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Types of 3D printing

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At Tripomaker, our mission is to make additive manufacturing accessible to everyone. In the past years we have gathered a tremendous amount of information on the 3D printing sphere and we are willing to share it with you! 

Are you a 3D printing enthusiast and are you getting started with 3D printing yourself? Do you want to learn about the techniques and benefits that bring products to life? Here is an overview of the Types of 3D printing!

Keep reading to the end, we may just have the right thing for you!

Types of 3D printing, a short intro:

Additive manufacturing offers consumers and professionals the ability to create, customize and repair products. When used instead of traditional manufacturing methods it constitutes a great way to save money or time since products are brought to market in days instead of months. For those interested in rapid prototyping, 3D printing is extremely beneficial, allowing designers and businesses to get their products more quickly. How to start? Everyone is looking for a cost-competitive option that will deliver the best performance as efficiently as possible. If you’re not sure what process you need, this blog post will tell you.In today’s blog post we will discuss the seven different types of additive manufacturing processes. Materials can vary from technology to technology, but there are some common features for all additive manufacturing, such as the use of a special 3D modeling software. Step one of every process is the creation of a computer aid design (CAD) sketch. The additive manufacturing device reads data from the CAD file and builds a structure layer by layer from printing material.

1. FDM

The most widely used and cost effective method of 3D printing is a process known as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) or Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF). FDM printers use a thermoplastic polymer filament which is heated to its melting point and then extruded, layer by layer in a cross-hatching fashion to create the desired three dimensional object. This thin layer of plastic cools and hardens immediately binding to the layer beneath it. This process is the primary technology that we will discuss more thoroughly in our blog. If you are interested, stay tuned to our monthly posts!

3d printing technologies

2. VAT PHOTOPOLYMERIZATION

The VAT Photopolymerization Process is a method in 3D printing that exposes liquid polymers to ultraviolet (UV) light, in order to turn the liquids into solids. Curable resins are used for the process. First, a 3D design is created in a 3D software. Then, the 3D printer is using digital light technology to harden the liquid material layer by layer. This process of draining and exposing to UV light is repeated until the object is complete, leaving a solid 3D object of the desired shape.

The VAT Photopolymerization Process is divided into two distinct technologies whose major difference is the light source:

- The DLP, or Digital Light Processing is using a UV Beamer to solidify the plastic pattern layer by layer.

- The SLA or Stereolithography is using an Ultraviolet Laser to solidify the plastic pattern layer by layer. 

3d printing technologies

3. POLYJET 

PolyJet 3D printing Process is similar to inkjet printing, but instead of jetting drops of ink onto paper, PolyJet uses layers of curable liquid resins onto a build tray. Liquid photopolymer plastic is sprayed for each new layer and is cured once it falls into place. 

3d printing technologies

4. BINDER JETTING

Binder Jetting uses a wide range of material types such us ceramics, polymers and metals. Inkjet print heads apply a liquid bonding agent onto thin layers. By gluing the particles together, the part is built up layer by layer. Parts in full color are possible when a colored print is desired.

3d printing technologies

5. POWDER BED FUSION

The Powder Bed Fusion Process uses polymers, metals, and ceramics and includes the following commonly used techniques:  

- Selective laser sintering (SLS) and Selective laser melting (SLM). This process uses lasers to melt and fuse material powder together.

- Electron beam melting (EBM): During this process the powder bed is selectively melted layer by layer by an electron beam under high vacuum atmosphere. 

3d printing technologies

6. SHEET LAMINATION

The Sheet Lamination Process stacks layered cut-outs and works effectively for paper, polymers and metal. 

3d printing technologies

7. DIRECT ENERGY DEPOSITION

The Direct Energy Deposition Process is comparable to welding,   the material and heat added simultaneously. This method works most effectively with polymers and metals. It is a more complex printing process commonly used to repair or add additional material to existing components.

3d printing technologies

HOW TO CHOOSE THE APPROPRIATE TYPES OF 3D PRINTING?

Each method has its own advantages and drawbacks. The main considerations in choosing a 3D printer are the speed, the precision, the quality, the cost, the choice of the materials and the color possibilities. The VAT and Polyjet processes are mainly used for high-precision and high-quality parts, like jewelry molds. Binder jetting and Power-Bed fusion are versatile enough to use a variety of materials.

