You got a MakerBot, but now what? Before your 3D printer can understand and successfully print a part file, it needs a software to orient your part relative to the build tray, break the object down into layers and prepare a toolpath for the printing head to follow. In this blog, we dive into what MakerBot Print software is and why such slicing softwares are so important to your print.
What is MakerBot Print?
As mentioned above, 3D printers need a “slicing” software to translate complex parts into fine, printable slices. MakerBot Print is the slicing software created specifically to work with the MakerBot lineup of printers. It allows you to import and prepare your part file and to adjust the settings depending on your specific needs. Making duplicates, arranging the build tray, scaling, estimating your material usage and printing time and exporting a file for printing are simple and nearly automatic processes with MakerBot Print.
To print your selected part using MakerBot Print, there are a few easy steps to follow. First, make sure that you have your correct printer selected on the bottom right of the screen and the correct extruder type selected under the “print settings” tab on the menu to the right of your screen.
Next, under the “New Project” folder you click on the red “Add Models” box which will bring you to a file manager where you can select your (.STL) file. This will import your object onto the build tray. From here, using the tabs in the menu on the right you can reorient your part to your needs.
Orientation can affect print speed, available space on the tray and part strength. You can easily make duplicates of the same object by right clicking on your part and choosing duplicate and the number of items you want to add. Using the “Arrange” tab makes it simple to organize your build tray or project in the most efficient way automatically through the software. In the “Scale” tab you adjust the size of your part uniformly by percentage or adjust the XY and Z axis independently for the perfect fit for your design project.
Under the “Print Setting” tab you can choose what print mode you would like to use, choosing between Balanced, Draft or MinFill. This is referring to the amount of infill to be used in your parts interior cavity. Less infill will print faster and use less material but be much lighter and weaker. More infill will be stronger but take longer to print. For prototyping, MakerBot recommends “Draft” mode to make multiple iterations quickly where as “Balanced” mode is best for durable final parts or if material usage and time restraints are not a factor.
|Above: Model is "Moai" by ET-Huang, Thingiverse|
The automatic setup in MakerBot Print may not give you enough control over the many variables that you may encounter when 3D printing. Under print settings, if you click the “add a custom setting” tab you will be presented with a list of different options that you can fine tune for your design project. Rafts, shells, layer height, infill and supports can all be adjusted here for more successful prints.
Once you have imported your part file, oriented and arranged your build tray and confirmed your print setting, you are now ready to export your tray to the printer. To do this, simply click the red export tab on the bottom right of the screen.
You will be asked to save the tray as a *.makerbot file in the folder of your choice. It may be convenient to save this onto a USB stick that you can easily use in your printer. Once you save the file, MakerBot Print will prepare your tray. The software automatically slices your tray and generates a raft and breakaway supports for each object making this process very simple. After a few moments, you will be presented with a material estimate and time estimate. With this information, you will know exactly how much material and time is needed for your finished print.
To see exactly what your part will look like during the printing process with rafts, support and infill visible, click the “Print Preview” button. Here, you will see an animation of your part being built slice by slice. This is a great way to confirm your design and tray setup without sacrificing valuable materials.
Finally, to print the tray you created on your MakerBot 3D printer you now insert the USB stick with the .makerbot file into your MakerBot. Once inserted, then go to the print option, then print from USB storage, select your filename from the list and then press print. Your printer should now begin the process of building your part exactly how you set it up in MakerBot Print starting from the base layer. Congratulations, you have now 3D printed your design!
Want to learn more about desktop 3D printers? Watch our on-demand webinar comparing MakerBot Replicator Z18 and uPrint SE.