3D Printing is taking a design, whether it’s from a CAD package, a drawing package or even a scanned image. It may be commercial or freeware, it doesn’t matter, as long as you can save or export an STL file.
You can check, clean or orientate an object in programs such as Netfabb, Meshmixer or any one of the other programs available.
You can then feed your final STL file into Slic3r, which will turn the shape into a text file of GCODE (according to your settings). You can change the temperature of the hot end and the heated bed. You can alter the speed that you print outlines, infill and support material. The possibilities are endless.
Then you feed this file into your printer control software. It reads the file and moves the hotend, extruding melted plastic as it moves.
After printing, you can finish it, or just leave it in all its finery. To be enjoyed by one or many. To fix a broken thing, to decorate a room or a person. The choice is yours.
The following are links to help you with 3D printing. There are links to software for connecting your PC or Mac to your printer, to take your designs or objects and to prepare them for printing or to take other peoples designs and to modify them or print them.
Thingverse is a site of things. Designed by ordinary (or extraordinary) people and made available to the public for free.
RepRap wiki The font of all 3D printing knowledge. Maintained by the people who know 3D printing inside and out. If you have access to IRC, you can speak to these people realtime by joining the channel #reprap or follow this link for a web-version
Sketchup One of the easiest (in my opinion) design packages to use. Straightforward and with plenty of online help. Visit the warehouse to get the STL Export add-in.
Blender A free and open-source 3D computer graphics software, used for creating animated films, visual effects, art, 3D printed models, interactive 3D applications and video games.
Netfabb Basic Not just a viewer, it also provides mesh edit, repair and analysis capabilities.
Meshmixer the website describes it as ‘a free tool for making crazy-ass 3D stuff without too much hassle. Or boring stuff too. You decide.
Slic3r The tool you need to convert a digital 3D model into printing instructions for your 3D printer. It cuts the model into horizontal slices (layers), generates toolpaths to fill them and calculates the amount of material to be extruded
Pronteface The control software for your 3D printer. It takes the file from Slic3r and turns it into you design
Repetier Similar to Pronteface, a different looking interface, but the same end result.
Octoprint Make your printer wireless. Connect you printer to a small embedded and WiFi enabled device such as the popular Raspberry Pi
Please Note…We have no control over the content of the above websites. They are mentioned purely to help you get started in the world of 3D printing.