In House 3D Printing Service
In addition to selling 3D printers, we also offer a 3D Printing Service utilizing both FDM and PolyJet technologies. Housed in our Atlanta Georgia office to serve your small printing needs.
Also, to our printer customers, if your machine is down, we can help you out. Click here for details.
For information on exporting the best quality .STL files for 3D printing, see below.
Regularly Available Materials*
- FDM Materials
- PolyJet Materials
- VeroWhite plus
- Tango plus
- Maximum Build Sizes
- FDM: 16 x 14 x 16 in.
- PolyJet: 19 x 15 x 7 in.
* Not all materials are available at all sizes or at all times. Colors also depend on availability. Special orders for color or material is possible, but additional fees may apply.
How to export clean STL files for 3D Printing
After designing a model in a CAD program, you save or export the design as an STL file (Most modern CAD programs have this function). An STL file renders surfaces in the CAD design as a mesh of triangles. The number and size of the triangles determine how accurately curved surfaces are printed. You control the number and size of the triangles by setting the following parameters when you create the STL file from the CAD design, this method varies by the program you use:
Chordal Tolerance / Deviation
The maximum distance between the surface of the original design and the tessellated surface of the STL triangle.
The angular deviation allowed between adjacent triangles. This setting enables you to increase tessellation, necessary for surfaces with small radii. The smaller the radii, the more triangles are needed, and the smoother the surface is.
STL File Format
You usually have the option to save STL files in either binary or ASCII format. (ASCII files can be visually read and checked, but are 6 times larger.) Please only send us binary files to quote and print.
What settings does your CAD software use?
- AutoDesk Inventor
- Google Sketchup
- McNeel Rhino
- Solid Edge
- UGS NX
Some of the most popular 3D CAD programs and their export configurations
Depending on the version of AutoDesk Inventor you have, there are a couple of options to save out an STL file
Autodesk Inventor allows you to save both individual parts and assemblies in STL format, at all design levels.
- Go to the File menu, then select the ‘Save Copy As’ option
- Select STL from the Types drop-down
- Click the Options button, and choose the High detail level
- Click the Save Button
- From the Tools menu, select Rebuild All. This ensures that the design data contains recent changes, and that it is not corrupt.
- From the File menu, select Save Copy As… > To Save copy as dialogue box opens
- In the Save as type field, select STL Files and click Options. The STLOut Save Options dialog box opens
- Select High and click OK
- In the Save Copy As dialog box, click Save
- Note: To change the values associated with each of the resolution settings (High/Medium/Low) you need to edit the Windows registry
- Select STL command
- Maximum Seg to 0.015mm
- Select the model and > select Yes
- Select Export > type File name > OK
Catia can import almost any design-file format, but only those that include solid data (IGES, STEP, Parasolid, etc.)
STL files can be saved – with a special add-on module. Catia V5 is capable of creating STL files from parts (CatiaPART files), but not from assemblies (CatiaPRODUCT files) or geometrical representations (car files). Therefore, source files, including those saved in a neutral format (STEP or IGES, for example), must be saved as parts. If the source design was saved as an assembly, it is imported to Catia as a product.
To create an STL file from it, you must first convert it to a multi-bodied part. The procedure described below is one of several methods for doing this.
Phase 1: Saving a model design in STL format
Opening and Preparing the Source File:
- From the File menu, select Open, and open the source file. If the source design was saved as an assembly, it is imported as a CatiaPRODUCT model
- Save the product file
- From the File menu, select New > Part, and give it the name of one of the components
- In the product window, select this component, and copy it (with the Edit menu or the right-click pop-up menu)
- In the part window, paste the component
- Repeat steps and until you have copied all of the components and pasted them as individual parts. Figure on the right shows the result of pasting the components of the product into individual part files
- From the File menu, select New > Part, and give it a name suitable for the combined model
- Copy each of the individual components (parts) from the working files and paste them into the new (combined) model file
Since the geometries of all of the parts are retained, they should be aligned correctly in the combined part. The new part is now ready to be exported as an STL file.
Phase 2: Re-aligning parts (if necessary)
Occasionally, because of the way the original assembly was designed, some of the components may not align correctly in the combined part. If so, you must align them, using the Constraints feature, from the Insert menu.
