avenue.

  3. What hours is the AOC open?

    Staff/Lab Monitor Summer 2012 hours are:
    • May 14–June 8
      Monday–Friday 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
    • June 11 to Aug 29
      Monday–Friday 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
    • CLOSED: May 18, 21, 28, & July 4

    Self-serve hours (front room only):
    • Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m.–11:30 p.m.
    • Saturday–Sunday 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m.


  4. What's available during self-serve hours? What's available during lab monitor hours?

    Resources available during self-serve hours include the flatbed scanner and both large-format printers.

    Resources available during lab monitor hours include self-serve resources listed above, both laser cutters, 3D printer job submission, 3D scanning, large-format scanning as well as troubleshooting assistance.

  5. Who can use the AOC?

    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.

Laser Cutting Questions

  1. What is the laser cutter?

    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 works.

    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.

  2. 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 for details.

  3. How do I get authorized to use the laser cutter?

    Yes. Authorized users can reserve time on the laser cutters: the 120W laser cutter can be reserved by AIADO students and faculty only; the 150W laser cutter can be reserved by anyone. When available, either machine can be used for walk-in cutting. Check the laser cutter schedule for each day's availability.

    Please see the Laser Access Policy for the full rules about making reservations.

  4. Can I reserve the laser cutter ahead of time?

    Yes. Authorized users can reserve time on the laser cutters: the 120W laser cutter can be reserved by AIADO students and faculty only; the 150W laser cutter can be reserved by anyone. When available, either machine can be used for walk-in cutting. Check the laser cutter schedule for each day's availability.

    Please see the Laser Access Policy for the full rules about making reservations.

  5. When is the laser cutter available?

    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.

  6. How many laser cutters are there? Are they different?

    The AOC currently has two laser cutters: the 150 watt and the 120 watt. They are identical in almost every way except for the power of their respective laser tubes. Both machines can cut through materials of up to 3/8" and move at roughly the same speed.

  7. What materials can I use on the laser cutter?

    See the Approved Materials List for specific materials. Materials must be non-reflective and flat.

  8. Does the AOC provide materials for laser cutting?

    No. Materials from the Approved Materials List must be purchased by the user prior to laser cutting, either fromResale or an outside supplier (see the Laser Cutter Links 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.

  9. 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 Laser Cutter Links for references to preferred suppliers.

  10. 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.

  11. What's the biggest sheet size that will fit on the laser cutter?

    The laser cutter bed is 18"x32". It is recommended that larger sheets be cut to slightly below these dimensions to ensure a proper fit.

  12. 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.

  13. I want to cut a material that's not on the Approved Materials List. Can I?

    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 New Materials Request Form [PDF] 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.

  14. 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 for details.

  15. 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.

Rapid Prototyping Questions

  1. What is Rapid Prototyping/3D Printing?

    Rapid prototyping 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.

    Rapid prototyping has many different uses, from testing product designs to making working parts to creating sculptures. See the Rapid Prototyping Links page for more detailed descriptions of the process.

  2. 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 rest.

  3. How do I submit a 3D print job?

    To submit a file for rapid prototyping, you must submit a completed order form along with a solid STL file that has been pre-processed in Catalyst (for our Dimension printer) or Objet Studio (for our Objet printer). For details about STL files, Catalyst, Objet Studio, and order form options, please see the Rapid Prototyper File Prep Guide [PDF].

  4. Can I submit a job via email?

    Yes. Just fill out an order form and email it along with your pre-processed file to advancedoutput@saic.edu.

  5. 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 five days 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.

  6. 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". 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 sthinnest 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 Rapid Prototyper File Prep Guide [PDF].

  7. What materials are available for use with the 3D printers?

    The Dimension SST 1200 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 (ABS-like) in white, gray, black, and blue, or Durus (Polypropylene-like) in white.

    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 Rapid Prototyping Links for references to other 3D printing services outside the AOC.

  8. 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 cost of a part will ultimately depend on the volume of materials used. 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 Rapid Prototyper File Prep Guide [PDF].