At Tripodmaker, we are using Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) or Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D Printers. The material extrusion process is the prominent technique used in desktop 3D printing for three main reasons:

  1. First of all because it’s clean and office friendly. There is no dust, no glue, no sticky liquid resins.
  2. Secondly, it has a low energy consumption as no high-powered laser or compressed air is required.
  3. Last, but not least, it is easy to maintain.

Our products have a full automatic calibration and they are incredibly fast due to our delta robot set-up as well as their limited weight. They come along with a Prisma Software and a heated bed that allows your print to stick better. The Tripodmaker has a rigid high quality designed structure. The resulting accuracy is a combination of hardware, software and extrusion. Getting started with 3D printing? Check out our professional TripodMaker Delta Printer.

CONCLUSION

3D printing may have a profound impact on the world as big as the industrialisation. It is not easy to foresee its long-term impact, but the technology is coming and is likely to disrupt every field it touches. There are many applications for AM technologies including architecture, construction, industrial design, automotive, aerospace, engineering, dental and medical industries, biotech, fashion, footwear, jewelry, eyewear, education, research, food and many other fields that we will discuss on a different blog post. We hope you found this useful!

GETTING STARTED WITH 3D PRINTING

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3d printer models free downloadable

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In our last article we talked about the 7 different types of additive manufacturing processes and how to choose the appropriate technology based on your needs. In this blog, we will talk about where to find 3d printer models free. By now, you may already have chosen the right 3D printer for yourself. Are you wondering how long it will take you before you can make your first 3D model? If you are staring at a blank screen with no idea what comes next, there is nothing to worry about. At Tripodmaker our mission is to make 3D printing accessible to everyone. The process of preparing a 3D model for printing is often unique to everyone, but hopefully these guidelines will provide a foundation for you. So go ahead, read our article or download our e-book now! 

 

GENERATING YOUR CAD MODEL

To get started with 3D printing, you first need to design the 3D object. In the additive manufacturing industry people say: “If you can draw it, you can make it.” A great deal of items can be made with 3D printers. You can draw them yourself or you can easily download object files from various websites. 

DRAW IT YOURSELF

If you want to draw/design the 3D object yourself, there are free and paid software available online, which range in complexity. You can review Wikipedia for a list of 3D modeling software applications or read our selection below. You can learn how to 3D model starting with free 3D modeling software like Rhino, Blender or SketchUp. It will take you some weeks to be familiar with 3D modeling tools such as the aforementioned. To become a professional user will take you at least half a year to study and practice.

 

GOOGLE SKETCHUP

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This is a fun, free and easy to use software. To build models in SketchUp, you draw lines and shapes using a few simple tools that you can learn in a short time. With the Push/Pull tool, for instance, you can turn surfaces into 3D forms. Very easy to learn and intuitive, it offers the possibility to be productive within a couple of hours.

 

free 3D modeling software 3D printing

3DTIN

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3DTin is a free web-based program for creating three dimensional models. You can draw directly from your browser. 3DTin offers templates that you can use to develop models or you can just as well design a model from scratch by placing cubes of different colors on top of each other. The service is free to use as long as you allow your models to be labeled with a Creative Commons license and put them in the 3DTin gallery. The gallery is a great place to find examples of what can be created in 3DTin. Models that you create can be exported in standard 3D file formats (STL for instance) in order to be used in other modeling software. You can also save the sketches in cloud. 3DTin could be a great tool for engineering or architecture activity or even for teaching students.

 

free 3D modeling software 3D printing

BLENDER

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If you are looking to create an artistic 3D model, this is the right software program for you. Blender is the free open source 3D content creation suite, available for Linux, Mac and Windows. It is a powerful software offering lots of design freedom and endless design options, however it might be quite difficult to learn. It is typically used for creating animated films, visual effects, art, 3D printed models, interactive 3D applications and video games. This software is a nice tool for fixing and making simple changes to STL files.

