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3D printing recommendations

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We are having a discussion at the office if it is a good point in time to buy a 3d printer.


We are designing most projects as VW 3d models

  • Is it possible to print the models without too much trouble today? 
  • Do you have any recommendations for workflows and hardware? 


Kind regards


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  • 11 months later...

Hey Hans,


It is a great time to buy a 3D printer. There are some really hassle free machines on the market that can produce great results. However, what you need to understand is that  buying a printer means, at the bare miumum:


1. learning to use a slicing software like Cura or PrusaSlicer

2. Spending a few days initially calibrating the machine

3. Spending enough money to get an out of the box great device


Most of the 3D printer world is still built around buying a cheap device and upgrading it over time to make it wonderful. If your company wants something they can use right now, its gonna cost a little more, but it need not cost a fortune. 


The selection of a device depends mostly on your budget range and size needs, but one printer that is well know for minimal fuss and high accuracy is the Prusa i3 Mk3


If I needed a detail oriented 3D printer with high reliability, this would be my first choice. This is because above all else, this printer is known for working well in a print farm setting.


In terms of work flow, I build all my models in VW and save them as a VW file type. Then I export them as STL or as 3MF for slicing (3MF is preferred). Run that file through a slicer software like PrusaSlicer or Cura and then you should have the G-code ready to be printed. Most Printers do not have any networking capabilities stock, but you can easily network a printer over Wifi using a $30 Raspbery pi3 B+ and a software called Octoprint. Once the printer is networked over Wifi, it becomes trivially easy to send files and make prints, even from multiple different desks or offices. 


Hope some of that helps.


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  • 5 months later...

I am an industrial designer working with packaging and product development firm. I have been buying 3D prints for 10-15 years for packaging prototypes and product design models. The software and models have come a long way since the first ones we had made.  We occasionally order 10-20 parts at the same time. One  machine would not be enough for a busy project. We opted for buying the models as needed from a service. I have used about 4 or 5 different vendors (ALL GOOD) just different. I have been using https://www.protolabs.com for the last 2-3 years with out issues. They have a lot of info on their web site about materials and types of 3d printing they provide.



A. Size matters: The models we have built would all fit into a table top unit. Running a model of a building or house at 1/8 scale would require a very large and expensive unit.

A-2. You will need to shell large masses. They need - should - be hollow. the material is expensive making an enormous solid shapes would be unnecessary, time consuming and the final object may shrink during curing. A lot of non design model planning goes into the process so that we save time and budget.


B. Resolution - Smoothness: We use Stereolithography (SLA) for all the models we have made. The Accuracy and finish are great. You can buy a table top SLA printer for about 8 - $10K. The chemicals are light sensitive, humidity sensitive, expensive, nasty and have a shelf life so buy as you need them.


C. Investment : we need models 2 or 3 times a year. When we do we need them fast and perfect. So it never made sense to invest in training, printer and supplies.


Hope this helps. If we had a project that required a 3D printer today I could see investing in a unit. 10 years ago the same unit would have been 50 to 100K and obsolete today.


Web references:




Edited by rjtiedeman
Added issue A-2 and edited spelling.
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  • 8 months later...
  • 3 weeks later...
  • Vectorworks, Inc Employee
On 5/9/2021 at 3:57 PM, MaleXLR said:


Possibly/probably very obvious, but how do you export from Vectorworks to 3MF please?

We currently don’t have 3MF as a file export format so I’m not sure if/how they are doing that directly from Vectorworks.


@AnotherLD, might you be able to clarify?

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  • 10 months later...
  • 1 year later...

On recommendation of a buddy, who is a 3-D printing hobbyist, the Bambu P1 series printers are very cost-effective ($700 +-) and produce models just under 11 inch cube in size. Out of box settings are perfect for anyone who doesn’t want to make a career of 3-D printing, but simply needs to print things. Of course, it’s always good to know your equipment better, but you can get up and running very quickly. You have to be realistic about what level of detail you will get with this level printer.,(opt for the 0.4 steel head) but for the most part, we’re very happy.

VW export (STL) works pretty well. The problems we have is any cabinet or door plug-in object which has panels. The panels do not print and you get a flat surface…or simply a void.  Our workaround is to create a copy model, just for 3-D printing, and then convert these problem items to mesh.


Every brand has their own settings. So  jump in.

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