Blender is a powerful and flexible 3D modeling program loved by artists and designers for being free and offering many great features. It’s popular because it’s free and open-source. It also has many tools that are good for both beginners and experts.
Blender is great for all kinds of 3D work. It’s especially good for 3D printing because it can make detailed and correct 3D models. Whether you’re making a fake limb or a small model of a building, Blender has lots of modeling tools to help you make complex designs accurately and with good control.
Table Of Contents
Prerequisite Before Exporting STL File For 3D Printing In Blender
Before exporting a 3D model, there are a few standards of 3D printing that every model needs to follow. Let’s see each of them one by one.
Making The 3D Model Manifold:
Now, here’s where things get a bit technical. In the 3D printing world, a “manifold” model is completely solid or “watertight”. Non-manifold geometry, on the other hand, is loosely open and can cause problems during the 3D printing process.
So, how do you check for non-manifold geometry?
Simple. In Blender, go to Edit Mode, then select all by pressing A. Next, go to Select > Select All by Trait > Non-Manifold. If any vertices are selected, you’ve got non-manifold geometry.
Below you can see our Dragon head STL file has non-manifold geometry in it.
If you’ve found non-manifold geometry, don’t panic. It’s fixable. There are several ways to do this, but one common method is to use the “Fill” function in Blender. Select the non-manifold vertices by following the previous step and then hit F to fill them.
Below you can see we converted the Dragon head STL from non-manifold to manifold.
Repeat this process until there are no non-manifold vertices left.
Reducing Polygon Count Of Your 3D Model:
To reduce polygon count we will use a decimate modifier. Let’s understand it.
The Decimate modifier is a tool that makes 3D shapes simpler. It cuts down the number of polygons in a mesh, which makes it easier and quicker to render and print in 3D. This tool works by removing extra points and lines, keeping the shape mostly the same. If a model has too many polygons, it might be hard to print.
For this part explanation I will use our Gift box Cover STL file. I will apply a decimate modifier to reduce the polygon count in Blender.
Follow the below images to apply the Decimate modifier to your STL file in Blender.
After applying the decimate modifier, there are three ways to use this tool: Collapse, Un-Subdivide, and Planar.
The collapse method combines points to keep the shape’s look. It’s a gradual process that helps reduce polygons while keeping the overall look.
Un-Subdivide does the opposite of subdividing. It removes lines that came from subdividing, good for grid-like shapes. But, if you’ve changed the mesh after subdividing, the results might be unexpected.
Planar is good for shapes with flat surfaces. It cuts down on extra details but keeps the main shape and look.
Lowering the number of polygons makes the file easier to handle for 3D printing. This is great for turning a detailed model into a simpler one. But, you might lose some details, so it’s important to try different settings to get what you want.
Solidify For Thickness If Some Parts Is Too Thin:
Here to solidify too thin part you can use a solidify modifier.
The Solidify modifier is a tool that helps turn 3D models into real objects you can print and touch. It makes the surfaces of a model thicker, so you can print them out in 3D.
This modifier has two settings: Simple and Complex. Simple is the basic setting. It makes the model thicker but might not work well with some shapes.
Complex can handle more complicated shapes and makes sure they can be printed properly. However, it’s slower and not needed for easy shapes. You can select this according to your 3D Print.
It’s important to make your object thick enough so it doesn’t break when you print it or use it. A good thickness is at least 1 mm for all parts of the model.
To use the Solidify modifier, just set how thick you want your model to be. Then, your model is ready to be printed in 3D.
Install The Import-Export STL Add-On In Blender:
In the Blender 4.0 version, STL add-on comes pre-enabled but if you are unable to find this feature, you need to follow these steps:
1. Open Blender on your computer.
2. Go to “Edit” and then select “Preferences”.
3. In the Preferences window, click on the “Add-ons” tab.
4. In the search bar, type “STL” to find the STL format add-on.
5. Once you see the “Import-Export: STL format” add-on, check the box to the right of it to enable the add-on.
6. Close the Preferences window. Now, you should be able to import and export STL files.
Exporting STL files in Blender For 3D Printing:
Once you’re satisfied with your manifold model, it’s time to export it for 3D printing.
Go to File > Export > STL. Now you can select a location on your computer to save the file. You’re ready to 3D print your model.
Exporting Specific Parts From Your Large STL File In Blender:
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to export a specific part from your large STL file in Blender
1. Select the part you want to export: Once your STL file is open in Blender, you can see it in the 3D view. If the file is too large, you might want to zoom out. To select a part, right-click on it. If the specific part is connected to multiple parts, you might need to separate that from the model.
Like in our case, we will break our Dragon STL file into layers which we will then use to export some specific parts as STL for 3D printing.
2. Separate the selected part: Now select the model then go to edit mode by hitting the tab button. With the edit mode on, the model selected, press the A(Select All) -> press the P(See Separate Options) -> choose “by loose parts”. This will break your whole model into specific parts.
3. Activate the 3D-Print Toolbox: To export specific part as STL in Blender you will need to activate the 3D-Print toolbox.
Go to the “Edit” menu, then “Preferences”, then “Add-ons”. In the search bar, type “3D-Print Toolbox” and check the box next to it to activate the add-on.
4. Select the Specific Layers You Want to Export: Right-click on the separated part to select it.
5. Exporting specific Parts of your 3D Model as an STL: For exporting your model, using tools provided by the 3D-Print Toolbox. You can find these tools in the “3D-Print” tab by pressing the “N” key in the panel. Now go to Export select STL file format and then hit the export button.
Below you can see I successfully exported some specific parts of our Dragon as STL that I can now 3D print it.
That’s it! You’ve successfully exported an STL file using the Blender. I hope you liked our step-by-step explanation.