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How to Print 3D File – Step by Step Guide

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So you’ve just designed your 3D object or downloaded a file from a services such as Thingiverse or Cults 3D.  What do you do next? In this article we’ll break down the process on how to print a 3D file into simple to follow steps! We’ll look into common errors with 3D files and suitable export settings to ensure your part is optimised for 3D printing. 

Want to know how much it costs to professionally print your files?

Exporting from CAD Software

If you’ve downloaded your 3D file from an online source, then you scan skip to the next section. However, if you’ve designed your own part we can show you how to export & print a 3D file for each CAD suite:

Software

Description

File > Save As… Set Save As… file type to STL Options > Resolution > Fine (or Custom) > OK

3DS Max Application Menu > Export > StereoLitho (*.STL)

Output > Send panel > Export At the Command prompt, enter export. In the Export Data dialog box, enter a filename. Under Files of Type, select Lithography (*.stl) and click Save. Select one or more solid objects. Note: The XYZ coordinates of all objects must be above zero. The file extension .stl is automatically appended to the file name.

File > 3D Print Under Refinement / Refinement options, select export settings. Output > untick “Send to 3D Print Utility” > OK > Save

File > Print > 3D Print Preview Save Copy As… (top left of window) > Save

Right click on [Part Name] on bottom right > Export Under Format, select STL. Specify model units. Select export settings.

File > Save As… > Save a Copy Change Type to Stereolithography (*.stl). Click OK > a new Export STL dialog will open. Under Deviation Control, change export settings.

File > Save As… > Save a Copy Change Type to Stereolithography (*.stl). Click OK > a new Export STL dialog will open. Under Deviation Control, change export settings.

Download Sketchup to DXF or STL plugin. Start Sketchup. Tools > Export to DXF or STL

File > Save As… Set Save As… file type to STL. Options > Select export options

Use Decimation Master to appropriately reduce the polygon count. Zplugin > 3D Print Hub > Export as STL.

Rules of Thumb

Typically when exporting your STL files, we recommend tweaking you CAD softwares settings to ensure we get the best quality for your model, whilst keeping the file size to a minimum:

  • Export with a 0.001 mm chord height 
  • Export with 15o angular tolerance

If in doubt, we recommend getting in touch with us and one of our 3D printing experts will gladly look at helping you print a 3D file. 

Recommended Export Settings

When exporting your 3D files, you can change the resolution by altering the tolerance in your CAD software. If you’re unsure, select the ‘high’ preset, as this is the safest option for generating a suitable file for 3D printing. Each CAD software package had a different way of specifying the 3D file resolution. However, most use two main parameters: chord height and angle.

The chord height is important when defining the export settings for your 3D file. This parameter is the maximum distance that your software will allow between the surface of the original 3D model and the surface of the exported file. Using a smaller chord height definition will result in a more accurate curvature of the model’s surface.

The recommended export setting for the chord height is 1/20th of the 3D printing layer thickness and never below 0.001 mm (1 micron). Exporting 3D files with a chord height smaller than this setting isn’t recommended, as most desktop 3D printers are not able to reproduce parts to such a high level of detail.

The other important export setting is angular tolerance. This limits the exported 3D files angle between the normal of adjacent triangles. We recommend a default value of 15 degrees (or 0) or a higher setting if a smoother surface is necessary.

Print 3D File

There are two options you can have for printing a 3D file:

  1. Print the files yourself 
  2. Use an expert 3D printing service 
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The first option of printing the files yourself is simple enough, however requires some patience and knowledge on how to troubleshoot any hardware issues should they arise. Printing a 3D file is simple and can be broken down into four simple steps for FDM & SLA process’s

  1. Using your downloaded 3D file, import this into your slicer software (Prusa, Cura, Simplify 3D, etc).
  2. Add your supports to your model (if required)
  3. Select the correct material profile, if you can’t find one then you’ll need to create one / download a user-generated one online (do this at your own caution)
  4. Load the material into the printer and start printing by uploading your g-code.
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If you’re struggling with option one and still can’t print a 3D file, we recommend looking at using an expert 3D printing service such as SGD. We’re setup to handle any enquiry whether it be for personal, business or academic purposes; we also offer 20% discount for students (subject to verification).

SGD is the number one Nottingham 3D printing service, with over 60 Google reviews 1000+ customers trust us. 3D printing technology has advanced considerably over the last decade, and we’re proud to offer the latest material developments and technologies. It’s now even more possible to create the most complex 3D (three dimensional) objects. Almost anything you can imagine can now be designed and produced using a 3D printer, from small plastics moulds & master parts to vast and complex assemblies. We can provide a comprehensive service, offering professional design services to help get your project off the ground. 

Why Trust Us?

Our team of experienced professionals have over ten years of experience in 3D printing and are well clued up on most applications, serving industries including; Aerospace, Automotive, Civil’s, Dental, etc. No project is too big or small; we accept single part orders and low-volume production.

Location isn’t a barrier if you’re looking for 3D printing in the UK, as we offer free tracked delivery nationwide. Our team of expert engineers are happy to provide a free 15-minute consultation and can provide you with a free and no obligation for your next project. This is swift and easy and can be done via our instant quote system from a 3D file (STEP, IGES, STL, OBJ, etc.). Our 3D printing costs are highly competitive, and we aim to price match any prices you’ve seen cheaper elsewhere.

When it comes to 3D printing, there are many misconceptions about what is involved and the limitations of the process. These issues are clearly explained in our expert 3D printing guide we’ve published. We only use industrial-grade 3D printers, producing high-tolerance parts to standards meeting the requirements of our professional customers. Our knowledgeable engineering team can offer free expert advice on replacement parts, materials, and processes to help get your project off the ground.

Do you have a 3D printing project we can help with? Please get in touch

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Sam Gribben

Managing Director at SGD 3D Limited

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