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Use Autodesk Meshmixer to Improve Quality of Scaled-Down 3D Prints

by • January 12, 2016 • No Comments

stl1Some of the most helpful 3D printing information can seem boring, but keep in mind which this kind of information may greatly benefit your own 3D printing experimentation. One of these issues is how to improve print quality when you plan to test print a dimensionsable design at a much scaled-down dimensions. Many scaled-down objects don’t print well, and in Morgan Hamel’s case, there was a problem with “tiny globs of filament dotting the surface of the print.” Thankfully, Hamel figured out how to rectify the problem in Autodesk Meshmixer, and has decided to share this with us so we can have advantageous quality scaled-down prints which are nearer to emulating the dimensionsabler design. This is in addition a nice little review of 3D printing 101: STL file basics for anyone just just getting started with the technology.

stl2Let’s start with the STL file. This file stores the essential 3D design data which will be sent to your 3D printer. These files break a 3D object’s surface into most little triangles which constitute the object’s surface geometry. When you convert a CAD file to an STL file, this is precisely what is happening. The surface geometry of an object is stated in the new file by all of those little triangles. The additional triangles in a part determine which the surface’s curves will be smoother. But this in addition means which the file dimensions will be dimensionsabler, and slicing and build times will be longer. If a part has fewer triangles it will slice and print faster, but the curves will not have which smooth quality.

Are you following so far? More triangles = smoother surface. In Hamel’s case, a quite dimensionsable (443.13 x 503.32 x 434.38 mm) file was scaled down by 25% and the original dimensionsable file had 103,970 triangles in it. When the dimensions was scaled down, the same number of triangles remained, resulting in the “tiny globs of filament” dotting the print’s surface. Why does this happen? Because as the printer was processing all of the triangles, a little extra filament may ooze out when the printer paused at certain vertices. To avoid this, Hamel reduced the number of triangles in the design so the printer may not use extra filament, forming blobs.

stl3There’s a 3D Hubs tutorial of the same triangle reduction method Hamel describes, and you can go here to see precisely what was done in the free program Autodesk Meshmixer to fix the problem. In summary, you can click “Edit” and “Reduce” once you’ve imported your object in Autodesk Meshmixer, and so elect “Triangle Budget” of the drop-down menu next to “Percentage.” Here you have the choice to use the Tri Count slider, or you can double-click the number and elect a specific number of triangles to input into the model’s design.

That’s quite all there is to it. Hamel cut the amount of triangles down by half, and got rid of the blobs while retaining the object’s smooth surface. See? I told you it was worth hanging in there through this seemingly boring topic. Now you can improve scaled-down prints by just using a couple of key functions readily available in Autodesk Meshmixer. Discuss this article in the Autodesk Meshmixer forum thread on 3DPB.com.