 

free 3D modeling software 3D printing

OPENSCAD

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OpenSCAD is a software for creating solid 3D CAD (Computer-aided design) objects. It is free software and available for Linux/UNIX, MS Windows and Mac OS X. It might be the application you are looking for when you are planning to create 3D models of machine parts since it does not focus on the artistic aspects of 3D modelling but instead on the CAD aspects. It is something like a 3D-compiler that reads in a script file that describes the object and renders the 3D model from this script file. This gives to the user full control over the modelling process and enables him to easily change any step in the modelling process or make designs that are defined by configurable parameters.

 

free 3D modeling software 3D printing

TINKERCAD

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If you are just starting and want an easy to use option, TinkerCAD is the perfect 3d printing companion for you! It is a new and faster way of creating designs for your 3D printer. By creating an account and following tutorials you can learn to design basic parts quickly. With only three basic tools you can create a wide range of useful things. Once your project is ready simply download the STL file and start your 3D print. Tinkercad supports all 3D printers on the market that accept standard STL file formats. You can also download VRML files for color printing. There are limitations to the program but it is a great place to get started. 

 

free 3D modeling software 3D printing

COMMERCIAL SOFTWARE

Commercial software such as CAD software AutoCAD and Pro Engineer, as well as software packages Rhino, Maya, and SolidWorks are all pretty good for designing 3D models, if money is not the issue. Rhino is incredibly easy to use, thanks to its combination of a command-line and toolbar interface, and extreme flexibility regarding order of operations. The end result is a 3D software that feels intuitive and solid. Maya is the current king-of-the-hill in high-end 3D animation software. It offers a comprehensive creative feature set on a highly extensible production platform. When it comes to SolidWorks, it is simple enough to deduce and work with limited to no experience but still powerful enough to model any engineering problem that might crop up.

 

free 3D modeling software 3D printing

DOWNLOAD OBJECTS

If you want to look into what other designers or artists have created and released to the public, both free and paid, search the internet to discover what is out there. And like everything on the internet, there’s a great deal more than you’d expect. Here are some websites with 3D models database:

3D MARVELS

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The site operates as a clearinghouse for 3D artist works. For each and every copy of the model that you cut using your tools, you must buy a license from 3DMarvels.com. You are not allowed to remove the 3DMarvels.com logo or otherwise modify the file. You must purchase a license before printing.

Cad models for 3D printing database

3D VIA

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3DVIA focuses on the development of 3D authoring, publishing, and hosting tools for professional and consumer markets. 

Cad models for 3D printing database

GRABCAD

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GrabCAD is a startup that has created a free cloud-based collaboration solution that helps engineering teams manage, view and share CAD files. It has recently released Workbench, a free cloud-based collaboration solution that helps engineering teams manage, share, and view CAD files. 

Cad models for 3D printing database

TRIMBLE/GOOGLE 3D WAREHOUSE

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Users first need to create and account. Then they can search models and collections and download a 3D model for free. Designers can upload their designs to share with other users. Just click on Upload, accept the terms of service, upload the file, and then fill in the fields for title description, logo, and tags.

Cad models for 3D printing database

PONOKO PRODUCT PLANS

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Choose and buy a design and download the files to your PC. You can also edit and mashup the product plans you download from Ponoko to create something completely original. Just remember to abide by the designer's copyright license. The site offers the possibility to produce the items you order using Ponoko’s make-on-demand technology. Products can be shipped to your door.

Cad models for 3D printing database

SHAPEWAYS 3D PARTS DATABASE

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The Shapeways 3D parts Database is a resource where you can download files from. The files are free under a Creative Commons license and you can use them to work quicker and build exciting models. The site offers compression springs, gears, gearboxes, coil springs and leaf springs for users to download and use for their projects.

Cad models for 3D printing database

THINGIVERSE

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Thingiverse is a DIY 3D printer kit making company, with an almost endless repository of 3D models that you can use to test the limits of your printer. The models cover categories such as 3D printing, art, hobby, models, tools etc. Many of the objects shared on Thingiverse are also for the purpose of repair. Next time you have a broken zipper make sure to check Thingiverse, the design for printing your replacement part may already have been posted there. What’s even more interesting is getting involved with the community. You can learn a lot by following and interacting with some of the more advanced users. 

