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I'm building a simple scene with lots of cylinders (tubes) that I might want to 3d-print later on. Now I'm wondering how to retain some flexibility when it comes to the resolution, i.e. the number of vertices used to construct one cylinder. If I use to many, the performance suffers and if I use to few, it might not be possible to easily recover the roundness later on after I used boolean modifiers, I guess.

What's the usual process with Blender and what do you recommend?

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While you're indecisive regarding the required resolution of your mesh you could use a sub division surface modifier

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On cylinders you would need to add support loops to avoid distorsion of the mesh. You could can be add the support loops by selecting both edge-rings and bevel (Shift-B). Alternatively to the support loops you could try an Edge split modifier

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