Before saving the file, it is advisable to review the settings that determine the accuracy of the model – and the size of the file. To see these parameters:
- From the Tools menu, select Options
- In the Options dialog box, display the Performance tab
- Under the General category (on the left), select Display
- Pay attention to the 3D Accuracy settings
Fixed – The lower the setting, the finer the details of the model in the STL file. A very small setting results in a very large STL file. Curves’ accuracy ratio – The higher the setting, the smoother the surface will be, when dealing with complex geometries, especially if surfaces contain sudden small changes with small radii (like the bumps on a golf ball).
Phase 3: Saving the Part as an STL File
After preparing the part, as described above, proceed as follows:
- From the File menu, select Save As
- n the Save As dialog box, select stl from the Save as type pull-down list
- Click Save
Since Catia5 supports non-continuous model designs, importing geometry into a part by copying and pasting is not problematic.
- Ensure your model is closed (watertight) and has thickness
- Convert to .STL using a supported plugin
This is one option SketchUp STL
- Right Click on the part
- Part Properties > Rendering
- Set Facet Surface Smoothing to 150
- File > Export
- Choose .STL
With IronCAD you can only save parts as STL files, not assemblies.
When working in assembly mode, you must save its components to STL individually. This process is described below.
- Right-click on the part and, from the pop-up menu, select Part Properties… The Part dialog box appears
- Make sure that the Rendering tab is displayed
- Change the Surface Smoothness setting to an appropriate value for your model (150 or higher)
- Change the Max edge length setting to an appropriate value for your model. If you have not established an appropriate value, try 0.05. This setting produces good results, but increases file size and may require several minutes to render the model to STL format.
- To create smoother model surfaces, when designing spherical and torus geometries, select the Triangulated mesh check box. Selecting this check box results in larger STL files, but may produce smoother curves in models. If the surfaces of the model design are planes, this setting does not improve the results.
- Click OK to save the settings and close the dialog box
- From the File menu, select Export > STL
- In the Stereolithography dialog box, make sure PC is selected, and select the Binary output check box
- Click OK to save the settings and create the STL file
for version 3 and later
- File > Save As
- Select File Type as STL
- Select File Name > Save
- Select Binary
- Select Detail Controls from the Mesh Options
- Max Angle = 20, Max aspect ratio = 6, Min edge Length = 0.0001
- Click OK
- File > Export > Model
- Set chord height to 0. The field will then be replaced by the minimum acceptable value
- Set Angle Control to 1
- Click OK
Pro/E can save models to STL both as individual parts or as assemblies. When dealing with assemblies, you can specify parts of an assembly to either include or exclude from the resulting STL file. Use the procedure below for saving both parts and assemblies as STL files for printing with Objet 3D printers.
- Check that the model design is continuous and “watertight.” This step is especially important if the design was imported from a neutral design format. Non-continuous bodies are likely to result in defective models. You cannot always check for continuity by examining the model displayed in shaded view. Therefore, use the following method:
- View the model with hidden lines displayed
- From the View menu, select Display Setting > Scheme > PreWildfire. The model surfaces are displayed in magenta. If the design is continuous, the contour lines are white. If there are gaps, the lines are yellow
- Fix the model design, if necessary, before saving it as an STL file
- From the File menu, select Save a Copy. The Save a Copy dialog box appears
- From the Type pull-down menu, select STL
The Deviation Control settings in the Export STL dialog box affect the accuracy of the model and the size of its file. Chord Height – Also known as “chordal tolerance,” this setting specifies the maximum distance between the surface of the original design and the tessellated surface of the STL triangle (the chord). Therefore, the chord height controls the degree of tessellation of the model surface. The smaller the chord height, the less deviation from the actual part surface (but the bigger the file).
This setting regulates how much additional tessellation occurs along surfaces with small radii. The smaller the radii, the more triangles are used. The setting can be between 0 and 1. Unless a higher setting is necessary, to achieve smoother surfaces, 0 is recommended.