Cad models for 3D printing database

TURBOSQUID

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TurboSquid offers a great selection of 3D models and other tools like textures and plug–ins that have passed rigorous testing procedures to ensure they will work with your software. They work with thousands of artists to generate a maximum of creative possibilities making the user’s creations as imaginative as possible. 

Cad models for 3D printing database

MYMINIFACTORY

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MyMiniFactory is a curated social platform for 3D printable objects. It doesn’t use the business model that is emerging as the industry standard – the upload for free, download for fee -concept. Instead, they offer users free downloads, category and catalogue extensions by request, yet still offer suitable monetary incentives for the uploaders. The community platform connects 3D designers, makers, users and brands: 3D designers can upload and share their creations, promote them and earn money from sales. Makers can print for others and earn money while users can download thousands of 3D printable objects for free, buy printed objects, or follow their favorite designers and makers. Brands can reach out to the community with contests and other features.

Sites with free cad models

CONCLUSION

How long will it take you before you can turn your idea into a 3D model? Well, that is really up to you and how much time you want to spend doing it. There are certain people who want to absorb as much knowledge as they can and choose not to apply it until they have a good sense of understanding. Then there are some eager users that may actually get started too quickly, but that is ok too, since they will learn by doing it. The next step of making a 3D printing design is to understand STL files and how to create a good one. Are you struggling with faulty STL files? Stay tuned for our next article explaining how to fix your CAD (Computer-aided design) files and how to prepare them for the slicing software.

GETTING STARTED WITH 3D PRINTING

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GETTING STARTED -PART 5- THE FINAL STEPS OF 3D PRINTING

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In our previous articles in “Getting started with 3D printing series”, we have provided a step-by-step guide to 3d printing from the moment you have chosen the appropriate hardware. We explained how to generate your CAD (Computer-aided design) model for those wanting to design the 3D object themselves, as well as for the users that prefer to download object files from other designers. Once you have managed to create or repair your STL file, you need to feed it into the slicing software. The slicing software converts the STL file into a machine code, the ‘g-code’, which is basically the path per layer that the 3D printer must follow in order to construct the printed object. Software is the second most important thing when it comes to 3D printing. In our last article we provided a detailed selection of the best free slicer software required to prepare and execute a 3D print. Today we will finally discuss about the actual printing and the surface finishing.

THE PRINTING PROCESS

Now that you have your ‘g-code’, the 3D printer has its marching orders on exactly how to execute the necessary movements to realize your print. As explained, the g-code enables the printer to see the STL file as a list of coordinates for the print head to follow for depositing material. There are two ways in which this is accomplished. If the 3D printer is linked to your PC, the data stream goes from your PC to the printer via a cable. The main drawback with this method is that the print will fail if the connection breaks off or the PC crashes. If the 3D printer is linked with an SD card, the data stream flows from the SD card to the printer. This is a stand-alone operation and is less prone to fail if the other hardware fails. Make sure you have set up your device properly. Each device has its own prerequisites for how to use it for every new print, such as adding the materials the printer will use. When the moment comes for the actual printing, the whole procedure is mainly automatic. The thickness of layers is about more or less 0,1 mm each. Depending on the size of the object, the 3D printer and the materials employed, the procedure could take from several hours to several days.

How to 3D print and how to smooth your 3D prints

THE POST PROCESSING

Once you have removed carefully your printed object, you may need to clean your print’s surface. It may happen so that after an object is 3D printed it will require some post-processing, depending on the quality of your printer and of the filament you used. Certain printing techniques require internal supports to be built for overhanging features during construction. These supports must be mechanically removed or dissolved upon completion of the print. Once you remove the support structure and any potential overhang or stringing, your print will be ready, but the surface finishing will probably not be optimal yet. There are several techniques to smoothen the surface of your prints, such as sanding, chemical vapor, coating, painting, etc. The choice of each finishing technique depends largely on part geometry and the material you used. Different methods allow for different textures and appearances.