  9. What file types do the 3D printers accept?

    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 Rapid Prototyper File Prep Guide [PDF].

  10. 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.

3D Scanning Questions

  1. What is 3D scanning?

    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.

  2. How many 3D scanners are there? Are they different?

    The AOC has two 3D scanners: the Handyscan and the Nextengine. Both 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. Both scanners fall under the same rules for access and authorizations.

  3. 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 for a session in person by talking to a lab monitor at the AOC. Authorizations last for one calendar year. See the 3D Scanner Access Policy page for more details.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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).

  9. What filetypes does the 3D scanner create?

    The 3D scanner's capture sofware generates a polygon mesh file called an STL.

  10. 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.

Large-Format 2D Printing Questions

  1. What is large-format printing?

    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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Are there other printers on campus?

    Yes! There are many other print resources, both large-format and small-format, throughout SAIC's campus. Check out the self-serve printer list, the General Access lab, and the Service Bureau for more options.

  5. 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.

  6. How do I submit a print job?

    After running the General Access Printer Installer on your Mac laptop, prints can be sent over the wired network from anywhere on the 12th floor of the Sullivan building. Please see the AOC Printing & Scanning Guide [PDF] for detailed instructions.

  7. Do I need a Mac laptop to print?

    No. The PCs in the front room of 1232 have all the print drivers installed. If you have a mac laptop you can alsodownload the print drivers if you have a dual boot laptop.

  8. Is wireless printing possible?

    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.

  9. 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 AOC Printing & Scanning Guide [PDF] for detailed rates.

  10. 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.

  11. What's a good resolution setting to use in my file?

    We recommend a file resolution of 72-150 ppi. There is generally no gain in print quality with file resolutions over 150 ppi. Files with excessively high resolutions (over 200 ppi) will take an extremely long time to print.

  12. 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 crithelpdesk@saic.edu 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.

  13. I'm not happy with my printing results. What should I do?

    Please see the Reprint Policy for full details.

  14. 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 crithelpdesk@saic.edu 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.

Large-Format 2D Scanning Questions

  1. 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.

  2. 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--scan files are sent to a server and can be downloaded over the wired network from anywhere on the 12th floor. Check out the AOC Printing & Scanning Guide [PDF] for details.

  3. 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.

    A laptop (Mac or PC) is required to use the flatbed scanner. No laptop is required to use the roller scanner, however it is only available during staff/lab monitor hours and must be checked out through a lab monitor prior to use.

  4. Where are the scanners located?

    The large format scanners are located in the front room of the AOC, 1232A in the Sullvan Building.

  5. 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.

    All the Canon copier/printers on campus have scan-to-email capabilities and are great for scanning documents. The General Access lab also has flatbed scanning stations which do not require a laptop, as well as slide/negative and drum scanning equipment. The Photo Department has a general-access copy stand for digitizing large objects which can't fit into a roller scanner.

  6. What types and sizes of media can I scan?

    The flatbed scanner can scan non-transparent documents/objects up to 11"x17".

    The roller scanner can scan flat, non-abrasive paper documents up to 36" wide by almost any length. Check out the AOC Printing & Scanning Guide [PDF] for details.

  7. Do I need a Mac laptop to scan?

    Maybe. The flatbed scanner does require a laptop (either Mac or PC) and scanning software such as Vuescan (Mac), Image Capture (Mac), or EpsonScan (PC).

    The roller scanner does not require a laptop, but you will need blank media such as a flash drive or CD-R to copy your scan files onto. Check out the AOC Printing & Scanning Guide [PDF] for details.

  8. Is there a charge for scanning?

    No. Scanning is always free at the AOC. The roller scanner must be checked out through a lab monitor prior to use, but there is no charge.

  9. What file types do the scanners produce?

    The roller scanner produces TIFF or PDF files only.

    The flatbed scanner can produce almost any image file format, though this will depend on the scanning software you use.

  10. A scanner is broken/non-functioning. What should I do?

    Carefully read the AOC Printing & Scanning Guide [PDF] 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 crithelpdesk@saic.edu 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.