New Features to Improve Printability

There have been some recent changes at the 3D Print Exchange! We've integrated two new services into the site to make it easier for you to print your models: AstroPrint and Netfabb.

Slice Models with AstroPrint

AstroPrint is a neat way to slice, store, and manage your print files in the cloud. The service works by taking your uploaded 3D model, adding supports, slicing it, and saving the gcode in your account online. You can then access, download, and print your models. It's like a combination of 3D printing software, such as Cura or Repetier Host, with cloud storage.

To use AstroPrint on the Exchange, select the export icon next to the STL file you want to print. You will be prompted to sign in to AstroPrint, or create an account if you are a new user. Your model is uploaded to your AstroPrint "dashboard," where can enter your printer settings to generate a custom gcode file.

If your 3D printer has internet connectivity, you can link your account to send files directly to your 3D printer. You could, for example, connect to AstroPrint on your iPhone, download and stream the G-Code for a model directly to a printer at your home or your University. AstroPrint makes 3D printing convenient, and much more mobile. They also take on the computational burden of support generation and slicing, which can be significant on older machines and mobile devices. Slicing STL files in AstroPrint is FAST, and best of all, it is FREE. Just create an account and you are set to go.

The goal at NIH is to increase access to 3D printing for bioscientific discovery and education. Our web-based tools make it easy for anyone to generate a 3D-printable model from raw scientific or medical data. Our team has been looking forward to adding the AstroPrint feature, because it makes the printing step just as simple. "The goal of AstroPrint is to bring 3D Printing as close as possible to one-click print", said AstroPrint CTO, Daniel Arroyo. "Our easy-to-setup Import and Print button is one step towards that direction. Once the file is in our system, we can give you a much better 3D printing experience than the current offline workflows."

Repair Meshes with Netfabb

The other new service we're integrating into the exchange uses a cloud-based 3D mesh repair application from Netfabb. Sometimes the mesh of a model can contain errors that are hard to find, and even more difficult to fix. Holes, inverted normals, intersecting faces, and isolated pieces can all cause problems during 3D printing. These mistakes can occur frequently when models are generated from "messy" datasets, such as image stacks or CT data.

BEFORE NETFABB

AFTER NETFABB

The Netfabb process has been integrated into our pipelines to ensure the integrity of the models on the Exchange. Models that are generated with our tools - for instance, if you upload raw scientific or medical data, or use our "Quick Submit" feature - are sent automatically to Netfabb for analysis and repair. If you are uploading an STL or WRL file through a "Share" form, you'll have the option to check a box "Ensure printability with Netfabb." Your file will be sent to the Netfabb service in the Microsoft Azure cloud for cleaning, and the new files are saved in the model entry.

Contact us if you have questions about using AstroPrint or Netfabb, and be sure to read the AstroPrint FAQ and Netfabb FAQ to learn how to use these on our site.