But they make it look as simple as easy as waving an object in front of the scanner and printer and then standing back in awe as a completely miniature model of The Whitehouse comes shuffling out.
Hmmm. We hate to burst your bubble but it’s not quite that easy. If only…
If you have a 3D model that you want to print out, you might be interested to know what leads up to that final print. There are eight steps to prepping before printing.
3D models often have to be resized before they can be printed. This could because it may not quite fit in the build volume of your printer or you could want to make the print as large as possible. This is the stage where plastic shrinkage has to be considered so the size of your print may have to be increased to account for that shrinkage.
Quite often, it’s necessary to make sure that the print is a specific size. Some software will let you resize an object by stretching it. However, for a specific resize, you need a numerical way of requesting it. If you have no way of doing that, then you won’t have much idea of what the completed size will be.
All 3D tools for modelling are not created equal. Some have the Y axis as the up or down and others have the Z axis for it. Crazy, we know. What this means for you is that if the model is on its’ side when you start to print, it’s not going to work. You’ll need to rotate the model 90 degrees so that the orientation is right. Free rotation tools aren’t great for this so you’re best to perform this rotation numerically.
If a model has been obtained via 3D scanning, you may find unexpected holes that ruin the solid state of the finished article. Some software for slicing and printing can recognise a hole but how they see it might not be how you see it. You need a sealing tool to get those holes fixed before printing.
The virtual origin spot is vital to good 3D printing. All 3D models must have a position that is relative to this spot. This sweet spot makes sure that when you import the model into your slicing software, it is in exactly the spot you need so that it is on the print bed.
Make sure that your prepping software can cut 3D models on each axis. This is necessary because sometimes a 3D model looks as if it is completely flat on the bottom but when you come to print it…it isn’t and it causes all sorts of issues. The simple fix is to use your prepping software to shave of a thin piece of your model’s bottom to make sure it’s really flat.
Make sure that your software will let you zoom in and view your 3D model in rotation. This is so that you can take a good look at it from all the way round to see if it’s overhanging anywhere to the point where you may have to include some sort of support structure. Adding supports may take a little more time and a little more plastic but it saves you wasting a whole printed model that can’t support itself. Avoid fixed view software which doesn’t offer this function.
Now that you’ve seen how much work goes into preparing a 3D model for printing, you will understand why we advise you to make sure that your software will let you make multiple copies with one press of a button.
The world of 3D printing hasn’t yet reached the point where one software package contains everything that’s needed. Most softwares have a lot of functions but to get these essential eight, you may need to have more than one package on the go.