It seems nearly hourly a story about 3D printing is hitting the newswires and showing up in blogs, on Twitter or in the mainstream media. The applications of 3D printing are widely varied, from 3D printed chocolates to cars to houses to perfectly fitted prosthetics. It seems that the possibilities for 3D printing are nearly limitless.
My colleague and Design World Managing Editor, Leslie Langnau, has been covering 3D printing from its humble beginnings. In a future issue, she and I will be covering 3D printing, from both the hardware and software sides of the equation.
One of the obstacles for users is how do you use CAD data to print a 3D part, as you can’t simply send the CAD file to the printer. CAD files must be converted to STL files, which in turn can be used by the printer. Problems, however, often rear their ugly heads when any file is converted to another file type.
We’re very interested in hearing how you all are doing this so feel free to comment or send me an email as we prepare on how to tackle this topic.
Facilitating the CAD-3D printing connection
In the latest release of SpaceClaim 2014 SP1, the company is introducing a solution to help with the problems being faced with 3D printing. The STL Prep for 3D Printing module prepares models for 3D printing not only repairs problems, but also modifies STL and CAD files. According to SpaceClaim, this new module also extends SpaceClaim Engineer’s intuitive interface, speed, and ability to work with any major 3D format into the 3D printing world.
SpaceClaim’s director of product management, Justin Hendrickson, was interviewed by Ralph Grabowski, editor of Upfront eZine, on the obstacles faced by users who want to create 3D printed parts using their CAD models.
These problems included:
* STL files have to be watertight (no gaps between surfaces)
* Shapes must be suitable for printing, such as merged assemblies, thickened ribs, and interiors removed
* Models have to be resized to fit the envelop size
* Fixtures added, such as exterior and interior supports
* Model reduced in complexity to reduce the data sent to the printer
* Additional considerations for material, such as shrinkage
* Inability to use 2D drawings or scanned data
To resolve many of these issues, SpaceClaim’s new add-on tools help users prepare CAD models for 3D printing. In today’s multi-CAD design environments, perhaps the most important tool is one that enables users to combine models from a variety of CAD packages. When the source file is a mesh, then the new 3D Print Prep tool cleans it up, removing gaps, holes and intersecting meshes, which makes them watertight.
Hendrickson explains a common scenario in which the software’s modeling tools can help users print something derived from a model, such as a mouth guard derived from a cast of someone’s teeth. The modeling tools can be used to create a generic mouthguard, and then subtract the mesh (of the teeth) from the mouthguard model.
SpaceClaim’s new 3D print prep module also handles these tasks: converts any model to STL or AMF [additive manufacturing format] files; previews the solid to mesh export, with adjustable settings; reduces triangles automatically.
STL Prep for 3D Printing is available as an add-on for SpaceClaim 2014 SP1 for an additional $1,200; Base package for SpaceClaim is $2,445. Find out more about STL Prep for 3D Printing here.