Archivi del mese: agosto 2018

Weekend Project: 3D Print a Mini Steering Wheel for Your Xbox One or PS4 Controller

Weekend Project: 3D Print a Mini Steering Wheel for Your Xbox One or PS4 Controller
By Tyler Koslow

Want to make your video gaming experience even more realistic? New York-based designer Brent Scott has created a 3D printable mini steering wheel that you can mount onto your Xbox One or PlayStation 4 controller. 

As the video game graphics slowly become on par with our own reality, they create an immersive experience that is being enjoyed by people both young and old. However, as realistic as your favorite racing title may be, it’s hard to feel like you’re actually behind the wheel when all you’re doing is tilting your sticks and mashing some buttons.

New York designer Brent Scott– known on Thingiverse as pixel2 – has recently created an incredible 3D printed attachment for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 controllers. This mini rack and pinion steering wheel was made to enhance your experience with racing games, allowing you to steer your virtual vehicle of choice using your controller.

No need to start a console war either… The designer has released a model for both Xbox and PS4 controllers. It’s useful, relatively easy to print, and all you need aside from your 3D printer is a bearing and some glue! So, if you’re planning on doing some gaming this weekend, why not add a 3D printed steering wheel to your controller.

Let’s take a closer look at this project.

3D Printed Mini Steering Wheel: What You Need & How to Build it

Ready to start racing? Here’s what you need to build your own steering wheel.

The STL files for both the Xbox One and PS4 controllers are freely available via Thingiverse. There are multiple parts that make up this steering wheel contraption, so feel free to get creative and mix different filament colors. Aside from your 3D printer, all you need to put this project into overdrive is a bearing from an old fidget spinner or skateboard, along with some superglue.

Once you have the parts printed and your bearing ready, it’s time to move into the assembly process. Taking the 3D printed parts, snap the rack into the pivot, moving it back and forth until the ridges of the print are smoothed out.

Next, mount the bearing onto the frame by gluing the top and bottom edge of the bearing. Make sure that the glue is fully dried before snapping it onto the controller, as the glue can leave some residue on the controller. After snapping the 3D printed rack onto the frame, mount the entire wheel onto the controller.

Slide the pivot down onto the controller’s stick until the ball joint is in the center and the bottom edge of the pivot is parallel with the rack. Finally, center the wheel on the rack and press it into the bearing.

Now you’re finally ready to get behind the wheel and start racing.

The post Weekend Project: 3D Print a Mini Steering Wheel for Your Xbox One or PS4 Controller appeared first on All3DP.

August 26, 2018 at 06:05PM
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Weekend Project: Get Groovy with 3D Printed LED Magic Mushrooms

Weekend Project: Get Groovy with 3D Printed LED Magic Mushrooms
By Tyler Koslow

Turn your home into a magical forest of fungi with the 3D printed Magic Mushroom lighting decoration –created by German designer UniversalMaker. 

One spectacular aspect of 3D printing is that it provides the ability to expand your imagination beyond the everyday world, no matter how fantastical your idea might be. On today’s Weekend Project, we’re taking you to a magical forest that contains a vibrant collection of colorful mushrooms.

Dubbed as “Magic Mushrooms”, this DIY light structure features a patch of fungi that has a voronoi-styled design. The 3D printed mushroom  tucked into the stem of  The decorative lights were designed by a German maker named Tobias–also known as UniversalMaker.

This project includes a tree trunk-like base and a slew of different sized mushrooms, each of which consists of a mushroom cap and stem. UniversalMaker came up with a clever concept for the LED lights, tucking them into the top of the mushroom stem.

We’ve shared a few of his 3D printing projects in the past, including the DIY Voronoi Blowball Flower Lamp and a Solar-Powered Open RC Boat. So let’s take another trip into the UniversalMaker’s world. Here’s everything you need to know about creating your own 3D printed Magic Mushrooms.

3D Printed Magic Mushrooms: What You Need & How to Build it

The STL files for this project are freely available to download via Thingiverse. UniversalMaker suggests using support structures and 20 percent infill when printing the models. Aside from your 3D printer and some natural and woodsy filament, you’ll also need some electronics and other various components.

