Edit the 3D Model, Not STL
Tuesday, August 06, 2013
There’s been a really easy process in place for additive manufacturing or 3D printing going back as long as I can remember. The easiest way to think about it is to work backwards: the first things you need are a printer and material. Once you have the printer and the material, you need something to print – an STL file. Modeling software, which made the original 3D model – from crankshaft to phone case – is the source of that STL file.
So to put that in order of execution:
1. A 3D model is built in 3D CAD
2. STL is saved and sent to the printer
3. The printer creates the 3D prototype
This process seems great, and seems simple, but anyone who’s tried it knows it never works that way. What happens when the designer sends an STL file with the wrong coarseness for printing, or what if there isn’t enough support structure, or the part being printed needs to change or be cut into smaller pieces?
As a result of all of the unexpected things you can expect will come along, people have been looking for the best way to edit the STL file. They want tools that can clean the mesh, deform the mesh, or build new mesh entities on the model. The reason they want these tools is because they have been stuck with STL files so long, that’s all they know.
What if, instead of editing STL files, easy to use 3D software for engineers allowed people to edit the original geometry the designer made? This easy process change benefits the additive manufacturer two ways. First, they can now choose the resolution a file is saved out as, and use their years of experience to decide how fine or coarse it should be. Second, the designers don’t have to be bothered about small changes or tweaks to allow for better printing. The additive manufacturer is now empowered to make those changes themselves.
If you’re doing additive manufacturing, don’t settle for the STL file. If you get the original CAD file, 3D modeling software like SpaceClaim make it easy to change and manipulate anyone’s data. If you deliver STL files to additive manufactures, ask if they have a 3D modeling program and save yourself the troubles that come from the need to edit at the printing stage.
3D modeling software