Smooth your 3D prints

THE TECHNIQUES

A common finishing technique for the FDM objects is sanding. Sanding is an inexpensive, effective, and proven method to reach a smooth finish. It is consistently the most widely used finishing technique for 3D-printed parts. It’s recommended to be avoided for the tiny parts. Some printable polymers such as ABS, allow the surface finishing to be smoothed and improved using chemical vapor processes. When it comes to coating, it can be both decorative and functional. For instance metal coating gives the appearance of production metal or plated parts and provides a hard, wear-resistant surface with reflective properties. Painting 3D printed parts is a vast world of acrylics, enamels, sprays, and airbrushes. After sanding, you may add an initial coat of primer and inspect the surface again for imperfections. Primer is a special type of paint that adheres strongly to the part and provides a uniform surface for paint to bond with. After the specified drying time, the part is ready for painting. There are several tips for a smooth paint job and it’s always preferable to finish with a clear coat to protect the paint job. Some additive manufacturing techniques are capable of using multiple materials in the course of constructing parts. These techniques are able to print in multiple colors and color combinations simultaneously, and would not necessarily require painting.print in multiple colors and color combinations simultaneously, and would not necessarily require painting.

Painting 3D printed model

CONCLUSION

We just completed our  “Getting started with 3D printing” series! We hope that our posts inspired more people to get into designing for 3D printing and that they will do a lot of exciting work. 

We will stay committed to our mission, making 3D printing available to everyone. Since you're now ready to start, we will continue our research to provide you with the latest news,tips and tricks on 3D printing. Our next articles will cover a great variety of topics and will be located on our blog page under the category "All you can know". In case you need to freshen up your memory on the basics, our previous "Getting started" series can be found on our blog page or you can download our free ebook for a more expanded version of the series.

GETTING STARTED WITH 3D PRINTING

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GETTING STARTED -PART 4- 6 GREAT SLICING TOOLS AND HOSTS FOR 3D PRINTING

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When it comes to getting started with 3D printing, you need to choose the right hardware for you. Tripodmaker has a mission to make 3D printing accessible to everyone. In our previous articles in “Getting started with 3D printing series”, we have offered an overview of the 7 different types of additive manufacturing processes and how to choose the appropriate technology based on your needs. 

By now, you may already have chosen the right 3D printer for yourself. We have explained how to generate your CAD (Computer-aided design) model in order to get started with 3d printing. For those wanting to design the 3D object themselves, we offered a review of free and paid online software. For the users that prefer to download object files from other designers, we offered a selection of websites with 3D models database. Once you have managed to create or repair your STL file, you need to feed it into the slicing software. The slicing software (also called a slicer) converts the STL file into a machine code, the ‘g-code’, which is basically the path per layer that the 3D printer must follow in order to construct the printed object. Software is the second most important thing when it comes to 3D printing. In today’s article we will provide a detailed selection of the best free slicer software required to prepare and execute a 3D print.

Tripodmaker's prisma slicer

Once you have created or obtained your STL file, you need to feed the STL file into the slicing software. If you remember, almost all additive manufacturing processes work by creating stacked layers that are a cross section of the part you want. To build the part you must slice the geometry in software. This is hard work, but the intersection with a triangle is very easy. This makes creating the path for each layer so much simpler. So, the slicing software (also called a slicer) converts the STL file into a machine code, the ‘g-code’, which is basically the path per layer that the 3D printer must follow in order to construct the printed object. “G-code” is the common name for the most widely used numerical control programming language in which people tell computerized machine tools how to make something. The "how" is defined by instructions on where to move, how fast to move, and what path to move. The slicing software can either be open source or specifically designed for your printer model. An open source slicing software provides greater flexibility with the settings and you might have to tweak those for your specific printer model. A closed source slicing software is easier to use because there are less settings to adjust, and its default settings are adapted for the specific 3D printer in question. Here is a list of the best free slicing programs: 

SLICER SOFTWARE

PRISMA:

HTTP://WWW.TRIPODMAKER.COM/PRISMA

Prisma is a cloud-based slicer platform that is perfectly configured for the Tripodmaker professional 3D printer. It comes pre-set with the appropriate dimensions of the Tripodmaker's print bed and it includes specific settings which allow you to start right away. The slicer settings of Prisma are quite simple. For instance, in terms of printing speed, you can choose between normal and high. The infill settings are limited to hollow, normal, strong and solid. The Library tab offers a practical feature, the possibility to store all your previously used 3D models and to display them with a preview image. To sum it up, Prisma’s main focus is to make 3D printing easy, especially for someone new to slicing. 100% adapted to the Tripodmaker 3D printer, it still offers the user a certain freedom and guarantees at the same time optimal performance and print success.