Here’s the full checklist of parts:

9V Battery
Multicolor LEDs
SPDT Slide Switch
Voltage Converter
9V Battery Connectors
Cables

Once you have everything 3D printed, the rest of the assembly process seems pretty simple. First, take the LED lights and insert them into the top of the mushroom stem/trunks, connecting them via the switch with a 9V battery.

The Voltage converter is used to control the multicolor LEDs. The mushroom caps should be clipped to the top part of the stems. The stems will to be glued directly to the main tree trunk base. You might need to do a bit of sanding to make everything fit together snugly.

Otherwise, that’s about all you need to know about 3D printing your own Magic Mushroom lights. To learn more, visit UniversalMaker’s website and watch his instructional video above.

The post Weekend Project: Get Groovy with 3D Printed LED Magic Mushrooms appeared first on All3DP.

August 19, 2018 at 08:00AM
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Copymaster 3D Set To Debut First Range of 3D Printers

Copymaster 3D Set To Debut First Range of 3D Printers
By Sponsored Content

Copymaster 3D is selling its first 50 3D printers for a 20% discount–meaning you could get one for as low as £399.20. First come first served. Learn more here.

Copymaster 3D is a brand new player in the 3D printing world and has certainly raised a few eyebrows since it burst onto the scene with its website launch in June. Copymaster has now announced that it is set to debut its first generation of 3D printers on the 27th August. With its high performance and low price tag, it looks set to shake up the budget-mid range sector of the market.

3D printing is in a great spot at the moment. It is more affordable than it ever has been and even the most basic budget 3D printers are capable of creating some nice prints. Popular brands like Creality and Wanhao offer a range of good value 3D printers that have so far satisfied the needs of beginner and intermediate users alike. So, what do Copymaster 3D printers offer that make them a better proposition?

Print Bigger For Less

The Copymaster 3D is available in 3 different models. The model numbers are relative to the build size of the printer, with the 500 having the largest build volume of the three:

300 – (300 x 300 x 400mm) – £499 ($530 USD)

400 – (400 x 400 x 400mm) – £599 ($637 USD)

500 – (500 x 500 x 500mm) – £699 ($743 USD)

You would typically expect large build volumes like these to be from a much more expensive printer. Having a bigger space to play with means bigger possibilities for what you can print.

Be More Flexible

Arguably the most compelling feature of the Copymaster is its wide compatibility with a range of different filaments as standard. The direct drive integrated extruder head can print with flexible filament straight out of the box with no modifications or upgrades required. The extruder head has also been designed to be highly precise. Its print accuracy is within 50 microns so finished prints truly represent the design files that are used.

Thoughtfully Designed In The UK

From concept to final product, the Copymaster 3D was designed by a team of people who are passionate about 3D printers and actually use them on a daily basis. This really shows when you see, first hand, the useful features, solid build quality and nice touches that have been incorporated into the design.

The Copymaster 3D is an open design, all in one unit. It is simple to assemble and only takes about 20 minutes. The industrial grade aluminium frame is very strong and stable, which benefits the printing process.

The no-filament sensor is a great feature that will rescue countless 3D print jobs. Running your printer for hours at a time only for the print to fail because you ran out of filament is probably one of the biggest frustrations you can ever experience in 3D printing. The sensor will automatically pause the printing if it detects that the filament has run out. When you swap out the filament, it will resume as normal.

The Copymaster 3D also comes with a heated print bed as standard, with a diamond black glass print surface upgrade available, to help give you more consistent results for a variety of different filaments. It is magnetic, flexible and is designed to take the hassle out of print removal.

Inspiration Behind the Brand

Tim Gray, the founder of Copymaster 3D and also the CEO of Technology Outlet, the UK’s leading online retailer for 3D printers, explains why he created the Copymaster 3D brand:

“I wanted to make 3D printing easier and more accessible for more people. I wanted to let people experiment with a range of different filaments without running out of space to print or running into the issue of needing to modify the extruder head. There has been a lot of demand for an affordable printer that offers this functionality and the Copymaster provides this. I’m really happy with it.”

Copymaster 3D will be attending the TCT Show at the NEC on the 25-27 September to showcase its lineup for the first time. Copymaster 3D is open to reseller applications worldwide. For more information, email sales@copymaster3d.com

To find out more details and preorder a Copymaster 3D printer visit https://copymaster3d.com

All Copymaster 3D printers will begin shipping worldwide from the 27th August and all pre orders will receive any two PLA filaments of any colour for free.

