3D printing is gaining popularity in numerous sectors as it helped industries to fabricate things that were never possible with traditional manufacturing. With its help, you can print almost anything at the comfort of your home or workspace. You just have to invest in buying a 3D printer, and within minutes, you can easily print the 3D models of various objects like machine spares, furniture items, clothes, and even human organs.

3D Printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of building 3D objects by stacking successive layers of materials on top of each other. It originated in the late 1980s and was first used commercially in the automotive and aerospace industry for rapid prototyping. Whether you are new to the technology or want to get your doubts cleared, this guide will provide you the general idea about the concept of 3D printing, programs involved, popular file formats, and its different area of application.

Software for creating print-ready 3D models

Knowing about the best tools and software programs will help you to quickly finish up your design process and create the desired prototype. There are various types of 3D modeling software that you can use depending on your objective and functionalities you want to incorporate in the model.

Some programs allow for the creation of print-ready models. Other programs just facilitate the creation of 3D designs that need to be further processed through another specialized program. The model should have a single mesh with all its seams joined perfectly together.

Below are some of the important software programs that can be utilized for creating 3D models ready to print.

  • Blender

    This open-source software includes various tools for modeling, animation, simulation, sculpting, motion-tracking, video-editing, rendering, etc. It is ideal for both amateur and advanced users and can be used for designing complex models.

  • TinkerCAD

    TinkerCAD is a 3D design software application that facilitates solid modeling. It is mainly intended for amateurs and allows them to create 3D printable models from a collection of basic shapes that are available in the printer-compatible STL format.

  • MeshMixer

    It is an advanced software that supports digital sculpting, solid conversion, surface stamping, drag and drop mesh mixing, pattern creation in 3D, etc. Apart from this, you can also use it to view, check, edit, and repair the 3D ready to print files.

  • 3DS Max

    This software is primarily used for animation. However, it can be also used for creating world-class 3D models. It enables users to implement advanced features like polygon modeling, shading tools, parametric mesh modeling, etc. in their models.

  • Maya

    It is another 3D animation software that can be also used for various 3D modeling, printing, and sculpting aspects. Using Maya, you can create highly-detailed models, apply textures, render layers, and do the required compositing.

  • ZBrush

    Using customizable brushes, you can create the models in a detailed manner. You can even create a digital clay ball and shape it properly using ZBrush’s sophisticated sculpting tool.

  • Sculptris

    It is an amazing 3D printing software that is mostly used for creating 3D print models for figurines and statues. Also, you can use it to create your favorite video game or comic book character. It is specifically designed for beginners.

  • SketchUp

    It is modeling software that is powerful, intuitive, and balances the functionality with usability. It is ideal to be used by everyone, i.e., beginners, intermediate, and advanced users. It is best for designing architectural models.

  • SolidWorks

    It is a CAD software program that can be used by both professionals and amateurs. It consists of powerful editing tools that can be used for reverse engineering, manufacturing, design validation, simulation, cost estimation, etc.

Techniques for 3D Modeling

You can perform 3D product modeling with Non-Uniform Rational Basis Spline (NURBS).  You can create smooth images with non-pixelated edges. NURBS has an advantage over polygon mesh based programs. When you scan an object in CAD software, initial scanning is done with NURBS.

You can also use polygon modeling to render the models. Edges, vertices, and faces of objects can be manipulated. Mesh-compatible smooth images can be rendered easily with polygon modeling. STL conversion is also not required. You can use triangle mesh computation for modeling any three dimensional object.

3D Printing File Types

In a 3D file format, the model-related information is stored in the form of binary data or text. Some of the most popular file formats used in 3D printing are

  • Collada
  • OBJ
  • Fbx
  • 3df
  • Step
  • STL
  • IGES
  • VRML
  • X3D
  • Obj
  • STL
  • 3MF, and
  • AMF

These 3D file formats are widely prevalent as they are compatible with major software and CAD programs. Besides, these are well-documented and compatible with different hardware as well. Thus, depending on your use, you can choose the desired format of your choice.

3D Printing in Various Industry Verticals

  • Medical

    3D printing is used in the medical industry to create various 3D models for fixtures, healthcare devices, patient anatomy, research tools, pharmacy products, medicinal equipment, prostheses, and more. It helps the doctors to accurately convey the information or use it for surgical operations.

  • Architecture

    The combination of 3D printing and architectural 3D modeling  technology allows designers and architects to create appealing visualization showcasing their project details. It can be used to build 3D scale models of properties and present them to clients for attracting more sales and revenue.

  • Manufacturing

    Three-dimensional printers and respective technology helps a great deal in improving the manufacturing industry. It can help in the overall manufacturing process, starting from product designing, prototype building, and manufacturing spare parts or components for industrial use.

  • Jewelry

    With the help of 3D printers, the jewelry designers can incorporate new techniques to create the desired 3D models. They can experiment with designs and include various materials like PLA, platinum, or gold to create jewelry pieces with complex geometries as per their individual or client needs.

  • Aerospace

    The technology is used in the aerospace industry for its rapid prototyping, cost-effective, and time-saving features. With its help, strong and durable 3D models can be created most effectively. You just need a CAD file and create 2D cross-sections to start with the building process.

  • Education

    The potential of additive manufacturing is also used by the education industry for improving the understanding and retention ability of students. With its easy-to-use feature, students can easily create physical models in the three-dimensional world to use it for their projects or classroom learning activities.

  • Dental

    3D printing technology can offer matchless solutions to cover the requirements of the dental industry. It can be used for producing intricate 3D prototypes for surgical objects, veneers, clear aligners or retainers, and more. Besides, different photopolymer materials can also be created.

  • Automotive

    When it comes to the automotive industry, product design, as well as cost, can be well optimized with the help of additive manufacturing. It helps automobile designers to unleash their creative side for improving their designs and quickly produce the 3D prototypes of the vehicle’s parts and components.

Thus, by leveraging the advanced features of 3D printing, it is now possible to attain quality, reliability, and overall value for your business operations. Also, it has become a favorable tool for many individual users, as 3D printing programs are becoming more flexible and easy-to-use. Therefore, no matter what your skill level is, utilize its potential to the maximum extent to produce outcomes that would redefine the design trends in the times to come.