Prisma slicer on mac

SLIC3R:

HTTP://SLIC3R.ORG/

Slic3r is an open source slicer software. The code and the algorithms are not based on any other previous work and aim for readability and maintainability. Slic3r, being a true non-profit community project, allowed the community to experiment with several original new features that have become common thereafter such as multiple extruders, brim, micro-layering, bridge detection, command line slicing, variable layer heights, sequential printing (one object at time), honeycomb infill, mesh cutting, object splitting into parts, AMF support, avoid crossing perimeters, distinct extrusion widths, and much more. All of these features were first introduced in Slic3r and are now part of the commercial software out there. The current version of the 3D printing software includes multiple views so users can better preview how their models will 3D print. Some of its many advantages are its easy setup and the compatibility with several Hosting programs. It supports multi-model printing, can split and save STL files and can also handle big STL files.

tripodmaker slicing tools

KISSLICER:

HTTP://WWW.KISSLICER.COM/

KISSlicer is a fast, easy-to-use, cross-platform program that takes 3D files (STL) and generates path information (g-code) for a 3D Printer.  The free version has all the features needed for the 3D printing enthusiast who uses a single-head machine.  The pro version essentially adds multi-head and multi-model printing. It is compatible with several Hosting programs. In our opinion this is one of the best slicer that is out there right now. This fast slicing software will save you a great deal of time and energy. It offers adjustable printer speed, smart multi-head temperature control and can handle overlapping meshes. Thanks to its adaptive sparse infill and its adaptive support it can also help you save material. It offers high quality prints and the best surface finishing. With minimal settings and easy preview it’s perfect for those getting started with 3D printing. Just keep in mind that it only supports multi-model printing in its payed version, it can't split and save STL files and can’t handle very big STL files either.

kissslicer tripodmaker

CURA:

HTTPS://ULTIMAKER.COM/EN/PRODUCTS/CURA-SOFTWARE

Cura is the standard slicer software for all Ultimaker 3D printers, but it can also be used with most other 3D printers. It’s fully open source and can be extended via a plugin system. For people new to 3D printing it will do everything you need it to and for experts there’s a world of advanced settings to tinker with. This 3D printing software allows you to manage the most important 3D print settings in a clear interface. Start in “Basic” mode to rapidly learn how to use it, where you can choose reconfigured printer quality settings. When you need more precise control over the print quality settings, switch to over “Expert” mode. You can also use Cura as 3D printer host software for direct control over your machine. Keep in mind that the 3D printer needs to be connected to the PC during the process. The biggest drawback for Cura, if any, is that when you get a rare slicing bug you would better get around it than wait for a fix!

cura

3D PRINTER HOSTS SOFTWARE

There is no best hosting program as some people claim. The best thing is to get a couple of them and use them for different functionalities. We believe it is not interesting to print complete objects through your hosting software by “streaming” the “g-code” to your printer. The data can’t move fast enough from your computer to your printer. This could therefore result in poor quality of your printed object. We suggest that you save your “g-code” files on an SD-card. In this way, you are able to transfer your “g-code” file in one operation to your printer, through a USB connection or on an SD-card. It’s the best way to avoid streaming issues and your entire “g-code” file will be saved on your printer’s memory. There are quite a few hosting software but we propose our two favorites (both free):

REPETIER HOST: 

HTTPS://WWW.REPETIER.COM/

The Repetier-Host is a simple to use host software, which is compatible with most 3D printer firmware around. It can be configured for Delta printers like the TripodMaker too. You can add and position your STL files on the simulated print-bed and slice them. For slicing you can use the integrated Slic3r and Cura functionality. Repetier Host actually merges the 2 slicers in one software and allows you to link your computer to your printer to easily monitor temperature, progress and to manually control your printer. Just use "Slice & Load" and the job gets delegated to the slicer, showing its output in the log window. In the G-Code editor you can change or analyze your code. The host runs on Windows XP or higher, Linux, and Mac OS X. You also get a 3D representation of the slicing result.  