The post Copymaster 3D Set To Debut First Range of 3D Printers appeared first on All3DP.

August 13, 2018 at 04:45PM
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Weekend Project: Take Aim With a 3D Printed Miniature Compound Bow

Weekend Project: Take Aim With a 3D Printed Miniature Compound Bow
By Tyler Koslow

Looking for an affordable and fun project to round out the summer with? Why not practice your archery skills with a fully 3D printed miniature compound bow.

While the world has been expressing an immense amount of concern over the potential rise of 3D printed guns, it’s easy to lose sight of all the fun projects that this technology enables us to create. To us, the most impressive projects consist of functional objects that are primarily made up of 3D printed parts.

One type of design we’ve commonly seen shared by makers is the crossbow, available on the internet in both miniature and regular size. For instance, German engineer and maker Sebastian Stickel–who goes by DonStick3l on Thingiverse–created a 3D printed miniature compound bow to fire off wood skewers.

It’s fully functional and has an incredible design, made up of 18 3D printed parts, some string and a few screws.

For just a few bucks, you can create your own compound bow too. Of course, if you plan on 3D printing your own, be sure to use it responsibly! With it, you can become maker version of Robin Hood, becoming a master archer and having an enjoyable outdoor activity to impress your friends and family with.

Let’s take a look at what you need and the basics on how to build your own.

3D Printed Miniature Compound Bow: What You Need & How to Build it

There are 18 different 3D printed parts that make up the miniature compound bow, all of which are freely available to download via Thingiverse. Aside from your 3D printer, you need a collection of M3 screws and some bow string (some Thingiverse comments suggest using nylon fishing line with a 0.7mm diameter). Finally, for the arrows, the designer recommends wood skewers that are 300mm in length and have a diameter of 2.5 to 3.5mm.

Compared to some of the other Weekend Projects we’ve shared, this miniature compound bow seems quite challenging to build. Thankfully, Stickel shares a comprehensive assembly guide alongside the STL files, equipped with every step, part ID, and pictures to assist in the build process.

After a quick disclaimer urging makers to use the compound bow responsibly, the creator shares all of his slicer settings. Next, there’s a lengthy section that explains what each 3D printed part does and how it was designed, along with how to optimize the printing process and perform post-processing for every component.

After going over some information on how to select the non-3D printed hardware, the engineer starts on the intensive build process, which consists of 36 different steps.

If you want to learn more about the assembly of the miniature compound bow, head over to the project’s Thingiverse page and look at the Compound_Bow_Instructions.pdf, which is included with the collection of STL files. Stickel also appears to be quite active in the comment section, so feel free to drop him a line if you’d like.

The post Weekend Project: Take Aim With a 3D Printed Miniature Compound Bow appeared first on All3DP.

August 12, 2018 at 03:05PM
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Weekend Project: Make a Customized Map Clock to Celebrate Timeless Memories

Weekend Project: Make a Customized Map Clock to Celebrate Timeless Memories
By Tyler Koslow

Recently shared on the r/3DPrinting subreddit, one maker created an endearing anniversary gift for his girlfriend. This 3D printed clock has a custom 3D map as the face, showcasing the exact area where they first met. You make your own too!  

Every relationship is special in its own way, and 3D printing offers a great way to express your affection with a completely customized and unique present.

One Reddit user named “rhonest” recently shared an amazing anniversary gift on the r/3Dprinting subreddit: a 3D printed clock that showcases a map of the location where the couple met. To make the gift even more personal, he also accentuated the numbers of the date when they first became acquainted with one another.

It’s a lovely and charming idea, and also pretty easy to make on your own. Using your 3D printer, a custom map making website and a simple clock mechanism, you can also preserve your own cherished memories in time (pun intended).

Whether you’re celebrating a relationship or just want to pay homage to your childhood neighborhood, this Weekend Project is an easy way to make something extremely special to you or your loved ones.

Let’s take a quick look at how to make a 3D printed clock with a customized map embedded into the face!

3D Printed Customized Map Clock: What You Need & How to Build it

According to “rhonest”, he used Touch Mapper to create his 3D tactile map. The platform is simple to use; all you have to do is enter an address to create your map. You can either order a professional 3D print directly from the website or download the STL yourself.

