In this article, we will cover from importing of your digital model into simplify3D to exporting the file for printing. All the processes will also be discussed which is involved in setting the digital file ready for 3D Printing.
The software supports STL (Stereolithography) and OBJ file formats, although the STL file is what most people use. These STL and OBJ file formats can be obtained from any CAD Softwares. This gives you freedom of designing and then printing your own designed file.
The software offers quick shortcuts to help you quickly and easily manipulate your model on-screen. If you have multiple models on the Build Table, these shortcuts will affect the currently selected model. You can also select multiple models at once through holding the Shift key.
Here are some of the shortcuts used for manipulating your 3D model.
- Q: Select Models
- W: Move Models on Build Plate
- E: Scale odels
- R: Rotate models
- Undo: Control/Command + Z
- Select All: Control/Command + A
- Copy Selection: Control/Command + C
- Paste Selection: Control/Command + V
- Remove Selection: Backspace
- Center and Arrange Models: Control/Command + R
- Drop Model to Table: Control/Command + T
- Place Surface on Bed: Control/Command + L
A successful first layer is vital to a successful print. The first step is to make sure your machine is properly calibrated and leveled. The leveling process varies according to the printer, but the most common bed leveling mechanism is a spring tightening system. A series of springs are located underneath the build plate, and tightening or loosening the springs will lower or raise the bed.
Fig 1: First layer Print
To start leveling the printer bed one needs to tighten down the springs under the bed until the bed is about 0.2mm away from the nozzle tip. It can be checked by passing a paper through it.
Better results can be obtained through use of an adhesive material applied to the print bed for the first layer to print. This can include a standard glue stick, hairspray or even painter’s tape.
Support structures are used to support steep overhangs and cantilevered sections of your model. The Support Generation Tool makes it easy to add, move, or delete supports. The supports appear as individual pillars in the software but are constructed as a network of interconnected pieces for easy removal from your model.
Supports are used when models have steep overhangs or unsupported areas. For example, if you printed an arch, the very center of this arch might require support material because when your printer tries to print that top layer, there would be nothing else supporting it from below.
If it is tried to print this arch without support material, you might notice that the top layers of the arch seem to sag and drop because there is nothing to support the molten plastic as it is extruded out of the nozzle.
The software made it very easy by generating the supports automatically and it also gives freedom to add and remove support structures manually and also to decide the thickness of the support pillars. The overhang angle is dependent on the type of printers and on the brand. A person using simplify 3D can have better control on the supports, thickness, resolutions, texture, speed, infill, etc. If you are having trouble removing your support material, you may want to increase this setting so that there is a larger gap between the support and the part. A value between 0.2-0.4mm is usually sufficient. Once you have entered the desired values, click Save so that the next model preparation will use the updated settings.
Different settings for different regions of a model
This part of the article reveals how to use different slicing settings for different regions of your model. This is a unique feature of a simplified 3D software that gives you the power to configure the best settings for every location of your model.
This gives freedom from printing the model in uniform infill, layer height, same color, etc. 3D enthusiast can try all of this features to get a real feeling of what is discussed here. This can be done by following very simple and few steps. It all begins with the importing of the model into simplifying 3D software. You can check the X, Y and Z axis in “ view> cross section. In this cross-section window, you can find out exactly at which position you want to change the printing settings such as infill%, layer height. To check X, Y, Z axis of the model first select the respective tab and then move right and left to decide the exact position or you can directly enter the required value.
Now we know that where the transition between our two region takes place, we can start configuring our FFF settings. Now add a new FFF process and give some name so that you can easily identify when you need it. You can name it as Bottom _solid or Bottom thick. Configure the settings exactly as you want for the base of the model. You might want to click the “Show Advanced” button in the bottom left of this window if you have not done that already.
An operator can choose single layer skirt to prime the extruder and can proceed with 20% – 100% infill as required. And can give 0.3 mm height of the side wall so that the vertical walls can be printed quickly. The infill of the printing parts depends on the strength required. For a normal strength, the part can be printed in 15% – 20% infill. If needed more strength, infill can be increased. 100% infill means a solid part will be printed and 0% infill means hollow part will be printed. Once you have configured everything how you want your model, click on the “Advanced” tab and look for layer modification section. You should see two options in this section named as “Start printing at height” and “stop printing at height”. These are the options we will use to constrain a single FFF process to a specific region of the model. You can enter a value at what height the printing is needed to be stopped and Enable “Stop Printing at height” option and enter the value so that the printing is stopped at that height with a particular set of settings. Once you are done, click Save so that we can start configuring the second process.
We will be repeating this exact same process for the top section of our model. Add a second FFF process and call it “Upper part.” This process is going to start printing several millimeters above the build table surface. It will start where our first process ended, so disable rafts and skirts for your second process. For the remaining settings, we used a finer 0.15mm layer height to achieve a smooth surface finish and set the infill percentage to zero so that this region would be printed hollow. We selected 2 perimeter outlines, and 3 solid top and bottom layers to ensure sufficient wall thickness and a nice exterior appearance.
Next, return to the advanced tab and look for the Layer Modifications section. This time we will be using the “Start printing at height” option. We want this process to start printing at 5.53mm so that it picks up where the first process left off. Enter these values and then click Save.
Now, you are ready to click the Prepare to Print! Button to generate the printing instructions for our multiple FFF processes. When you click this button you will notice a new dialog that appears asking what processes you want to use. In this case, we want to “select all”, which will include the “Bottom” and “Upper” processes.
