How to 3D-Print in Three Easy Steps
Three dimensional printing has been available for years, but it is not until now that 3D-Printing has become more easily accessible to the regular person. Previously you were forced to buy or build your own printer, and you also had to know how to create printable designs. Now there are services and programs that do a lot of the work for you. The usability is opening up for new possibilities especially for the layman.
It can still be hard for beginners though and sadly, there are not many good articles and tutorials out there that can explain the process. That is why I decided to help you with this article/guide and hopefully clear a few things out for you .
I recommend that you bookmark this page so that you can easily go back to it when you need help.
There are many different uses for 3D-printing, some of them are :
Specialized Gift Creation
Overall Product Creation
Making The Model
Now, how do you get started?
First off you need to create the 3D Model you would like to print. It can be tricky if you do not know how to use 3D programs, but there are several free programs out there that are easy to use. Two of the programs I recommend for 3D printing are Google Sketchup and 123D, they are booth free and are 3D printing friendly. If you are experienced with 3D you can use something more advanced, like FormZ, SolidWorks and AutoCAD.
If you do not like "traditional" CAD programs and would like a program more suitable for modelling and sculpting (programs that use quads instead of triangulation as default) then you can use programs like Blender(free), Cinema 4D, Mudbox, Autodesk Maya and 3D Studio Max. These programs allow you to have easier control over your mesh/model if you want to create something leaning more towards the artistic or organic side. For example, functions like engine parts or products with strict measurements would be easiest to make in "traditional" CAD programs, while maybe you would want to model a face in a more "artist friendly" program. Try both and decide which one you prefer!
Prepare for 3D-Printing
Now comes the tricky part as you can run into problems with your model, especially if you do not use a CAD program. These problems occur from mesh errors. For example, it can be because you
have a non manifold mesh or if you have holes in your design. This can be really hard and time consuming if you have to do it by hand. Luckily I have found a way to speed-up this process. You can use a program called Netfabb Studio which will fix all major mesh errors with just a few clicks!
You do this by:
First import 3D model to Netfabb Studio (which should be in .obj or .stl), Project>Open>Select Model>Open
Then if your model is predominantly red then go to, Part>Invert Part.
To fix your mesh errors you do the following:
Click on the red corse (top right)>Click on Automatic repair (bottom right)>Select Default repair>Execute
Once that is done (you are done) you go to, Part>Export part>Chose STL, OBJ or PLY>Then save it were you want.
From 3D-Model to a Physical Object
Now you have a printable model! There are several printing services avaible on the net that allow you to print your model without having a printer yourself. Some of the websites where you can have your designs printed are:
I recommend that you take a look at all of them and decide which one that fits your needs best.
When you chose a site you want to look at:
Materials: Most of the services out there provide a wide selection of materials, for example plastics, metals and glass.
Pricing and transportation: Look at the cheapest site for what you want to do, and remember to include the cost of transportation. Make sure that they are shipping to your location.
Size: Some of the sites allow for different size of printing so make sure that the site can print your model in the right size, and make sure that your model is in the size you want.
Some of the sites also provide special tools like a scaling help with your model. Some sites also provide a shop system (like shapeways) where people like you can upload models and sell it to the community. This allows you to show off you work and set a price for the buyers. If you are considering selling your design I would recommend that you use the webshop. In that way you do not need to have a stock with your products at home as an example, you just need to send your costumers to the ordering page and receive the payment.
After you have ordered your model it will usually take about 1 or 2 weeks (depending on where were you live) to receive your model.
There you go! You have created your first 3D-Printed design, enjoy! I hope this article helped you to create your design. If you found this useful in any way please take a second of your time and share this article with your friends or like it. Have fun with your model!