Aside from your 3D printer and 3D map file, all you need is a Quartz Movement mechanism to operate the wall clock.

Since the map comes in a square shape, you’ll need to use some CAD software to transform it into a circle. And, in order to tell the time, you’ll also need to integrate the proper marks where each number should be situated. For the clock mechanism, a small circle must be placed in the very center of the design. The exact measurement will depend on the Quartz Movement mechanism you decide to buy.

If you don’t have too much experience with 3D modeling, there are easy options like TinkerCAD. Check out our TinkerCAD Tutorial to learn more about this web-based program.

You can check out more projects from maker Ron van den Ouweland on his website. And be sure to check out the Reddit post to share your comments or ask any questions to the creator!

The post Weekend Project: Make a Customized Map Clock to Celebrate Timeless Memories appeared first on All3DP.

August 11, 2018 at 03:05PM
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STL File Format (3D Printing) – Simply Explained

STL File Format (3D Printing) – Simply Explained
By Dibya Chakravorty

What is an STL file? What is it good for? How does it work? We simply explain the STL file format for 3D printing in depth.

Here’s a primer on what they are and how they work, the advantages and disadvantages of their use, plus alternative file formats to consider. In this article, we’re talking about the 3D printing file format, not about the Standard Template Library in C++.

STL File Format (3D Printing) – Simply Explained

What is an STL File?
What does the file extension .STL stand for?
How does the STL file format store a 3D model?
How does an STL file store information about facets?
Special rules for the STL format
How is an STL file 3D printed?
Is Every STL File 3D Printable?
Optimizing an STL file for best 3D printing performance
Are there any alternatives to the STL File Format?
Advantages and disadvantages of using STL file format over other file formats
Color in STL File Format
STL file resources

1. What is an STL File?

In a nutshell, an STL file stores information about 3D models. This format describes only the surface geometry of a three-dimensional object without any representation of color, texture or other common model attributes.

These files are usually generated by a computer-aided design (CAD) program, as an end product of the 3D modeling process. “.STL” is the file extension of the STL file format.

The STL file format is the most commonly used file format for 3D printing. When used in conjunction with a 3D slicer, it allows a computer to communicate with 3D printer hardware.

Since its humble beginnings, the STL file format has been adopted and supported by many other CAD software packages, and today is widely used for rapid prototyping, 3D printing, and computer-aided manufacturing. Hobbyists and professionals use it alike.

2. What does the file extension .STL stand for?

The true meaning of the file extension .STL has been lost to the mists of time.

It’s widely believed to be an abbreviation of the word STereoLithography, though sometimes it is also referred to as “Standard Triangle Language” or “Standard Tessellation Language”.

3. How does the STL file format store a 3D model?

The main purpose of the STL file format is to encode the surface geometry of a 3D object. It encodes this information using a simple concept called “tessellation”.

3.1 Tessellation

Tessellation is the process of tiling a surface with one or more geometric shapes such that there are no overlaps or gaps. If you have ever seen a tiled floor or wall, that is a good real life example of tessellation.

The tiled wall and floor are simple real life examples of tessellation

Tessellation can involve simple geometric shapes or very complicated (and imaginative) shapes. Here are some examples of artistic tessellations due to the famous painter M. C. Escher. In fact, if you want to see more examples of amazing tessellations, we recommend that you check out his paintings.

Two tessellation paintings by M. C. Escher

3.2 The invention of the STL file format: exploiting tessellation to encode surface geometry

Back in 1987, Chuck Hull had just invented the first stereolithographic 3D printer, and The Albert Consulting Group for 3D Systems were trying to figure out a way to transfer information about 3D CAD models to the 3D printer. They realized that they could use tessellations of the 3D model’s surface to encode this information!

STL File Format

The basic idea was to tessellate the 2 dimensional outer surface of 3D models using tiny triangles (also called “facets”) and store information about the facets in a file.

Let’s look at a few examples to understand how this works. For example, if you have a simple 3D cube, this can be covered by 12 triangles, as shown in the image below. As you can see, there are two triangles per face. Since the cube has six faces, it adds up to 12 triangles.

If you have a 3D model of a sphere, then it can be covered by many small triangles, also shown in the same image.

Tessellations of a cube and a sphere

Here is another example of a very complicated 3D shape which has been tessellated with triangles.