We also want to use a continuous layer-by-layer printing mode to merge the two processes together. After you click OK, the software will intelligently merge both of your FFF processes together to create the perfectly tuned settings for our model. It’s that easy!
After the preparation is complete, you can look at the building preview to ensure that your settings are correct. You can use the same cross section tool described here in this tutorial if you want to look inside the line-by-line preview
Under this topic, the readers can learn everything about printing multiple parts at once on your 3D printer. In the beginning, many users focus on printing only one part at a time until they are happy with the results to save the plastic filament. But once you got more experienced with 3d printing, you can import multiple STL files into the software and can print simultaneously. This can save a lot of setup time and increases the output. For example, printing the parts of sub-assemblies of ball bearing simultaneously. It would take lot more time to print each part separately.
The Simplify3D Software gives you a wide array of options for multi-part printing so that you can choose the best method for your specific needs. There are 3 different multi-part printing modes that we will be talking about.
- Single Process Printing Mode
- Multiple Process, Continuous Printing Mode
- Multiple Process, Sequential Printing Mode
The number of processes refers to the number of FFF processes that you will be configuring to control the print settings for your parts. The Simplify3D Software has the unique ability to allow you to use different settings for each model you print. For example, if the balls of bearing in your ball- bearing assembly require different settings, you can easily configure this in the software and still print these parts simultaneously. This is one of the big advantages of the software.
- Single Process Printing Mode
This is the easiest of all three methods and one that most users are probably already familiar with. This is the technique you would want to use if all of your parts use the exact same slicing settings are required and you don’t need the reliability and performance benefits that sequential printing offers. For example, you might be printing four identical press button. The models are small, simple, and you can arrange them close to one another to prevent excessive oozing while moving between parts. In this case, the single process printing mode is a great technique to use.
Add new FFF process and configure the settings required. After preparing the part for the print, you can see the newly created printing instruction. To know how the extruder is printing you can refer to the G-Code. Their step by step extrusion is available. This results in a lot of movement back and forth between the different pieces, but as long as they are positioned fairly close together this should be okay. Otherwise, you may face oozing and retraction problem which results in the bad surface finish.
- Multiple Process, Continuous Printing Mode
For the next printing mode, we will be considering chess set. Out of the all select Knight and Pawn chess pieces. Import both of the STL files into the software and have a look at the features of the different models. You will notice that the pawn is very simplistic with gradual curves and features. The knight piece, on the other hand, has several fine detailed features such as eyes, hair, and teeth. It also has a fairly severe overhang on the chin of the model. In this case, it might be advantageous to use different slicing settings for these two models so that we can make sure they both print with the best quality possible.
As we learned in the previous section, we can use the Select Models button to determine what models a given FFF process uses. We could easily create one FFF process for the pawn and a second for the knight. That will give us more flexibility by letting us use the optimal settings for each model. First, let’s create the settings for the pawn. Create a new FFF process and call it “Pawn Process.” Use the Select Models button to make sure that this FFF process only applies to the pawn STL file. Now go ahead and configure the optimal settings for this model. We used 0.3mm layer heights with 3 outline perimeters and 0% infill. This will allow the part to print very quickly, which should be fine for the gradually rounded surfaces. If you want, you can Prepare and Preview this single process to make sure the pawn settings are configured properly.
Next, we will configure the settings for the knight. Add a new FFF process and call it the “Knight Process.” As before, use the Select Models button to make sure that this process only applies to the knight STL file. The settings for this part will be quite different than our pawn. We added support material for the chin overhang, used 0.15mm layer heights to help improve the quality of the fine features, and used 40% infill to help support the large flat surfaces at the top of the model. Save your settings and return to the main workspace.
The last thing we need to do is click the Prepare to Print! button to generate the printing instructions for our multiple FFF processes. The software will detect that you have multiple FFF processes and ask you which ones you want to merge together. Select both the “Pawn Process” and the “Knight Process.”
At the bottom of this window, there is also an option to configure how these multiple processes will be combined. If we select the continuous printing mode, each process will be merged together, one layer after another. The result will look very similar to the single process printing mode that we described in the previous section, however, we now have optimized settings for each individual model.
- Multiple Process, Sequential Printing Mode
The last printing mode we are going to talk about is sequential printing. This is a very useful printing mode that can help improve reliability and print quality, but you may need to re-arrange your models to use this technique. During sequential printing, the software will print multiple layers of a single model before transitioning to the next model. So it might print 30 layers of our pawn model before it moves over to the knight and prints 30 layers of it. This significantly reduces the amount of movement between models, which results in a much cleaner surface finish. It also improves the reliability of the overall print since one model could actually separate from the build plate and fails without ruining the entire batch of parts. The image to the bottom illustrates the difference between the continuous (left) and sequential (right) printing modes. The thin red lines represent rapid movements where the nozzle is moving to a new location to begin printing. As you can see, the sequential printing mode results in much fewer movements between parts for faster and better-looking prints.
So now that you know how sequential printing works, we need to check your hardware to determine how to re-arrange your parts. If the nozzle does not have sufficient clearance, your printer will end up colliding with one of the previously printed parts. The image to the bottom shows several common extruder configurations. Keep in mind that there may be external accessories such as fans or structural frames that reduce the available clearance of your extruder. The orange lines in the left image represent two parts being sequentially printed side-by-side. The spacing between these parts is an additional factor that determines if sequential printing would be successful. For example, the two bottom configurations do not have sufficient clearance with the current part spacing. However, if the spacing between the orange parts was doubled or tripled, the two bottom configurations would gain additional clearance.