Prepare your model for 3D printing with SolidWorks

This tutorial is for 3D printing enthusiasts who are already familiar with SolidWorks and would like to know the tricks for making a 3D printable model with SolidWorks.

Throughout this tutorial, you will learn the best practices for modeling, correcting and exporting an object to be 3D printed. By the end of this tutorial, you'll have mastered:

SolidWorks is a modeling program geared toward the modeling of industrial objects, but it can be used for much more than just that.

Its function relies on the use of waves and nurbs for the base of its functions. Unlike many other programs, SolidWorks does not rely on a single function of meshing, which relies entirely on flat surfaces giving the impression of curves, instead it relies on a system of nurbs which take the average of those edges for a truly smooth surface. The system allows for a higher level of precision than other methods. Instead of polygonal modeling, SolidWorks relies on dimensional sketches which make measuring and resizing the object much more accurate. With a system based on these on these parameters, exporting becomes quick, easy, and surprisingly light as each individual file understands a large number of nurbs. Though this type of system can make the creation of specific and organic forms (like a face) somewhat complicated. It also limits importable files to only other wave-based files (.iges and .step most specifically).

Fortunately, it's possible to export directly from SolidWorks in .stl with a high level of control and precision. That gives users the opportunity to model for a 3D printing directly from the program, assuming a couple of rules are respected.

You do not need to be an expert or know all of the minute details of SolidWorks to understand this tutorial. However, it is important to be comfortable with the basic elements of the program as this tutorial focuses specifically on the best practices for creating a 3D printable model. Thus this tutorial does not go into the basic principles of the program.

For more information on beginner SolidWorks tutorials, feel free to stop by the SolidWorks tutorials page. There are also numerous tutorials on YouTube, which will also help.

SolidWorks is a paid program designed for professionals. It is possible to obtain a licence through Dassault Systemes, SolidWorks creator. There are also student and educator's edition, which can be downloaded for free if your school/university works is a part of the SolidWorks education program, or, finally, it can be downloaded at a reduced price with your student ID.