If you are new to the world of personal 3D printing, you may be wondering what software you will need to print 3D objects. In this post I will give a brief overview of the software that we use to operate the DeltaMaker. This software may be downloaded for free, and is easy to install on your computer.
To help explain the function of this software, let’s first review the steps that are involved in printing a 3D object. There are 4 basic steps in this process.
1. Creating or Downloading 3D Objects
2. Selecting Printing Options
3. Slicing the Object
4. Printing the Object
Creating or Downloading 3D Objects
The first step in the process is to obtain a 3D model of the object you wish to print on your 3D printer. You may either create the model yourself, or download a model from a variety of websites (such as thingiverse.com). The standard model file format for 3D printers is an STL file. Most 3D modeling or sculpting programs are capable of exporting your models in the STL file format. Likewise, most websites where you may download 3D objects provide them in this format. Please be sure that the 3D model you wish to print is available in the STL format before you proceed to the following steps.
Before you begin the next step, you will need to download and install the 3D printer software on your computer. The software that we are using is called Repetier Host, and it may be downloaded from www.repetier.com -- a versions of this software is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Selecting Printing Options
Ok, you have a 3D model that you want to print. Before the model is printed, you may select various options that will determine how your 3D object is created. If you have installed the Repetier Host software on your computer, please feel free to explore the printing options that it provides. If you’ve not installed it, no problem, below is a brief discussion of the most common options.
Common options include selecting the size to print the object, and whether it is to be printed as a hollow shell or a solid object. Selecting the print quality of the object is another option that your may select. The print quality is specified by setting the resolution or layer height that the printer should use as it printer you object.
In Repetier Host, these options will be selected before you “slice the object” -- This is done by selecting the corresponding Slic3r Configuration settings.
Slicing the Object
Once you’ve selected your options, the next step is to prepare your 3D model to be printed on your printer. This step includes converting the 3D model data (the STL file) into a set of instructions for the 3D printer. These instructions are organized into a set of “layers” that will be printed on your 3D printer. The layers are stored in a GCODE file.
The program we use to Slice your 3D models is called Slic3r, and it is included with the Repetier Host program. Slic3r is also installed when your install Repetier Host.
Slic3r uses the printing options you select, in the previous step, as it generates the GCODE for your 3D model. For example, if you have selected the print the object as a hollow shell, Slic3r will generate the corresponding GCODE. If you have selected that you want to print the object as a solid object, Slic3r will generate different GCODE.
Printing the Object
Printing the object on your 3D printer is done by sending the data file for the object to your printer. The file format is GCODE, and is generated in the previous step. If you wish to print the same object again, you may save the GCODE file for future use.
The Repetier Host program is used to communicate with your 3D printer. This includes sending the GCODE to the printer. Repetier Host is also use to manually control the printer when it’s not printing, and to pause it while it is printing. This is important since printing a large object may take several hours. If your spool of filament is low, you may need to pause the printer and replace the spool during the printing process.