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Sunday 18 October 2015

3D Print the Figures

Printing the figures for my model car was not as easy as I was expecting. The results initially did not meet my expectations.

Prior to changes

Not enough detail
I tried printing them as is but they did not work very well nor did they look very detailed!
I think this was partly due to the original models not being intended for 3D printing and partly because they had insufficient shape moulded in to them.

I have found several programmes that claim they can fix some of the shortcoming of the construction of the models to make them print but I have had to manually add in more detail.

Added creases
There are two types of changes I've made:
  • Exaggerate any existing details.  Extend the nose and ears and pull in the mouth etc.
  • Add creases in the clothes.
Most models I could find on the Internet had low poly (low detail) meshes. They looked excellent on screen because the texture (images of clothing) added to them, included all the creases and details that we as viewers on a monitor screen interpret to be 3D even though they are flat!

I could find some 3D full body scans of real people intended for 3D printing with excellent moulded folds ideal for spectators in dioramas. Unfortunately none of these were in driving poses!

I have had no choice but to edit my figures myself.

With folds in the fabric
After editing, I exported to STL as usual but imported in to a programme called Netfabb Basic.
This includes a Repair feature.

It is necessary to go through a few options to carry out the repair, apply it and make sure it is saved, as follows:

  • + Repair
  • Press Automatic Repair
  • Then Apply the repair
  • Export to STL
  • If the dialogue box appears with an Optimise button it is necessary to press the Optimise button otherwise the repair is not saved!

This closes holes and makes the components solid.

It is a good idea to reload the repaired STL file in to Netfabb and run the Analyse feature to make sure the repair was saved.

It's been yet more of a learning experience again.  I have confirmed that PLA is better for fine detailed models than PLA/PHA.

The ColorFabb PLA/PHA is more flexible and perhaps stronger than normal PLA but I have not found the settings to stop it over extruding when trying to do small size find quality prints.

The last trick I am trying is the rotation of the model on the print platform. I found that laying the model on its back, when slicing it for 3D printing, gave better results.

The models are fresh off the printer and not yet cleaned up but they look like they will have the level of detail I was aiming for.

Although they look a bit of a mess, with all the strings still attached, the results are workable. I may also print them at a slower speed setting which might help improve the initial quality.


STL File Repair Software

Netfabb - The Basic version is free but a more comprehensive paid for professional version is also available.
Simplify3D - is a paid for application that can repair, add supports, slice and create the gcode for 3D printing. I like the look of it but have not tried it yet.

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