Cleaning Up Designs Before 3D Printing

Efforts continue to make 3D printing happen as smoothly as pressing the “print” command on a Word document.

Problem is, the computer-aided models and designs created for 3D have to be cleaned up to ensure they can be properly printed. That is, the designer has to make sure parts of the geometry don’t needlessly overlap and that the shape of the design is closed where it’s supposed to be closed and open where it should be open.

Third-party software is often included in a CAD application to ensure the models can be created as designed. And the same is now becoming true for 3D printing applications.

To that end, Stratasys Ltd., which makes 3D printers and attendant software, recently partnered with MachineWorks Ltd. to include the latter’s Polygonica mesh libraries inside Stratasys’s GrabCAD Print.

The cloud-based printing program is designed to make 3D printing easy and accurate. The mesh libraries will allow for automatic mesh repair, mesh offsetting, Boolean operations, and analysis functions, said Fenqiang Lin, MachineWorks managing director.

“GrabCAD and Polygonica share the same philosophy of enabling a single ‘click-to-print’ methodology for 3D models, in the same way we do with 2D printing. The user doesn’t want or need to know about what software is used to prepare the file, they just want their CAD model printed with the minimum of fuss,” Lin said.

The GrabCAD Print 3D printing design program from Stratasys, shown, now includes mesh clean-up capabilities from MachineWorks.

The mesh libraries from MachineWorks have a range of applications such as finite element analysis and computational fluid dynamics meshing as well as additive manufacturing; applications where there is a need to repair defective models that include a large numbers of polygons.

Polygonica’s mesh repair functions ensure models are closed and free of self-intersections, badly oriented triangles, noise shells, and nonmanifold edges. The algorithms can be applied either fully or semi-automatically to ensure minimal disruption to the printing workflow, he added.

Another company, Mixed Dimensions of San Francisco, also offers a cloud based 3D CAD file fixing solution called MakePrintable. It provides 3D files error free optimization services via a simplified interfaces that requires almost to no experience in 3D printing to get any 3D file fixed and ready for printing on any 3d printer.

The free beta version of Makeprintable is available at

Boolean and offsetting operations are vital for preparation tasks such as splitting models, engraving meshes, hollowing and infilling meshes; Polygonica analysis tools such as optimal orientation and clash detection can be used for build plate optimization, Lin said.

The move into 3D printing software is a natural for a company that creates computer numerically controlled simulation and verification software, which incorporates the Polygonica solid modeling toolkit for processing polygon meshes.

Headquartered in Sheffield, England, MachineWorks’ libraries are suited to any type of machining and can simulate any degree of complexity or number of axes, Lin said. They feature material removal, clash detection and full machine simulation.

The company is now combining its solid modeling toolkit with GrabCAD Print to streamline and simplify the 3D printing process, enhance 3D printing design freedom, and accelerate the prototyping, tooling and manufacturing process.


3D CAD World