Tessellation of a 3D pig (source : i.materialize)

The Albert Consulting Group for 3D Systems realized that if they could store the information about these tiny triangles in a file, then this file could completely describe the surface of an arbitrary 3D model. This formed the basic idea behind the STL file format!

4. How does an STL file store information about facets?

The STL file format provides two different ways of storing information about the triangular facets that tile the object surface. These are called the ASCII encoding and the binary encoding. In both formats, the following information of each triangle is stored:

The coordinates of the vertices.
The components of the unit normal vector to the triangle. The normal vector should point outwards with respect to the 3D model.
An STL file stores the co-ordinates of the vertices and the components of the unit normal vector to the facets

4.1 The ASCII STL file format

The ASCII STL file starts with the mandatory line:

solid <name>

where <name> is the name of the 3D model. Name can be left blank, but there must be a space after the word solid in that case.

The file continues with information about the covering triangles. Information about the vertices and the normal vector is represented as follows:

facet normal nx ny nz
   outer loop
       vertex v1x v1y v1z
       vertex v2x v2y v2z
       vertex v3x v3y v3z
   endloop
endfacet

Here, n is the normal to the triangle and v1, v2 and v3 are the vertices of the triangle. Co-ordinate values are represented as a floating point number with sign-mantissa-e-sign-exponent format, e.g., “3.245000e-002”.

The file ends with the mandatory line:

endsolid <name>

4.2 The binary STL file format

If the tessellation involves many small triangles, the ASCII STL file can become huge. This is why a more compact binary version exists.

The binary STL file starts with a 80 character header. This is generally ignored by most STL file readers, with some notable exceptions that we will talk about later. After the header, the total number of triangles is indicated using a 4 byte unsigned integer.

UINT8[80] – Header
UINT32 – Number of triangles

The information about the triangles follow subsequently. The file simply ends after the last triangle.

Each triangle is represented by twelve 32-bit floating point number. Just like the ASCII STL file, 3 numbers are for the 3D Cartesian co-ordinates of the normal to the triangle. The remaining 9 numbers are for the coordinates of the vertices (three each). Here’s how this looks like:

foreach triangle
REAL32[3] – Normal vector
REAL32[3] – Vertex 1
REAL32[3] – Vertex 2
REAL32[3] – Vertex 3
UINT16 – Attribute byte count
end

Note that after each triangle, there is a 2 byte sequence called the “attribute byte count”. In most cases, this is set to zero and acts a spacer between two triangles. But some software also use these 2 bytes to encode additional information about the triangle. We will see such an example later, where these bytes will be used to store color information.

5. Special rules for the STL format

The STL specification has some special rules for tessellation and for storing information.

5.1 The vertex rule

The vertex rule states that each triangle must share two vertices with its neighboring triangles.

This rule is to be respected when tessellating the surface of the 3D object.

Here’s an example of a valid and invalid tessellation, according to this rule. The figure on the left violates this rule and is an invalid tessellation, while the figure on the right is conformant and a valid tessellation.

Vertex rule for STL files: The figure on the left is an invalid tessellation, while the figure on the right is acceptable.

5.2 The orientation rule

The orientation rule says that the orientation of the facet (i.e. which way is “in” the 3D object and which way is “out”) must be specified in two ways.

First, the direction of the normal should point outwards. Second, the vertices are listed in counterclockwise order when looking at the object from the outside (right-hand rule).

The orientation of each facet is specified in two ways: by the direction of the normal vector and by the ordering of the vertices

This redundancy exists for a reason. It helps ensure consistency of the data and spot corrupt data. A software can, for example, calculate the orientation from the normal and subsequently from the vertices and verify whether they match. If it doesn’t, then it can declare the STL file to be corrupt!

5.3 The all positive octant rule

The all positive octant rule says that the coordinates of the triangle vertices must all be positive.

This implies that the 3D object lives in the all-positive octant of the 3D Cartesian coordinate system (and hence the name).

The rationale behind this rule is to save space. If the 3D object was allowed to live anywhere in the coordinate space, we would have to deal with negative co-ordinates. To store negative co-ordinates, one needs to use signed floating point numbers. Signed floating point numbers require one additional bit to store the sign (+/-). By ensuring that all coordinates are positive, this rule makes sure that we are able to use unsigned numbers for the coordinates and save a bit for every coordinate value we store.

