Blender doesn’t come ready for 3D printing, but setting it up is quite straightforward, in this article we will see how.
Blender is an amazing open source project, the amount of projects you can realize with it is astonishing. Within the many, you can use it to create and prepare models for 3D printing and other digital manufacturing techniques, like CNC milling. These are the steps:
Step 1 – Use real-world units
Blender by default uses Blender units, but if we want to have an exact idea of how big will be the model that we are going to print, we need to uses real-world units.
Go the Units panel, in the Scene settings. Change the units to Imperial or Metric. We will use millimeters, hence we choose Metric with a Scale of 0.001.
Step 2 – Update the grid
Because of the previous step, the default grid became so big that you cannot even see it. To fix this press N to display the Transform Properties Panel (if it’s not already there) and scroll down to the Display section. If you want that each square of the grid represents a mm, put the scale to 0.001. Personally I prefer the units of the grid to be cm, so I type 0.01. It’s also a good idea to increase the number of Lines, for example to 30.
That’s it! Now you can press CTRL + U to save these settings as default. This is all you have to do to use Blender for 3D printing. The next steps are encouraged but totally optional.
Step 3 (optional) – Display the printing area
Create a new cube or set, through the Transform Properties Panel , the dimensions of the default one to the ones of your printer. We will use the printing area of a ZMorph 2SX: 250 x 235 x 165 mm.
Now we have a big cube in our scene, not really what we want. Go to the Display panel of the Object settings and change the Maximum draw type from Textured to Wire. Now you will always see only the wire-frame of your box.
Move the box so that it occupies the center of the scene. Now we are ready to forget about it: in the Outliner, change the name from Cube to Working area (or the name you prefer) and click on the arrow and the camera icon. In this way it will not be shown during the renderings and it will not be possible for you to select it from the 3D View.
Now you can have an idea of how you object will fit inside your printer.
Step 4 (optional) – remove unnecessary elements
If you use Blender for 3D printing, most of the time you will not need the camera and the lights, so you can get rid of them.
At the same way, you will not need the Timeline editor so you can remove it and save some space (I replaced it the the Node editor because I use Sverchok).
Now our interface looks more clean, good!
Step 5 (optional) – Activate the 3D printing plug-in
Blender has a nice plug-in for 3D printing called 3D Printing Toolbox. It comes with any recent build of Blender and you can activate it through the Add-ons panel of the User preferences (CTRL + ALT + U). It will appear in the Tool shelf (T key).
Final step – Make everything default
When you are happy with the results, you can press CTRL + U to save all the settings as default and next time that you will open Blender everything will be ready for 3D printing!