In a recent news by i.materialise I saw that Blender is the most popular 3D modeling software for 3D printing (complete ranking here: http://i.materialise.com/blog/top-25-most-popular-3d-modeling-design-software-for-3d-printing).

Personally I have the feeling that it's quite hard to turn a Blender design into a 3D print. Am i missing out on something? Do you guys know any easy tricks/tools to make a Blender model 3D printable?

  • $\begingroup$ Wasn't this was based solely on popularity in social media score and usage in the 3d printing community? $\endgroup$
    – iKlsR
    Aug 10 '15 at 16:26

One obvious advantage is that Blender has a bundled addon called 3D Printing Toolbox which lets you easily check for errors like non-manifold edges, faces too small to be accurately printed, overhangs, intersections; and measure statistics like area, volume, dimensions.

Go to File > User Preferences > Addons, type 3d print and check the 3D Printing Toolbox.

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    $\begingroup$ And possibly the best reasons of all, blender is free, and modeling is easy. $\endgroup$ Aug 10 '15 at 13:25

Most popular =/= best nor most used (which seems implied by this statistic). Statistics is a tool that I can use to show you any result I want by carefully picking the categories.

Paid software does have better tools and is much faster (volumetric booleans, highpoly performance, etc..), so why didn't it win in popularity?

Know-how in paid-software communities is very guarded, most had to pay for tutoring/tutorials and not so many people are willing to share it for free (usually they gladly tell you when you ask them, but they won't post it online on their own). Between professionals if you are the only one that knows something in the world, you are worth all the money for a company. It is similar how companies guard their know how or they licence it to others for money.

You will find that Blender and SketchUp got all the winning points in the Forums/Youtube/Google category. Free software is available to everyone and they share. On the web, on social medial, everywhere. If this is the key metric no surprise it won.

Enough of this now.. So what tricks blender offers for 3D printing?

  • Many Import/Export format options - which gives you great flexibility. You can bring models from professional CAD or sculpt software and export as STL, OBJ, X3D, Collada or VRML97/2

  • Solidify modifier to make it hollow inside

  • 3D Printing Toolbox Addon - this is a nice tool to analyze your mesh if it will print nicely

    • You want to check minimal wall thickness
    • If the mesh can exist in real world (is manifold)
    • Check overhang geometry
    • Check normals if all pointing out
  • Powerful modelling tools to fix any errors

  • Average/Good_Enough_If_You_Have_Time sculpting tools

  • Python scripting for automation and customization

  • Tutorials everywhere and great community

  • And it is free :) The only cost is your time.

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    $\begingroup$ "Know-how in paid-software communities is very guarded" ...That's funny since while those so-called communities are busy creating a scarcity of knowledge Blender will just be expanding its user base more and more. The other guys are betting on a business model based on lack, while Blender is based on abundance and openness. Anyway, good call-out about the 3D Printing Toolbox add-on! $\endgroup$
    – Mentalist
    Aug 25 '15 at 17:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Mentalist That's true but till blender will have usable tools and workflows on the same level as paid software, the openness is for nothing and blender will stay mostly between hobbyists. There comes time when blender is not powerful or fast enough and that paid software actually saves money because it saves time for the companies/you. So in the end the expensive tutoring is also worth it because you will get nice paycheck when you are good. $\endgroup$ Aug 25 '15 at 17:53
  • $\begingroup$ I get what you're saying, but consider that Blender could easily get more of those features if the community did more to support development costs. We get more when we invest more. And depending on how you're using it Blender may be all that you need, for example if you're doing archiviz or game assets Blender can be totally sufficient, but if working on Hollywood VFX maybe not so much. There are also areas where Blender outranks paid alternatives and there are plenty of people switching over to Blender too. Don't pay for other software until you're sure it can't be done in Blender. $\endgroup$
    – Mentalist
    Aug 27 '15 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Mentalist That's very true. For the community financing I wish Blender Foundation would make at least same effort for getting money to hire new devs as for getting money for making movies. Sure some things got coded along but I would rather see all that go into development. My unpopular opinion is that in the end it would help blender more than a movie. $\endgroup$ Aug 28 '15 at 6:21
  • $\begingroup$ blender is not freeware. $\endgroup$ May 28 '17 at 10:29

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