Octant I (red) is the all positive octant

5.4 The triangle sorting rule

The triangle sorting rule recommends that the triangles appear in ascending z-value order.

This helps Slicers slice the 3D models faster. However, this rule is not strictly enforced.

6. How is an STL file 3D printed?

cura slicer software

For 3D printing, the STL file has to be opened in a dedicated slicer. What’s a slicer? It’s a piece of 3D printing software that converts digital 3D models into printing instructions for your 3D printer to create an object.

The slicer chops up your STL file into hundreds (sometimes thousands) of flat horizontal layers based on the settings you choose and calculates how much material your printer will need to extrude and how long it will take to do it.

All of this information is then bundled up into a GCode file, the native language of your 3D printer. Slicer settings do have an impact the quality of your print so it’s important to have the right software and settings to get you the best quality print possible.

Once the GCode has been uploaded to your 3D printer, the next stage is for those separate two-dimensional layers to be reassembled as a three-dimensional object on your print-bed. This is done by depositing a succession of thin layers of plastics, metals, or composite materials, and building up the model one layer at a time.

More information: 3D Slicer Settings for Beginners – 8 Things You Need to Know

7. Is Every STL File 3D Printable?

Unfortunately not. Only a 3D design that’s specifically made for 3D printing is 3D printable. The STL file is just the container for the data, not a guarantee that something is printable.

3D models suitable for 3D printing need to have a minimum wall thickness and a “watertight” surface geometry to be 3D printable. Even if it’s visible on a computer screen, it’s impossible to print something with a wall thickness of zero.

There’s also the consideration of overhanging elements on the model. Look at the ALL3DP logo in the picture above; if the model is printed upright, then overhanging elements with more than a 45-degree angle will require supports (which you can see in green).

When downloading an STL file that you haven’t created yourself, it’s worth taking the time to verify that it is indeed 3D printable. This will save you a lot of time and frustration (and wasted filament).

Further reading: MeshMixer Tutorial for 3D Printing Beginners and 9 Important 3D Printing Concepts Everyone Should Know

8. Optimizing an STL file for best 3D printing performance

The STL file format approximates the surface of a CAD model with triangles. The approximation is never perfect, and the facets introduce coarseness to the model.

The perfect spherical surface on the left is approximated by tessellations. The figure on the right uses big triangles, resulting in a coarse model. The figure on the center uses smaller triangles and achieves a smoother approximation (source: i.materialize)

The 3D printer will print the object with the same coarseness as specified by the STL file. Of course, by making the triangles smaller and smaller, the approximation can be made better and better, resulting in good quality prints. However, as you decrease the size of the triangle, the number of triangles needed to cover the surface also increases. This leads to gigantic STL file which 3D printers cannot handle. It’s also a pain to share or upload huge files like that.

It is therefore very important to find the right balance between file size and print quality. It does not make sense to reduce the size of the triangles ad infinitum because at some point your eye is not going to be able to distinguish between the print qualities.

Most CAD software offer a couple of settings when exporting STL files. These settings control the size of the facets, and hence print quality and file size. Let’s dig into the most important settings and find out their optimum values.

8.1 Chord height or tolerance

Most CAD software will let you choose a parameter called chord height or tolerance. The chord height is the maximum distance from the surface of the original design and the STL mesh. If you choose the right tolerance, your prints will look smooth and not pixelated. It’s quite obvious that the smaller the chord height, the more accurately the facets represent the actual surface of the model.

The chord height is the height between the STL mesh and the actual surface (source : www.3dhubs.com)

It is recommended to set the tolerance between 0.01 milimeters to 0.001 milimeters. This usually results in good quality prints. There is no point in reducing this any further, as 3D printers cannot print with that level of detail.

8.2 Angular deviation or angular tolerance

Angular tolerance limits the angle between the normals of adjacent triangles. The default angle is usually set at 15 degrees. Decreasing the tolerance (which can range to 0 to 1) improves print resolution.

Angular tolerance is the angle between the normals of adjacent triangles (source : www.3dhubs.com)

The recommended setting for this parameter is 0.

8.3 Binary or ASCII?

Finally, you have a choice of exporting the STL file in binary or ASCII format. The binary format is always recommended for 3D printing since it results in smaller file sizes. However, if you want to manually inspect the STL file for debugging, then ASCII is preferable because it is easier to read.