- When you have made all of the required settings, click Apply and OK to create the STL file
- File > Save As
- Select file type to be STL
- Options > set conversion tolerance to 0.015mm
- Surface Plane Angle to 45°
- Select Binary as the file type then click OK
- Name and Save the STL
For version 16 and Later
Solid Edge software from Siemens PLM (formerly USG) supports STL output at the core level, enabling you to save both parts and assemblies as STL files. Note, however, that when saving an assembly, all of its components are included in a single STL file.
- From the File menu, click Save As – The Save As dialog box opens
- From the Save as type drop-down menu, select STL document type and click Options… The STL Export Options dialog box opens
- Set Conversation tolerance and Surface plane angle to appropriate values for your model. The lower the Conversation tolerance, the finer the tessellation. The lower the Surface plane angle, the greater the accuracy (noticeable in small details). As a rule, the finer the tessellation and the greater the accuracy, and the larger the size of the STL file, and the longer it takes to generate it.
- In the Output file as section, select Binary
- Click OK
- In the Save As dialog box, click Save
Solid Edge is technically capable of creating individual STL files from the components of an assembly, but this functionality is not built into the program. It is achieved through the application programming interface (API), using Visual Basic scripts. This solution does not enable a visual preview of the polygon mesh before saving the STL files.
- File > Save As
- Set type to STL
- Options > Fine > OK
- STL settings: How to change STL settings
- File > Save As
- STL > Optoins
- For a smoother STL file change the Resolution to Custom
- Change the deviation to 0.0005in (0.01mm)
- Change the angle to 5 (smaller deviations and angles will produce a smoother file, but the file size will get bigger. These settings work great for most all files, you can adjust them as needed.
For SolidWorks 2000 and later
SolidWorks allows you to save model designs in STL format, at all levels of design, for both individual parts and assemblies, including the ability to save a multi–bodied model as a single STL. To save a model or a model assembly in STL Format:
- From the File menu, select Save as. The Save As dialog box opens
- From the Save as type drop-down menu, select STL
- Click Options… The Export Options dialog box appears, and the model is displayed in tessellated view. STL is the File Format selection
- In the Export Options dialog box, in the “Output as” section, select Binary
- In the “Resolution” section, select the appropriate option. If you select Custom, you can manually adjust the Deviation and Angle settings, as needed. These settings affect the tessellation of non–planar surfaces, as follows:
- Lower Deviation settings result in finer tessellation
- Lower Angle settings result in with greater accuracy, noticeable in small details
- As a rule, the higher the resolution, the larger the size of the file, and the longer it takes to generate
- For Single Material Builds Make sure that the following check box is selected: Save all components of an assembly in a single file. This ensures that all components are saved as a single STL file
- For Dual Material Builds Make sure that the following check box is NOT selected: Save all components of an assembly in a single file. This ensures that all components are saved as separate STL files
- Click OK
- In the Save As dialog box, click Save
- In the confirmation message, click Yes
- File > Export > Rapid Prototyping
- Output type : Binary
- Triangle & Adjacency Tolerance: 0.015 mm
- Set Auto normal Gen to ON
- Set Normal Display to ON
- Set Triangle Display to ON
- File Header Information: Press OK
- In case a error messages “Negative coordinates found” appears, it can be ignored
UGS NX – version 4 and later
NX software from Siemens PLM (formerly USG), supports STL output at the core level, enabling you to save not only entire parts as STL files, but also selected surfaces of a part.
This gives you great flexibility when preparing objects for 3-D printing. In addition, assembly output enables you to save several components as a single unit while maintaining each component as a separate volume (shell).
- From the File menu, select Export > STL… The Rapid Prototyping dialog box opens
- Set Output Type to Binary
- Adjust the Triangle Tol setting to an appropriate value for your model. This is the maximum distance allowed between the surface of the original design and the tessellated surface of the STL triangle, and affects the smoothness of the model surface
- Adjust the Adjacency Tol setting. This determines if two adjacent surfaces “attach”. If the distance between the two surfaces is less than this setting, they are considered attached. This setting must be less than the printing resolution. For example, when printing models at a resolution of 30 micrometers (microns), the setting must be no more than 0.03
- Click OK
- n the Export Rapid Prototyping dialog box, enter file name and click OK
Thanks to Stratasys Ltd. for providing this information.