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Kevin McAllister

Vectorworks and 3D Printing

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Is anyone using Vectorworks in a 3D printing workflow?

I am starting to explore 3D printing parts of my Vectorworks models and wondered if anyone has any first hand experience. They will be exported at STLs and be printed on a MakerBot Replicator 2.

Kevin

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Christian, that's the printer that originally peaked my interest. Unfortunately its not a shipping model yet. In the end I chose the MakerBot Replicator 2 for various reasons.

I made my first couple of test prints last night. One was a test file from the manufacturer and the other was a simple, extruded letter B created in Vectorworks.

Unfortunately the VW STL export is not yet up to the task and doesn't generate water tight models. The slicing program gives me a bunch of errors about polygon holes. So instead, I used the Send to Cinema 4D command, ran the optimize command on the model in C4D and then exported an STL from there. The C4D STL file worked fine. (I had the same problem with an earlier file which I forwarded on to NV tech support.)

The first print is using medium quality. Its about 1.5" x 2" by about 5/16" thick. I'm pretty impressed by the detail. I'll post some more photos when I print something a little more interesting.

Kevin

ubbthreads.php?ubb=download&Number=8300&filename=B%20Print.JPG

Edited by Kevin McAllister

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Unfortunately the VW STL export is not yet up to the task and doesn't generate water tight models.

I have also tried using VW with limited success. I had no luck with 2008/2009 and had to import the file into Inventor. There was no stitching or making good here, I just exported as STL and all was fine.

VW did not make watertight models and so the printer read surfaces instead of solids and consequently wouldn't print.

I have since tried VW 2011 and had some success on simple shapes but usually I have to resort to SolidWorks, which also appears to need no extra stitching but just export to STL.

I tried bringing this up through the Bug submit route but nothing has really improved to a reliable point.

Recently I tried with VW2013 and after checking the object in Meshlab it seemed to be OK but unfortunately it never went to print so I don't know for sure.

I have had prints done in various plastics including glass filled nylon through SLS. It is a fascinating tool and the materials available are getting tougher and tougher so much so that I actually used some parts in a small mechanism on a job.

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Christian, that's the printer that originally peaked my interest. Unfortunately its not a shipping model yet.

Not far away though, February I think.

In the end I chose the MakerBot Replicator 2 for various reasons.

I'm curious. Details?

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Unfortunately the VW STL export is not yet up to the task

Why does that not surprise me?

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In the end I chose the MakerBot Replicator 2 for various reasons.

I'm curious. Details?

MakerBot has shipped various generations before it so there's a bit of a track record. It is on the high end of resolution for extruded plastic technology. It prints using PLA plastic which is more friendly than ABS plastic and some resin technology. It has a larger build volume than other current models. Its close to plug and play out of the box and they seem to have a good tech support network. There's a fair library of 3D files geared towards their technology online to experiment with and learn from.

Its an emerging technology so things are always changing anyway.

Kevin

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I've messed around with the printer a fair bit in the last few days. Its quite mesmerizing to watch as it prints. All of the direct VW STL exports I've tried have generated errors when slicing so for the moment I'm sticking with the VW>C4D>STL workflow.

Kevin

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We're living in the future. The plastic bracket on my front cycle light fell apart on my way to work this morning... in future I could print a new one!

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about 5/16" thick

This is the future. Stop using units from the past! You mean 8mm.

Haha unfortunately this is actually the present. Until someone sells lumber in intelligent metric sizes (1219 x 2438 is not an intelligent size, 4' x 8' is) the shops I deal with here won't be changing over. Even if I worked in metric it would still be translated to be built. (International projects are a whole different thing.)

Kevin

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Now I find out STL files are crap in VW as well....This is just plain ridiculous. Not one single file format they claim we can import/export works. Not even the new ones they advertise for VW 2013, I'm still waiting for support to figure out .obj .fbx .3ds

You can't advertise feature that don't even work, I mean they don't even "kind of work". This is bullsh#*t, I've cracked, I am going to ask for my money back?

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I am meeting with a number of my coworkers to discus improvements specific to 3D printing and Vectorworks.

I am unable to give many details, but here is a sample of what I am proposing we include natively:

1) Support for scaled export to STL, so that a user could print their model at the design layer scale and have that be the real scale of the resulting 3D print. Currently STLs all export at 1:1 and scaling has to be handled manually afterwards.