9. Are there any alternatives to the STL File Format?

3MF mesh

The STL file format is not the only format used in 3D printing. There are over 30 file formats for 3D printing. Most important is the OBJ file format, which can store color and texture profiles. Another option the is Polygon file format (PLY), which was originally used for storing 3D scanned objects.

More recently, there have been efforts to launch a new file type by The 3MF Consortium, which is proposing a new 3D printing file format called 3MF. They claim it will streamline and improve the 3D printing process.

To implement it, Microsoft has partnered up companies like Autodesk, HP, and Shapeways to make their vision a reality. More details on the 3MF Consortium can be read on their website, together with preliminary documentation about the 3MF file type on their GitHub page. It’s far too early to say whether this will become widely adopted, however.

10. Advantages and disadvantages of using STL file format over other file formats

Since there are many 3D printing file formats, the obvious question is : which one should you use for your prints? The answer, as it turns out,  depends a lot on your use case.

10.1 When not to use an STL file

As we saw earlier, the STL file format cannot store additional information such as color, material etc. of the facets or triangles. It only stores information about the vertices and the normal vector. This means that if you want to use multiple colors or multiple materials for your prints, then the STL file format is not the right choice. The OBJ format is a popular format enjoying good support which has a way to specify color, material etc. Therefore, this is the right choice for this task.

10.2 When to use an STL file

On the other hand, if you want to print with a single color or material, which is most often the case, then STL is better than OBJ since it is simpler, leading to smaller file sizes and faster processing.

10.3 Other advantages of the STL file format

Universal: Another big advantage of the STL file format is that it is universal and supported by nearly all 3D printers. This cannot be said for the OBJ format, even though it enjoys reasonable adoption and support as well. The VRML, AMF and 3MF formats are not widely supported at this point of time.

Mature ecosystem: Most 3D printable models you can find on the internet are in the STL file format. The existence of this ecosystem, combined with STL-based software investments made by 3D printer manufacturers, has given rise to a large user-base that’s heavily invested in the format. This means there’s plenty of third party software dealing with STL files, which is not the case with the other file formats.

10.4 Some disadvantages of the STL file format

There are some glaring disadvantages to using STL as well. As the fidelity of printing processes embraces micron-scale resolution, the number of triangles required to describe smooth curved surfaces can result in massive file sizes. It’s also impossible to include metadata (such as authorship and copyright information) in an STL file.

10.5 Verdict

If your 3D printing needs are simple, then perhaps there is no reason to move away from the STL file format. However, for more advanced prints using multiple material and color, it is perhaps advisable to try the OBJ or other available formats.

11. Color in STL File Format

3d selfies

In the last section, we said that the STL file format cannot handle multi-color models. The reason the STL file format lacks color information is simple. When rapid prototyping evolved in the 1980s, no one thought of color printing. Nowadays, 3D printing materials and processes have evolved rapidly. Some allow you to print in full-color – just think of sandstone 3D selfies, as pictured above.

However it’s not completely fair to say that STL cannot handle colors. It turns out that there are non-standard versions of the STL format that are indeed capable of carrying color information.

For example, the VisCAM and Solidview software packages use the “attribute byte count”  at the end of every triangle to store a 15-bit RGB color using the following system:

bits 0 to 4 for blue (0 to 31),
bits 5 to 9 for green (0 to 31),
bits 10 to 14 for red (0 to 31),
bit 15 is 1 if the color is valid, or 0 if the color is not valid (as with normal STL files).

The Materialize Magics software, on the other hand, uses the 80-byte header in the binary format to represent the overall color of the 3D object. The color is specified by including the ASCII string “COLOR=” followed by four bytes representing red, green, blue and alpha channel (transparency) in the range 0–255. This base color can also be overridden at each facet using the “attribute byte count” bytes.

12. STL file resources

If you have read so far, congratulations! You now know quite a bit about STL and can be undoubtedly called an STL file format expert.

In this final section, we will share some awesome software and resources that you can use for downloading, viewing, editing and repairing STL files.

