Join David Andrade for an in-depth discussion in this video 3D printing, part of Blender: Tips, Tricks, & Techniques.
- [David] 3D printing is an exciting new way to realize your Blender creations into the real world. In this week's Blenders Tips, Tricks, and Techniques, I'm going to show you a new add-on to help you create awesome 3D prints. Now first, let's enable it by going to File, User Preferences, Add-Ons, type in 3D print, and turning it on. Now let's go to Save and let's exit out. Now let's print something more exciting than a cube.
So I'm going to hit A and delete everything. And I'm going to leave my 3D print tab alone for right now because I'm going to make a monkey in a cylinder. Now let's make this cylinder a little flat and then let's set our monkey on it. A little bit of rotating, a little bit of scaling, just put it right on there. I'm going to make sure that he's intersecting all parts.
Or she, technically, since it's called Suzanne, okay. Now, there's a few things that you need to know about 3D printing. Things have to be watertight, you need an escape hole, it needs to be hollow, and you need to make sure that its topology is pretty good. Let's work on the first one. Let's make sure it's watertight. And I know for a fact, if we go into Edit mode on this monkey, that these eyeballs are floating and there's just a little bit of space between them.
So what I want to do is hit P to remove my selection and I'm going to move them. I'm going to select them and move them to Layer three just to get them out of the way. Come back to my monkey, who has no eyeballs now, go into Edge mode, alt + right-click, alt + shift + right-click, select these two eye holes, go to Individual Origins and scale them in a bunch because what I want to do is make sure that those eyeballs intersect perfectly.
Now the other thing is they had to be one continuous mesh and if I turn on Layer three, click on my eyeballs, you can see that the insides of the eyes stretch in for a while. That's not good, they need to be one solid mesh. So let's turn off Layer three, click on our monkey. We're going to do a couple things. First, we're going to go to Boolean. I'm going to click on the Object Suzanne001, go to Union, and hey, look at that. Looks pretty good.
And for safekeeping, I'm going to add a Subdivision and see what happens. Now this is important. I want to make sure that it doesn't screw up our subdivisions, and uh-oh. Look at that, it definitely does. Okay, so that's not good, so let's stop here for a second. Let's move the subdivision up, turn it on. And then let's go to Layer three, go through these eyeballs, subdivide them and make them two, Apply. Go to Layer one and then I'm going to make sure that my subdivision is on.
And now, you can see that the Boolean isn't screwing up because these eyeballs are subdivided so they're not intersecting all the way through. And if I go into wireframe, you can see that there's no inside of the eyeball either. So let's hit OK and the Boolean because it looks pretty good. Let's work on this base a little bit. First, let's click this top part, bring it down a little bit. E to extrude, Z to stick it so it only goes up and down and then S to scale it in.
Let's bring it in a little bit. There we go. And then let's actually hit E again then hit enter. Scale in some more, that way we have a couple of extra rings so when I Boolean this, it actually looks pretty good. Okay great, this will prevent a whole bunch of small little triangles from stretching across the top of the surface. Now remember, I need an escape hole so I'm going to put it in at the bottom. So E, enter, scale in.
And there's a lot of good articles out there on how big this should be but I'm going to do about this big. And then I'm going to hit X and delete these faces because we'll solidify everything else later. So remember, we can't have manifold edges, that is, things that are sticking through, empty face edges like this, or sometimes an edge that has three or more faces. We have to be very careful about our topology. So I'm going to go ahead and subdivide this. Go to two, you can see already it's starting to kind of round that off so I'm going to add an edge loop, Control + R, bring it all the way down to the bottom.
There we go, now we have a nice flat bottom. I'm going to Apply this, I'm going to Boolean it right onto Suzanne, click Union. Let's click on Suzanne herself and move her to Layer two. Click on this whole shape, apply the Boolean, and hey, look at that. We don't have those inside faces anymore so we've gotten rid of a whole bunch of them and this mesh looks pretty good. Now let's move on to the 3D print toolbox and see how it works.
Let's go to Edit mode, make sure the tab is open. If you don't see this, you can hit T, bring it out. And you're going to see a whole bunch of things here. First are Volume and Area, those are really handy. A lot of 3D printing websites, tools, and your own 3D printer will tell you how much area is needed and how much volume is needed. That's how a lot of measurements are done, especially when determining cost. Now there's a whole bunch of Checks and we're going to go through some of them. There's even some Cleanup tools and of course, the ability to export.
So I'm going to click on Check All and this is where the power of this tool really comes in play. So first, you can see that nothing is actually solidified so we're going to actually report a lot of Non-Manifold Edges. This is this big hole at the bottom. So we got to work on that. You can also see that there's some Intersecting Faces. These are faces where things are intersecting and the 3D printer may kind of guess what's happening or write it incorrectly. There are some Zero Faces. These are faces that have very little volume.
