How To Ensure Your 3D File is Printable Before Printing

Nothing is more frustrating than having a 3D print fail for no clear reason. You have wasted your time and potentially a lot of material.

A number of factors may contribute to failed prints, but one common cause that is often overlooked has to do with the integrity of the STL file sent to the printer.

There are several reasons why an STL file may not be printable. One has to do with the structure of STL files. The STL “format” is actually a file description language that can be applied in slightly different ways by different CAD applications.

“STL” stands for Surface Tessellation Language; which is a means for describing a tessellated mesh of triangles that define the surface of the object. Meshes can be derived from 3D CAD applications, various 3D modeling applications and from “point clouds” generated by 3D scanners.

The same file can be described in different levels of precision based on the number of facets (triangles) used to define the object.

Because these files can be very large, most CAD and 3D modeling applications use floating point calculations for faster calculations at the expense of accuracy. The more facets in the 3D mesh, the more errors that can be created.

Other problems occur due to the way applications define geometric components. The way a “hole” is defined in one CAD application may differ from another. This creates the possibility of having holes or intersecting planes where one geometric object connects with another.

All of these problems are difficult to see on the screen when working in a CAD or 3D modeling application. The best way to deal with such problems is to use a 3D mesh analysis and repair application.

Open source software, such as Meshlab, is useful when the user has knowledge of how mesh repair methods work. Traditional commercial software, such as Netfabb, does an excellent job in repairing 3D files created by CAD applications. It does require some technical knowledge and training, but can be quite powerful. This software can be expensive.

Emendo™STL file repair and analysis software is a new, low cost entry into the market. It differs from Meshlab and Netfabb in that it is fairly automatic and does not require any knowledge of how mesh repair works. The Emendo software includes a special repair method for STL files created from various non-CAD sources. The Emendo application also allows the user to decide on three levels of repair precision that provide a trade-off between repair time and precision of the repaired file.

There are trade-offs between price, ease of use and capability between the different repair software options available. The important thing to remember is that using STL file repair will save you time, material and frustration in getting to a successful print. For more information, please contact or go to our store.

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