2) 3D "Page" area. This would allow the user to show a 3D page area, similar to the clip cube that shows the bounds of their own 3D printer's build plate, customizable by the user, maybe with a few of the more common printers sized included as defaults (Makerbot, Ultimater, etc)

3) Below-minimum size detection. Currently a 3D printers resolution is limited by a number of factors, the main of which is its nozzle size. For instance my printer's nozzle in .4mm, so it can not create "lines" or geometry smaller than that. (If a model is scaled down to fit in a printers build area, a regular problem comes about with handrails, fences and PIO details where the printer cant make the objects small enough, so you either get nothing or a pile of spaghetti where the printer tries to do its best.)

4) Overhang detection. Many aspects of an architectural model are not conducive to 3D printing, such as porches or decks that hang off the side with no support, (if the site model isn't printed with the rest of the building) hanging fixtures inside the model or standard roof overhangs. This would not be encouraging the users to change their model (this is considered an unacceptable solution) but to inform the user that they may need to enable Support in their slicing settings.

5) Manifold STL exports. Currently STLs from Vectorworks often need to be repaired by a mesh modeling utility like MeshLab or NetFABB before they can be printed cleanly, ideally this feature would be included in our STL export process.

This is just a sample of my list, but are there any other features that would be deemed useful? Feedback from users who are either interested or experienced in this would be appreciated.

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All good

Maybe add Import STL

•for test or check of STL export from vwx

•for import of STL objects from other vwx projects and other software.

-B

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Hi Jim,

Here's some quick feedback on your list. I'll give it some thought and see if anything is missing.

Kevin

I am meeting with a number of my coworkers to discus improvements specific to 3D printing and Vectorworks.

I am unable to give many details, but here is a sample of what I am proposing we include natively:

1) Support for scaled export to STL, so that a user could print their model at the design layer scale and have that be the real scale of the resulting 3D print. Currently STLs all export at 1:1 and scaling has to be handled manually afterwards.

This sounds like a good approach. I like the idea of linking it to design layer scale.

2) 3D "Page" area. This would allow the user to show a 3D page area, similar to the clip cube that shows the bounds of their own 3D printer's build plate, customizable by the user, maybe with a few of the more common printers sized included as defaults (Makerbot, Ultimater, etc)

I also like the idea of being able to visualize the print volume in 3D (I think this was on my wishlist).

3) Below-minimum size detection. Currently a 3D printers resolution is limited by a number of factors, the main of which is its nozzle size. For instance my printer's nozzle in .4mm, so it can not create "lines" or geometry smaller than that. (If a model is scaled down to fit in a printers build area, a regular problem comes about with handrails, fences and PIO details where the printer cant make the objects small enough, so you either get nothing or a pile of spaghetti where the printer tries to do its best.)

This is a hard one. It would be a great feature to have but probably not so easy to implement. As part of the same step it would be great for VW to combine everything into a single solid volume instead of many individual shells. There would need to be a set of tolerances that govern these processes.

4) Overhang detection. Many aspects of an architectural model are not conducive to 3D printing, such as porches or decks that hang off the side with no support, (if the site model isn't printed with the rest of the building) hanging fixtures inside the model or standard roof overhangs. This would not be encouraging the users to change their model (this is considered an unacceptable solution) but to inform the user that they may need to enable Support in their slicing settings.

This is an area I'm not sure how to comment on. The idea of overhand detection is great in its simplest form. But in most instances breaking the model apart and reorienting elements for better printability is actually the way to go.

5) Manifold STL exports. Currently STLs from Vectorworks often need to be repaired by a mesh modeling utility like MeshLab or NetFABB before they can be printed cleanly, ideally this feature would be included in our STL export process.

Yes. Though in my experience most VW models are actually pretty good. The things that cause problems are certain solid subtractions, solid additions where things almost touch but not quite, generic solids that aren't actually solid (ie. created by something like stitch and trim where there's a small hole). This is where operations tolerances are needed generally in VW, not specifically for 3d printing.

This is just a sample of my list, but are there any other features that would be deemed useful? Feedback from users who are either interested or experienced in this would be appreciated.

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