July 15, 2014

3D printing transforms your design into physical objects, but before you send 3D files to the printer, you have to make sure every design can successfully be 3D Printed. There are many factors that determine the printablility of your design, such as the size of the object, wall thickness, model density and integrity, the print material, the type of printer used etc.

In order to help the 3D designers, 3D modeling experts at RedProto just released a white paper about the 4 leading pre-print check tools (3D-Tool, MeshLab, MiniMagics, and Netfabb).

RedProto lists six key parameters to validate a 3D model: bounding box, wall thickness, inverted normals, clearance, self-intersection and non-manifoldness. They have compared 4 pre-print check tools: 3D-Tool, MeshLab, MiniMagics, and Netfabb to help designers check the printability of their models.

So what is the right tool for you? RedProto explains:

It depends on what you plan to use it for.


3D-Tool is the only software able to perform a wall thickness analysis. It will be essential to do this, especially if you want to check a 3D file created by someone else. If you are the designer, then your 3D modeling software may include a wall thickness analysis function.


In order to validate geometry-related criteria (inverted normals, holes…) you could choose between MeshLab or Netfabb. The former is more complete, but demands a better lever of understanding on the errors you want to fix. The latter speeds up the printability check process thanks to its automatic repair tool, but won't allow the same flexibility to edit the mesh.


The case of MiniMagics is a special one. It is by far the easiest software to use, in particular for users without the slightest idea of what normals or even edges are. However, regular and advanced users will probably just use it to perform a quick "preliminary" analysis on low-complexity objects.

You can find the white paper below, which is meant for beginners just starting with 3D modeling as well as for experienced designers interested in 3D printing.

Posted in 3D Design

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Steve Crisdale wrote at 7/19/2014 4:46:07 AM:

Why no inclusion of Meshmixer? I used Netfabb and Meshlab for a while, but for the highly complex realistic figurative sculptural pieces I was preparing for print, there were still way too many things that 'slipped through' both apps. Meshmixer fixed every problem that 'slipped through' the Meshlab/Netfabb combination with the added bonus of adding customisable supports to my pieces, and a direct to printer conduit from Meshmixer itself! As far as I'm concerned, Meshmixer is THE indispensible (totally FREE!!) tool for anyone with a 3D printer!

612io wrote at 7/17/2014 9:36:02 AM:

@Jim: The Microsoft repair service is actually powered by the Netfabb Online service!

Jim wrote at 7/15/2014 11:57:37 PM:

Microsoft 3D Printing has a Model Repair Service available at http://modelrepair.azurewebites.net/ I use it regularly on .stl files from others. It works wonders.

612io wrote at 7/15/2014 10:03:47 PM:

I actually use the Netfabb Basic + MeshLab cocktail. In 99% of all cases the only tools I need for pre-print operations. The other 1% is using Rhino to tweak the mesh to get better repair results. I'd still go with Netfabb Pro if that would make life even easier. Because indeed, the MeshLab interface is... "mweh" to say the least which makes it not easy to use.

Tom Rust wrote at 7/15/2014 7:09:03 PM:

Not sure this comparison is entirely correct. Netfabb has ability to measure wall thicknesses, and also to cut models in the free version. AT least it was last version I downloaded. Most of the time I upload the model to the cloud version to do repairs. Most of the service groups take any model and do the repairs internally anyway, then give you a report if there are rule violations. They don't always catch some issues, however, until they try the build. And sometime they will reject a model one day, when previously they ran it multiple times successfully. Usually when the yield was poor - thin long rods for example.

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