We Are Learning 3D Printing Through Our Personal Experience…
It is always good to have alternatives and not be forced to use only one thing and he same is also very true for 3D printers and their software. If you are limited to using only the software provided by your 3D printer’s manufacturer you may end up disappointed from the device just because of a the software being full of bugs or very limited in terms of features. When we were choosing our first 3D printer we have taken into account this as well and went for a device that is supported by alternative software such as the Simplify 3D among others. Not that the Makerbot Replicator 2 was not supported by other solutions as well back then, but having a software that has some useful extra functionality and features that is recommended by people already more experienced in 3D printing is definitely a plus. Now, a few months later when Makerbot has decided to integrate the MakerWare into their Makerbot Desktop software along with other features is making us rely more on the Siplify3D software more and more. Not that the MakerBot Desktop software is bad, but the whole package is not what a more advanced user that wants to be more in control of the printing process would actually want. It seems that MakerBot is targeting more novice users by trying to provide a simpler and more user friendly software, but many of the people that start with 3D printing quickly outgrow the basic needs and start having more requirements…
This is were the Simplify3D software comes into action by offering wider functionality and more advanced control over the printing process, should you need it, along with support for many 3D printers. With the just released Simplify3D V2.2 update the software now supports even more 3D printers than before, including the newer MakerBot 5th Gen Replicator, MakerBot Mini, MakerBot Z18 among many others. The drawback with Simplify3D is that the software is commercial and you need to buy a license to be able to try it use it, so you cannot just download a demo version that you can try out before you buy. A license for the Simplify3D 3D printing software will cost you $140 USD, a one time price that you have to pay for it that covers future updates. The best thing is that chances are that not only your current, but also your future 3D printer may be supported by the software, so even if you get another device or upgrade in the future you may still be able to use the same software with the new printer. So while it may not be a wise idea to buy the software if you are just starting in the world of 3D printing and are still wondering if it is something for you to dig deeper in, if you have already decided that 3D printing is your thing, then getting a license for the Simplify3D software may be a good idea.
The Simplify3D software is essentially an all-in-one software suite for your 3D printing needs, at least if you have an FDM/FFF 3D printer that extrudes thermoplastic. The software has a fast slicing engine and a very good preview on how the actual print will look like, including a preview of the whole printing process. Simplify3D also offers more advanced and intelligent functionality regarding the support structures, it even allows you to manually add or remove support for models before trying to print them at places that you may consider it will be useful. Another good and useful thing is that the printing algorithms used by the software are probably different as compared to what your original 3D printing software uses. This means that if your original software has trouble slicing a 3D model and properly printing it due to some issues you might have better success with the different algorithms used by the Simplify3D software. When talking about issues with models, the Simplify3D also has some advantages thanks to a few options available for analyzing and reporting possible issues with the models you are trying to print with even the ability to automatically fix some of them. This functionality however is far from perfect and there are other software that offer better and more functional ability to find and repair automatically issues with your 3D models. With all that said we are not going to say that Simplify3D is the perfect and absolutely problem free software for your 3D printer, it still has some issues and things we don’t like, as well as functions that are lacking. The good thing is that the company developing the software is actually listening to what the users of Simplify3D need and want to have available and implement new things based on the user feedback and this is very important to have for a 3D printer software. So we do recommend to check out the features and functionality that the Simplify3D software offers as we have been happily using the software for a while already and will continue to do so, though we are not always and only relying on it for our 3D printing needs.
Autodesk Meshmixer is a free and useful tool for people that are not that experienced in 3D modelling and 3D printing as it gives the average user some nice tools to modify existing 3D models. The software started as a tool to mix different 3D models in order to produce interesting and even weird new ones, but has since evolved into a more powerful and useful tool. This tool in not designed for designing new 3D models from scratch like other 3D modeling software, instead it is for modifying in interesting and creative ways already existing objects and then printing them on your 3D printer.
One of the other useful features that the Meshmixer has are the set of tools that make it easy to identify and fix various problems in 3D models that may cause you trouble when printing or when actually using the models later on. So you might want to check the software out especially because of the functionality for analyzing and automatically repairing various issues with 3D models before printing them. Meshmixer does have a pretty good format support for importing and exporting, so you can open, fix and then export the 3D models before 3D printing them.
The software uses own file format MIX, but can also import OBJ, PLY, STL and SAM files. The software can either directly print to a number of supported 3D printers or export the edited model in OBJ, DAE, PLY, STL, AMF or WRL formats as well as THING format for MakerBot 3D printers. Meshmixer has direct integration for services that produce 3D prints of your 3D models as well as has built-in support for multiple different 3D printers, though the list is not that big in terms of supported brands.
The Meshmixer software is available only for Windows and even though it is a free software it is not an open source one. It has some powerful and useful features that can help you getting better 3D prints, but you will have to spend some time getting to know the software and how to use all of the functionality it offers. We do recommend you to check it out and try it yourself and also read the tutorials on how to use the various functionality available as these can be quite helpful.
We have already discussed having some problems in the STL file you are going to be printing, even though they may not be visible when previewing the model, can often lead to problems when you start 3D printing. The fact that the different errors in the 3D model that you want to print might not be visible to the naked eye makes it hard to identify them and fix them before attempting to print. There are software solutions available that can help you address such problems by trying to automatically find more common errors and correct them thus saving you time and frustration why a certain model does not want to print properly. One such solution is the Emendo STL Validation and Repair Software that can provide you with an automated method for validating STL for use on a 3D printer.
STL files define the surface of the part to be printed, so if there is a hole, or inconsistency in the surface such as a “zero thickness wall”, a 3D printer will have difficulty in printing the object as it was designed. Emendo provides the user with a 3D view of the file, highlighting the location and type of errors found in the file. This also helps users learn how to design better CAD files, and also locates the cause of problems that require manual re-design before printing. Some 3D printing problems relate to the method of design used in third party CAD applications and require revision with that application.
The only drawback is that currently the Emendo STL Validation and Repair Software is only available for Mac OS and it requires Mac OS 10.9 or better to be used, though the developers of the software do say that a Windows version is planned for the first half of 2015. The software is not free, you need to buy a license to use it and will cost you $49.95 USD, a small price to pay if it can save you hours of work and headaches caused by problems with STL models that you want to print on your 3D printer.