12.1 Downloading STL files

STL File Format

There are many repositories, marketplaces and search engines on the web containing literally millions of free STL files. You can refer to our regularly updated list — 35 Best Sites for Free STL Files & 3D Printer Models of 2018  — or you can choose one of these models to get started: 50 Cool Things to 3D Print in Summer 2018

12.2 Opening and viewing an STL file

STL File Format

Fortunately, opening an STL file is not too complicated. There are several free STL file viewers for this purpose, which you can either use online or as a desktop application. Refer to our dedicated guide here: 20 Best Free STL File Viewer Tools of 2018

12.3 Editing and converting an STL file

STL File Format

Yes, it is entirely possible to edit an STL file and convert the STL file to another file format. Because the format is open, there is nothing to prevent you from changing the contents of a file. Actually, the process of editing is quite easy. We have a dedicated article on this topic: 7 Free STL Editors + How to Edit and Repair STL Files 

12.4 Repairing an STL file

STL File Format

Remember the section where we discussed the rules that STL files must satisfy? For example, adjacent triangles must share two vertices and the right hand rule applied on the vertices should result in the same orientation as the normal vector. If these conditions are violated in an STL file, then it is broken or corrupt.

There are several programs which can help with repairing a broken STL file. For example, Netfabb Basic is a great tool for repairing the most common STL file problems. You find more information on these programs in our article: 24 Best Free 3D Printing Software Tools of 2018

13. Conclusion

In conclusion, we have learned about how the STL file format encodes the layout of 3D models. We discussed how to optimize STL files for the best 3D printing quality. We talked about how the STL file format compares with the other popular 3D printing file format .OBJ and when to use each of these formats. Finally, we shared some resources using which you can download, view, edit and repair STL files.

We hope that an in-depth understanding of the STL file format helps you become a more knowledgeable user of your 3D printer. If you found this article useful, share it with other 3D printing enthusiasts and spread the word. Do you have some questions or remarks? Let us know in the comments below!

The post STL File Format (3D Printing) – Simply Explained appeared first on All3DP.

August 5, 2018 at 06:45PM
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Weekend Project: Amaze Your Friends with a 3D Printed Magic Faucet

Weekend Project: Amaze Your Friends with a 3D Printed Magic Faucet
By Tyler Koslow

A floating faucet? Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? This 3D printed Magic Faucet is a wonderful project for those who love optical illusions. It’s relatively easy to make and simply amazing to look at. 

In our never-ending endeavor to provide users with fun and useful projects to take on during the weekend, we’ve stumbled across a handful of 3D printed fountains to help wash away the boredom. However, we’ve yet to find anything quite like the Magic Faucet created by designer Manuel Arrigoni (who goes by “hazon” on Thingiverse).

This remarkable fountain uses 3D printed parts and components that are commonly found online or at your local aquarium shop to create the illusion of a floating faucet. You can decorate it with different colors and knickknacks, so you can also customize your fountain the way you see fit.

Having some mental blockage and need a 3D printing project to help the creativity flow? Look no further than this Magic Faucet. Let’s take a quick look at what you need and how to build this one-of-a-kind Weekend Project.

3D Printed Magic Faucet: What You Need & How to Build it

You can build your own Magic Faucet with a 3D printer and a few components. There are 12 different parts of the fountain that need to be 3D printed, all of which are freely available on Thingiverse.

Here’s what else you need to create your own Magic Faucet:

Aquarium Pump
Transparent aquarium tube with an external diameter of 17 mm (found online or at local aquarium shop)
Spray paint
Silicone Sealant 
Switch

Now for the assembly process… The designer has separated the .STL files into two categories: the “faucet” and the “vase” (or base). Once the parts are 3D printed, you can perform some post-processing and spray paint them in the color of your choice.

For the pump cable, you can either run it through the pot or pull it out of the top of the base. Arrigoni has provided different models depending on how you want to situate the pump cable. If you decide to run the pump cable through the pot you should cut it to avoid potential harm from the electric current.

He also notes that the “faucet water diffuse.stl” model must be printed in its pre-determined position with the supports, as this is critical to the functionality of the internal part.

Once everything is 3D printed, use the silicone sealing to connect all of the parts together. The designer also suggests using the silicone to isolate the cable that passes through the faucet’s base.

If you want more information or have questions on this unique Magic Faucet, head over to Thingiverse and drop a comment to the designer. He also provides a hefty amount of photos to help make the assembly process easier.

The post Weekend Project: Amaze Your Friends with a 3D Printed Magic Faucet appeared first on All3DP.

August 5, 2018 at 03:35PM
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