Sometimes though, it selects things that do have volume so be a little careful of that. Zero Edges, these are edges that don't have any face to them. Looks like there's a few out there. Non-Flat Faces is another common problem. These are faces that need to be triangulated so you can just spacebar, Triangulate Faces. Problem here is that the 3D printer doesn't exactly know where the edges are going to go so you have to tell it where to go. So you can see what's going on here. Now that I've triangulated, the 3D printer will know exactly where everything should go.
And then Overhang Faces is always going to be a tough one. Now most modern printers can handle stuff like this but you have to be very careful, especially on some older models because the 3D printer will have to make some scaffolding. Maybe it won't make the scaffolding correctly and some of these overhangs won't look so pretty. So be very careful of lots of overhanging faces. Okay, let's make our little guy thick. And we can do that by going to Modifier, going to Solidify.
And how thick should it be? Well, to do that, we need to go to Scene, set our Length to Metric, and actually determine a size of how big we want this character to be. Now, if you don't know anything about Metric, it's okay. Most 3D printers can operate in inches. But Blender has the ability to transform it into any unit you want. So let's hit shift + C, that'll center my cursor. In the end panel here on the right, I'm going to scroll down and look for 3D Cursor.
And I'm going to type in five inches or I can even say five I-N or do one of the marks. Now that's going to put a 12.7 centimeter 3D cursor right here and that's awesome. I don't have to do any of the math. Blender will handle all of it for me. Of course, if you were in meters, you could say type in 12 kilometers and Blender will automatically figure it all out for you. So let's say five inches is what I want.
And I'm just going to scale this and kind of roughly get it. It doesn't have to be perfect, just has to be almost there. Alright, that looks about good. Now I want to make sure that I've applied everything so control + A, Apply Rotation and Scale and that's going to be really really important. And now in Solidify, you can say maybe two millimeters and let's see what we get here. Let's turn this off. I can see what's going on right now and it looks fairly okay.
Now if you had a thicker thickness, let's say four millimeters, you can start to see what's happening, especially on the ears. It starts to intersect itself. So I'm going to stay at three millimeters and it does look pretty decent but right about four it looks pretty bad, so what do you do if this happens? Well, what I would do is go to Edit mode, turn on Proportional Editing, C, just draw around some of the offending faces, hit enter, and then go up to Tools and go to Shrink Fatten, and you can move up or down a little bit.
Oh, but wait a minute, everything is moving! What's happening? Well, if you hit G, you can use your page up and down buttons and just keep holding them down. There you go, you'll start to see this little circle. What happened is is you're affecting everything. So now if we go to Shrink and Fatten, I can kind of pull and push this up a little bit and it starts to look pretty good. I can come to this side and do the same thing. C, enter, Shrink, Shrink Fatten.
And again, I can change how big it's affecting everything by hitting page up and down. I don't want it to be that big so do it about here, and there we go. No one's going to know that our monkey is slightly bigger-eared so you should be okay. Come back to 3D print and I'm going to apply this for right now because I want to be able to Edit it. And then let's go to Check All and, hey, we actually did pretty good. Only a handful of Non-Manifold Edges that need to be cleaned up.
Intersecting Edges, those are going to be really tough. You're going to want to come in here and carefully weld things or merge them to make sure that you don't have any weird things happening. You can see right away, for example, this edge here needs to be moved inwards. So let's kind of center our focus here and bring it in a little bit. You could also go into Perspective mode by hitting 5, going in here, and you can actually check in slices. Or if that's a little too weird for you, you can hit N and reduce the clip to one millimeter.
That's under View, Clip Start to one millimeter and fly inside the mesh and then clean it up. And, you know what, I have to admit, this is the hardest part about 3D printing, is cleaning up meshes to make sure that they will 3D print correctly. As you start to get into this, you can see some of the faces. Zero Edges, for example, there's these edges that don't have any faces but they're still here. You have to weld some of those. You have Thin Faces here, these are really problematic.
This is where you're going to have to separate out the mesh a little bit more because the thickness is actually too thin. And you can already see what's happening here. These are intersecting each other so you'll have to go in here and merge all of these. And then of course, our favorite, Overhang Edges. At least on the inside it's not going to be too big of a deal but it's something to be aware of especially on the outside. This is the hardest part about 3D printing, going ahead and cleaning up the mesh. But at least, this 3D print toolbox will help you identify all the problem areas.
And also, as a 3D modeler, it's really great because now you can see where some of your own mesh errors are, especially Non-Manifold Edges, which might screw up your models when you're trying to shade them or texture them. Now once you've gone ahead and made your 3D model the best that you can do it, I recommend you upload it to something like Shapeways so you can test out the integrity of the 3D model. And in this case, it looks like I need a little bit of work on the thickness. It looks like I can get as small as 0.7 millimeters and yet I'm still pretty small and pretty thin on some of those edges so I'm going to have to clean those up.
Regardless if you get into 3D printing, this print 3D toolbox will help you become a better modeler. All of its tools for checking on Manifold Edges, et cetera, will make sure that your own models are really high in their quality. Plus, it'll help you generate some pretty awesome figurines to print out. And with just a little bit of practice and patience, you too can generate some pretty awesome 3D prints. Until next time, this is David from Blenders Tips Tricks and Techniques.
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