3D printers are becoming so affordable that they cost less than the popular 3D modeling programs used to create printable files. As such, a lot of people use free 3D modeling software like Blender to feed their printers files. There are other free modeling programs, but people go to Blender because it’s also powerful and intuitive. It’s open source too, and the developers have taken notice of the 3D printing crowd’s use of the software. In the first Release Candidate of Blender 2.67, there’s a new 3D Printing Toolbox.
Objects in Blender are manipulated as meshes, which makes them ideal for 3D printing. The Toolbox makes creating printable objects even easier by adding five functions that are catered to printing. Here’s a basic rundown of the functions:
This tool includes a volume calculator (in Blender units and cm³) and a surface area calculator.
Solid: Objects are confirmed to be solid/manifold i.e., they have an inside and outside.
Intersection: This check looks for intersecting faces because some may not print well.
Distorted faces: Non-flat faces don’t always print correctly, so this tool looks for them.
Thickness: 3D printers have minimum wall thickness requirements and this checks that all walls are thick enough.
Sharpness: Areas that are especially pointy may also be too thin to print.
Overhang: Without support materials, most 3D printers have trouble printing objects with overhangs greater than 45 degrees, so that’s what this tool looks for.
All: This button conveniently runs all the checks.
Isolated and distorted faces are removed.
Not only does this tool allow objects to be scaled to specified length, but also to volume. Such a tool ensures projects don’t go over budget.
“This section is included for convenience so you can store an output directory for your model and export it without having to go to the file selector each time.”
All of these tools should make your prints more consistent, which will save you time and money. And for not a lot of money, you can get the training DVD (see promo video below) with over three hours of content created by Dolf Veenvliet. It’s intended for users that are new to both Blender and 3D printing. It’s good to see the go-to free modeling software keeping up with the make community.