Can Blender Be Used For 3D Printing?
If you are a fan of animation and video, you have probably heard of Blender software. Blender is a free 3D graphics software used for creating videos, animation, interactive 3D applications, virtual reality, computer games, amongst many others. Blender software has applications in different areas, and its relevance to film-making industries, small animation companies, and even computer graphics hobbyists can’t be overemphasized.
The use of this software is such that it fits right perfectly into all classes of users. For a beginner, Blender is designed to have all the needed features to guide you through your first design, and the user-friendly interface ensures you can navigate your way easily on the app.
For advanced users, Blender’s API can be used for python scripting to design and customize applications and even write some specialized tools.
Blender is just as good as they come. Although the software was created in 1995, Blender has gained much traction over the last decade. This is particularly true because it is 100% free and open-source, and as such, the features are frequently being updated, thanks to the large community where users come to discuss challenges and ways to solve them.
While, based on polygonal modeling, Blender is not necessarily the most widely used solution in the additive manufacturing sector, it does allow 3D models to be exported in formats adapted to the technology. To fully grasp the basics and functionalities of this software, we will have to talk about the main features.
To start with, Blender supports the whole 3D pipeline, which includes model modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, even video editing and game creation. These functionalities encompass the features of Blenders. Below are the key features;
- Blender is a fully integrated 3D content creation suite, offering a broad range of essential tools, including Modeling, Rendering, Animation & Rigging, Video Editing, VFX, Compositing, Texturing, and many types of Simulations.
- It is cross-platform, with an OpenGL GUI uniform on all major platforms (and customizable with Python scripts).
- It has a high-quality 3D architecture, enabling a fast and efficient creation workflow.
- It boasts active community support.
- It has a small executable, which is optionally portable.
Apparently, Blender makes possible a wide range of tasks. They can be a bit challenging at the start, but once you get the hang of it, there is no limit to what you can do with the software. However, for the sake of this article, we will narrow down this article to the relevance of Blender to 3D printing. We might find the answer to our question while doing that.
Blender was created in 1995 but not until 2002; it had no relevance to 3D printing. Even after 2002, a few people could access the program, except for experts and professionals, and more so, it was applicable in a few industries. But when version 2.67 was released, it became more sophisticated and accessible, thanks to new features like the 3D printing toolbox and the real-time Mesh analysis. And in the few years, more features have been added to Blender to make your 3D printing even more accessible and better. Let’s see some specific uses.
3D Printing Organic Models
Blender is your go-to software if you want to 3D print organic models that don’t represent solid surfaces such as animals, monsters, characters, etc. There is more. Blender is also the perfect choice to create organic models such as pillows, sofas, trees, amongst many others.
One of the advantages of using Blender software over other 3D printing software is that it gives the user complete control and flexibility. Meaning you are not just restricted to creating solid particles but also creating organic shapes. In fact, 3D printing is more about creating organic shapes, especially in the entertainment world.
Props, image designs, scenes, animations, etc., have improved significantly in the film industry, thanks to 3D printing. Interestingly, all of these come with no surge in financial investments; in fact, it saves time and money.
If you can imagine it, you can create with Blender. And there are tons of add-ons for modeling, and they even reach impressive levels. Although 3D printing on Blender might require some level of expertise, it's definitely, the perfect software to capture your imaginations to detail.
3D Printing Hard Surface Models
In addition to creating organic surfaces, Blender is, arguably, the best software for modeling 3D hard surfaces. It becomes even more interesting considering that this software is completely free and available for commercial use. Talk of creating complex models like machines, mechanical parts, robots; Blender has the best packages.
There is the option of using Blender’s native tool, and as well, you can even take your design to another level using the impressive specialized add-ons designed mainly to create hard surface modeling. It saves time, makes you more efficient and productive, and ultimately creates mind-blowing designs.
For a fact, Blender software is not all rosy and fun, especially when it comes to 3D printing of industrial parts for industrial manufacturing, architecture, mechanical engineering, and robotic engineering. One challenge you will definitely run into while creating your 3D models is inaccuracy with measurement. Actually, this problem is common to all 3D printing software.
Hence, to create any 3D hard surfaces, you will need some level of expertise, experience, and a lot of patience. That’s the best way to design something close to what you get using computer-aided software that most engineers and architects use.
Without a doubt, Blender is one of the best tools for 3D printing. And it can be used to do many things, especially in the manufacturing, medicine, architecture, entertainment industries. Let’s talk about how to get your 3D models ready for printing in Blender.
Prepare 3D Models for Printing in Blender
The most challenging part of printing models in Blender is creating and preparing your models. One crucial thing to know is that, if you have a model created from different objects or meshes, before you print it in the Blender, ensure each mesh is a water-tight 3D model, also known as manifold, else your models will not print correctly, sometimes, it might not even print at all.
This is because non-manifold geometry doesn’t exist in the real world. In a simple term, a 3D model can only exist digitally, not in the real world, because no geometry could support it. Vertices, edges, and faces define the mesh of a 3D model; hence, it has to be manifold. Else, the 3D model geometry cannot be defined with precision.
The geometry precision of the 3D model is crucial to printing the model accurately in a Blender. Non-manifold modeling affects the precision of this geometry. This further affects the representation of the 3D model, leading to the 3D printer not being able to recognize the model, and ultimately, the 3D model will not be printed. This is key, and it’s a standard error most users make.
Similarly, make sure your model is in one piece and not some disjointed separate pieces. Once you have ensured all this, size your objects to your preferred choice and then export them to the 3D printer.
3D Printing Tools in Blender
Like every other model design software, Blender has some features and tools to help you capture your imaginations accurately. And, of course, it comes with some tools for users to toggle and play with.
The ruler/Protractor tool, for one, helps you measure the thickness. This comes in handy when optimizing for cost, time, and structural strength. Another feature in Blender is the add-on 3D Print toolbox. Basically, it calculates the surface area, volume, and overhangs.
This 3D print toolbox is designed to spot geometry likely to cause printing problems. As we have discussed, inaccurate precision with the geometry of any model will lead to incorrect printing of the 3D model or not even printing. This toolbox ensures the models are within the required specifications and limitations.
Moreso, this toolbox can find the geometry that a 3D model can’t print. The interesting about this feature is the ability to locate the specific edge face that doesn’t correspond to the specifications. Not just that only, the print toolbox then goes on to fix the problem with the particular edge and suggest some other methods.
You should also know that Blender files aren’t always perfect. Usually, you will need some fixes here and there to make your files perfect for printing. The good thing is there are programs already designed to help you fix your files. Some examples of such programs are MeshLab, Meshmixer, NetFabb, etc.
It is unlikely that your 3D model will ever be truly perfect, especially if your model requires a lot of details. Just ensure the limitation of your 3D printer is not exceeded. You could create some dummy models to know the specifications.
Blender is an impressive software to capture your imagination and make it a reality. There is no limit to what you can do with this software, and as the day passes, it becomes more relevant in different industries and fields. For 3D printing, Blender software is, arguably, one of the best software.