We Are Learning 3D Printing Through Our Personal Experience…
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.
If you have already 3D printed some models that you have downloaded or has designed some yourself while learning to work with a 3D modelling software or a CAD application you might have experienced trouble getting the damn things print right. Repeating the print process and ending up with the same problem and the object print failing can be caused by issues with the 3D model that you are trying to print – often an issue with the 3D model that may not be easily noticeable or visible at all when you open the model. When you put that problematic model in your 3D printing software such an error in the model can cause the slicing software to do a mistake giving wrong instructions to the 3D printer and when you try to print the 3D model to end up with a failed print. Some times if the mistake is bigger you might be able to spot it upon a closer inspection of the 3D model, but sometime the problem might be very small and still cause an issue or to remain unnoticed by a not so experienced person.
A wall too thin and troublesome to print, a small hole between parts of the model, unconnected planes or flipped normals – different issues, but all of them can lead to trouble getting your 3D model to print well. Some times the software you use to print on your 3D printer may have some options to help you identify such more common problems before starting to print, but even if it does they are usually just to identify the presence of an issue and not to fix it automatically. You however may not be aware of the availability of such options or have software that is not designed to check and maybe fix problematic 3D models before exporting them for printing, so you need to look for alternatives. If you look around you may find some commercial products available that are designed specifically to help you with such problems, but if you are using your 3D printer just for fun at home learning and playing with it they may be too expensive for you.
Fortunately there are free alternatives available, one such that is web-based is provided by the German 3D printing service Trinckle. Their solution requires you to upload the model you want checked for errors and you will get either some advice to optimize some possible weak areas such as too thin walls that may be hard to properly print or have some issues (if any) with the model fixed such as flipped normals for example or another of the already mentioned common issues. The 3D model repair service is completely free and after the analysis and fixes to your model are applied you can download back the fixed 3D model or make an order for Trinckle to print it for you and send you the final object. When you download the fixed file you can of course print it yourself, no obligations to use the services of the 3D printing service if you use their free 3D model repair service. The service is completely automated and quick and easy to be used, you can upload 3D models in PLY, STL or 3DS format of up to 32MB to have them analyzed and fixed for you if you think they may have an issue. Be aware however that while the service does pretty well it may also be unable to fix some more serious problems, so there is no guarantee that it will solve all of your problems, but it should do just fine in most cases.