BEST SLICERS FOR 3D PRINTING

PRINTRUN:

HTTP://WWW.PRONTERFACE.COM/

Printrun is a 3D printing host software suite which talks to your printer and handles the printing process. It allows you to control the printer with a navigation cross. Printrun has become the default control software for more than half of the 3D printers used by enthusiasts due to its powerful yet simple to use interface called Pronterface. It is pre-packaged with Slic3r and is able to control all RepRap and Makerbot based 3D printers. Compatible with all kinds of slicers, it is entirely open source and freely available for download. It offers a 2D representation of the status during printing. 

BEST SLICERS FOR 3D PRINTING

GETTING STARTED WITH 3D PRINTING

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GETTING STARTED -PART 3- FREE STL FILE FIXING WITH NETFABB BASIC

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In this article, we will discuss STL file fixing. In our last article we explained how to generate your CAD (Computer-aided design) model in order to get started with 3d printing. For those wanting to design the 3D object themselves, we offered a review of free and paid online software. For the users that prefer to download object files from other designers, we offered a selection of websites with 3D models database. The next step of making a 3D printing design is to understand STL files and how to create a good one. Are you struggling with faulty STL files? Most of them aren't immediately ready for printing. Models seemingly perfect on screen may be filled with defects which make 3D printing difficult, if not impossible. Go ahead and read this article explaining how to easily fix your CAD files and how to prepare them for the slicing software! 

WAIT A MINUTE! WHAT IS AN STL FILE?

The STL file (StereoLithography File) is the standard language of the prototyping world, the file format that all geometry creation tools write, and that all prototyping systems read. In a 3D print file, the object is constructed out of a set of triangles, also known as mesh. These triangles surround the volume of the object. The denser the mesh (i.e. the higher the amount of triangles) the more detailed the surface of your printable objects will be. The build time is 100% related to the volume and the build height of the object, it is not related to the density of the mesh. The details have no effect whatsoever on the build time. The more detailed the mesh, the bigger the file becomes, because there are more meshes and therefore more coordinates inside the file. This is of course harder to process for most slicer software. In Tripodmaker we are proposing Prisma, a cloudbased slicer platform perfectly fitted for your Tripodmaker professional 3D printer. It is easy to use and results in perfect prints. Prisma is more powerful than a regular computer software and therefore handles even the most complicated job easily. 

An STL file can be created with most of the CAD programs or with a scanner and contains the data of the triangles. If triangles (i.e. surface data) are missing or overlapping in the STL file, you might not be able to print your 3D object. In that case the STL model needs to be fixed, by plugging the hole or addressing the overlap, before continuing. You can fix the STL file with a free application like Netfabb Basic. When you make a prototype it will be an exact copy of your STL file. If there are errors in your file, you may not be able to get a prototype made. This is why we consider it is a good investment to take some time and understand STL files and how to create a good one. In this post we are going to go through a simple example, showing how to use this great free tool, to automatically repair STL files for 3D printing. It is quite fast and you just need to be able to find your way around the user interface!  

TUTORIAL: REPAIR STL FILES IN NETFABB BASIC

Here is a detailed and clear tutorial by Thomas Sanladerer, showing how to prepare and fix STL files that would otherwise cause problems during 3D printing. All big CAD software like Solidworks or Inventor, but also Sketchup, OpenSCAD and Blender can export STL files. Like we said, the STL file defines the surfaces of your part. The more complex your parts are, the more can go wrong when your program tries to decide how to arrange those triangles, to make them as similar as possible to the original part. Modern slicers can automatically work around some of these errors but we highly recommend that you do these repairs by yourself since these can often introduce artifacts that will only show up once the part is printed. Another common problem with printable files is that they are often not oriented properly, so unless you want to make heavy use of support material, you should check that the part you are going to print has a large, flat surface that can stick to the build platform and is oriented in the right direction.

For this job, we are going to be using Netfabb Studio basic, which is a popular free tool for 3D printing. In fact, the professional version also includes a slicer. The process we will follow will basically be as follows.

  1. Load your file and check Netfabb's preliminary analysis
  2. Perform Repairs
  3. Apply repairs to your file
  4. Export the repaired file as a new STL

1. LOAD YOUR STL FILE AND CHECK NETFABB'S PRELIMINARY ANALYSIS

So let’s get started. If you haven’t installed it yet, Netfabb basic for Windows, Linux and Mac is available for free at their websiteAfter installing, you will need to register it using your email address. To open up a file, choose 'Open' under the 'Project" menu in Netfabb.  It will look like this.

