Tech Blog post authored by: Todd Domke, Hawk Ridge Systems
With SOLIDWORKS 2015 and the new Windows 8.1 3D Printing Driver, 3D printing has never been easier. Simply select “3D Print” from the File menu, and after a few quick selections you can be on your way to rapid prototypes, faster than ever, with the most popular 3D printers.
To access a local 3D printer, with a part or assembly document open, click File > Print3D or click the button on the CommandManager bar.
If your 3D printer has a driver supported by the Microsoft Windows 8.1 3D printer pipeline, the Print3D PropertyManager opens (see image).
Microsoft’s Windows 3D printing flow uses an XML-based data format called 3D Manufacturing Format (3MF). Software applications that support this format convert their data to 3MF format and send it to the operating system’s print spooler for 3D printing.
Prior to the use of the 3MF format, the 3D printing process involved:
- CAD design to create a parametric solid model that is easily scaled.
- Mesh review after exporting the model from the CAD program.
- Mesh fixing using a custom software program to optimize the mesh for 3D printing.
- Printing preparation, including specifications for a raft to be used as a print base, supports for overhanging material, model density, and print quality.
- Printing using an application that communicates with the printer while the 3D model is being printed.
With the Windows 8.1 printer driver, you can go straight from your model to 3D printed output. With your CAD design open in SOLIDWORKS, you open the Print3D PropertyManager, where you:
- Select a printer from a list of available printers that use the Windows 8.1 printer driver.
- Orient your model within the print volume defined by the printer you select.
- Select print options for quality, infill percentage (density), supports and raft.
- Print the model by clicking OK.
After you set the print options in the Print3D PropertyManager, Windows 8.1 handles all communication with the 3D printer. A preview of the print bed and the model’s location within the print bed lets you modify settings before committing to a 3D print job.
Note: To use the Print3D PropertyManager for the Windows 8.1 print driver, you must be on a computer that runs the Windows 8.1 operating system. However, if you’re running Windows 7 you can still use the Save to File capability to save your model to a 3D printing format.
As rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing become more and more ubiquitous, anything that streamlines the process that takes us from CAD model to actual products is a welcome addition to SOLIDWORKS 2015.