What’s the deal with files?

Mac Format - - GET INTO 3D PRINTING -

One of the things that con­fuses many peo­ple about 3D print­ing is file for­mats. With no one-siz­e­fits-all for­mat, the ques­tion of which to use is one that ev­ery new­comer will ask.

“Depend­ing on the printed out­put type (sin­gle colour, full colour, plas­tic, resin etc) there can be a pref­er­ence for the model in­put for­mat”, ex­plains Richard Curtis, Prin­ci­pal So­lu­tions Con­sul­tant at Adobe. “If it’s a sin­gle colour then it’s most likely an STL file, or for full colour, it could be an OBJ or a VRML file”.

When mak­ing a file you must also be mind­ful that it’s go­ing to be­come a phys­i­cal ob­ject, gov­erned by its ge­om­e­try. If you cre­ate your own files, it’s rarely a ques­tion of just click­ing ‘print’.

“All 3D ob­jects need to be pre­pared for print­ing – a process typ­i­cally re­ferred to as model fix­ing”, Curtis says. “Model fix­ing is a qual­ity in­spec­tion process, in­tended to en­sure ob­jects are wa­ter tight and the ob­ject ge­om­e­try is suit­able for 3D print­ing. Some com­mon prepa­ra­tions and cor­rec­tions in­clude re­pair­ing holes, re­mov­ing float­ing poly­gons, cor­rect­ing poly­gons fac­ing the wrong way or sim­ple tasks such as cre­at­ing tem­po­rary print­ing sup­ports for some nasty over­hang­ing el­e­ments”.

There are a num­ber of dif­fer­ent 3D mod­el­ling tools for the Mac, many of which are free, such as Blender, SketchUp and Sculp­tGL which is the one shown here.

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