How To Prep and Upload a 3D Model with SolidWorks for 3D Printing with Shapeways

Here is the first in our series of 3D Printing tutorials we will be posting over the coming weeks, the first of which entitled How To Prep and Upload a 3D Model with SolidWorks for 3D Printing with Shapeways has been posted by Rohit Mitra of SolidWize.

For more tutorials on design for 3D Printing take a look at our Tutorials Pages on Shapeways, but for now, lets take a look at SolidWorks with SolidWize…

Here we’ll show how to prepare and upload a model to Shapeways using SolidWorks. Keep in mind that models should be exported as either STL files or VRML files (if using full color). Our final uploads can be found on the SolidWize Shapeways page. 

Create Your Model

For those of you who are relatively new to SolidWorks, check out the video below to follow along with my thought process in creating a simple bone wrench. This assumes a basic working knowledge of the SolidWorks toolset, and I’ll move through the process fairly quickly. 

You’ll want to keep in mind that SolidWorks exports only solid bodies to STL files, whereas anything visible is exported to VRML (full color). When working with small features or thin walls make sure to adhere to the limitations of the material that you want to print in. The material options page lists the parameter guidelines you

Upload Your Model

Once you have your model prepped, there are a couple methods you can use when uploading to Shapeways. In cases where full color isn’t necessary, you’ll be uploading an STL file. This can be done manually by simply saving a project as an STL and then uploading the file to Shapeways. Alternatively, you can use the Shapeways Add-In. With either of these options, you need to set the resolution first before saving the file out. The resolution can be found under “options” from the save-as dialog box.  For full color parts, you’ll need to save the file out as a VRML file and then upload directly to Shapeways. In the save-as options for VRML, the output format needs to be set to VRML 97 or the upload will fail. The resolution for VRML files can be set by changing the image quality (tools>options>document properties>image quality).  

Thanks again to Rohit for submitting this 3D Modeling for 3D Printing tutorial, we will try and get one out every week to help everyone how to make the most of their designs.

One comment

  1. GWMT

    Thank you, Rohit!

    Another thing to double check when you’re saving as an STL is the unit the STL is being saved in; Solidworks doesn’t automatically create the STL in the same units you used to make the part or assembly.

    When you click ‘Save As’ and then select STL under ‘Save As Type’ a button labeled ‘Options…’ appears near the bottom of the ‘Save As’ window. Click the button and an ‘Export Options’ window opens. At the top centre of the window the units the STL will be saved in is shown; you can pick from Millimeters, Centimeters, Meters, Inches or Feet from the drop down menu.

    For ‘Resolution’ if you click on ‘Custom’ you can adjust the Deviation and Angle Tolerances to increase or decrease the number of faces created in the STL. The smaller the Tolerance values are for both items the more faces will be created and the curved surfaces on your print will be much smoother (1 million is the max number allowed by Shapeways in an STL). Make sure the box for ‘Show STL info before file saving’ is checked so you can see how many faces will be created before you finally save the STL. Click ‘OK’ to close the ‘Export Options’ window and click ‘Save’ on the ‘Save As’ window.

    Once the STL is calculated a window will pop up if you checked ‘Show STL info before file saving’ in the Export Options window earlier; it will show info similar to this:

    No of Files: 1
    Total Triangles: 455304 (cannot be greater than 1 million for Shapeways)
    Total File Size: 27765284 (Bytes)
    File Format: Binary

    If you are happy with the values click ‘Yes’ and the STL will be saved. If you need to make changes click ‘No’ and you can start over from the beginning and adjust the Deviation and Angle Tolerance values.

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