When opening an STL file, Netfabb performs a preliminary analysis to determine if there are issues that could cause problems during 3D printing. The most common issues include holes and triangles with invalid orientations. You can rotate the view while holding the right mouse button and zoom in and out with the mouse wheel. In the bottom right corner, Netfabb will show you the dimensions of the part you just opened. This is important to check as STL files are stored dimensionless. RepRap tools generally assume those units to be millimeters. However, some programs use inches or centimeters when exporting, which will result in parts that appear way too small. To fix that, we can use the “scale” tool, which is up here.

 

Use a scaling factor of 25, 4 if your part was exported in inches, or 10 for centimeters, then hit “scale” and double-check that the reported dimensions are correct. 

Now, you might have noticed the little warning icon at the bottom of your screen, which indicates that your part still has errors in the data. If you do not see the red attention warning, congratulations, your file is very likely ready for 3D printing and nothing further is needed.

2. PERFORM REPAIRS

If problems are found, you will often see the errors as red spots on your part. The best way to deal with these is by using the “Automated Repair”, which usually manages to get almost every file into a printable shape. To start, click the red cross on your toolbar and select “Automated Repair”, then choose the “Default Repair” and hit “Execute”.

At this point you'll notice that another 'layer' is created underneath the 'Part Analysis'. The triangular mesh is now shown on the model and new options and information are available in the lower pane. Press 'Update' to see a list of different errors. Now, select 'Automated Repair' and then choose 'Default'.

Netfabb will now process a series of repair algorithms in order to make the STL file printable. You can follow up these steps by clicking on the Repair Scripts tab in the lower right of the information pane. This will probably take some time. The more detailed the mesh, the longer it will take. A status bar in the lower right corner will show progress.

 

When the repair process is complete you can again press the 'Update' button under the status tab. You should see zero border edges, invalid orientations and holes. If your part is a single object it will likely indicate the preferred shell. Not optimum multiple shells will not usually cause printing problems. You should also visually verify that your model still looks the same as the original one. In some cases, Netfabb automated repairs may create solids where in fact a hole was intended. This is rare but you should still check visually.

At this point, the file will usually print just fine. If the “Automated Repair” didn’t pick off all errors, you might want to try to “Remove Degenerate Faces” option in the actions tab. Choose a tolerance of about 0, 01 and hit ok. This will completely remodel your file and give you another chance that the “Automated Repair” picks off all errors, so run than again. 

3. APPLY REPAIRS TO YOUR FILE

We're not done yet as we still need to apply the repairs to the originally loaded file by pressing 'Apply Repairs' in the lower right corner. This removes the analysis and repair layers and fixes the original rendering. You should normally see the original green rendering without the red attention warning. You should also see a volume calculation. Now hit “Apply Repair” then “Remove Old Part”. The last step is orienting the part, which is very simple in Netfabb. Use the “Align to Bottom Plane” tool and double-click the side of your part that you want to stick to the build platform.  

 4. EXPORT THE FIXED STL FILE AS A NEW STL

Since we started this process to create a clean STL file we now need to create a new, repaired file. Make sure the part is selected and green, then click “Part”, “Export Part”, “STL” and choose where you want to save the STL. Netfabb will automatically create a filename composed of the original with 'repaired' appended so you don't have to worry about overwriting your original file. If successful, instead of a large red 'x' you will see a green check mark.  So that’s the whole process of preparing a file for the slicer! You should now run through this process for every part you print. We promise that once you have figured it out, it’s super-fast to do as well. Congratulations, you now have a printable STL file!

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StqAtQIR3Bs

CONCLUSION

Once you have managed to create or repair your STL file, you need to feed it into the slicing software. The slicing software (also called a slicer) converts the STL file into a machine code, the ‘g-code’, which is basically the path per layer that the 3D printer must follow in order to construct the printed object. Stay tuned for our next article and find out more about the slicing software. We will provide a detailed selection of all software required to prepare and execute a 3D print. We hope that you have found this article useful!

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