Having spent a great deal of my time over the last decade working in various design, CAD, CAM and additive manufacturing software tools, I am always grateful for features that save time and improve the ability to get to my desired outcome. With the year coming to an end, there is no better time than now to reflect and present the top 10 features I am thankful for in GrabCAD Print.
10. Set up Multiple Trays for One Project
To kick off my top ten list, I will start with a simple but great feature. Using multiple trays allows a user to spread a project across multiple printer builds. No longer do we need to think about setting up our job one print at a time. Instead, we can set up larger projects and assemblies all within one instance. When using multiple trays, we can move parts back and forth across trays, rename trays so they make sense in the print queue, automatically layout assemblies across multiple trays, optimize the nesting and even set different build parameters and materials for each tray of a project. For larger projects, this is a must for organization and all-around sanity.
9. Monitor Your Printers Remotely
If you have multiple users or multiple machines within your organization, using GrabCAD Print’s remote monitoring abilities is a great way to stay organized. The print queue within GrabCAD Print can be extremely informative. I find that being able to know what types of materials and how much of each are loaded on our machines greatly increases my ability to fit projects into the queue and am often able to save time and materials by batching different projects together.
8. Fix STLs Automatically
If I wrote this list four years ago, I think this would have been my number one, but later in this list you will see why it has fallen much lower on my top ten. STLs, while not the most ideal file type for 3D printing, are still the gold standard file format. STLs are made from triangulated meshes and unfortunately, these meshes often have errors that can spell disaster for printing. From random holes to missing faces, if you work with STLs long enough, you will have some stories to tell. The great news is that GrabCAD Print has an internal automated tool that repairs mesh errors in STLs, taking the headache out of working with the STL file format. This feature might not still be a chart-topper, but it certainly can save a project if the only file you have is an STL.
7. Variable Width Fill
When printing with an FDM printer, we sometimes find gaps or areas where the extrusion doesn’t quite fill in the internal areas of our model. Many times, we see this on the inside of a thin wall whose inner and outer wall are not connected or sharp corners that are not fully filled in. GrabCAD Print now has an option called Variable Width Fill that dynamically changes the width of the bead of plastic being extruded from the nozzle so that it can narrow and better fill in tight areas. Rather than rambling on about it here, you can watch the video below where I talk about how it works in comparison to the Thicken Thin Walls option.
6. Change Hole Sizes
When producing things like fixtures or proofs of concept, I find that when it comes time to actually print my part, my available hardware selection has become more refined from when I designed it (read that as I thought I had some M8 bolts but they were actually M6). While changing your design in the original CAD file is always best practice, sometimes we just need to get things in production. In these instances, changing holes in parts is super simple using the Custom Insert Tools in GrabCAD Print. Below is a link to a video Tech Tip I produced that walks you through the process.
5. GrabCAD Print <-> Insight: Two-Way Handshake
When setting up parts for larger FDM machines, I often adjust advanced settings like making custom groups inside Insight. This involves using Insight to set up the files and traditionally using Control Center to send the files to the printer. Now, within GrabCAD Print we can launch Insight by going to the top menu items and clicking Apps -> Launch Insight. This will open the latest version of Insight, allowing you to make advanced changes to your print setup. When you are finished with your file setup, you can click the GrabCAD Print icon at the top of Insights menu bar and your Insight setup fill will automatically be loaded into GrabCAD Print. This saves me a ton of time when trying to find where my CMB files were saved and manually opening them individually on a tray.
4. Open Native SOLIDWORKS Files and Assemblies
Drum Roll, Please! GrabCAD Print now opens native SOLIDWORKS parts and assemblies. I am super thankful that I no longer have to waste my time trying to make STLs, worrying about the mesh resolution and hoping that whoever prints my part uses the correct unit of measurement (you laugh, but more than one of us out there has received a print 25 times smaller than expected because someone thought it was in mm not inches). These STL concerns are put to rest because GrabCAD Print accepts native CAD files from most major CAD platforms. GrabCAD Print can even open SOLIDWORKS part files with multiple bodies and even assemblies. With assemblies, we can even disassemble them automatically, automatically orient the disassembled assembly and even select which parts we want to ignore and not print.
3. PolyJet Color Selection Tools
A full-color 3D printer isn’t much benefit if you can’t easily assign colors to your model. Have no fear – GrabCAD Print is here. This is why my number three slot is occupied by a seemingly simple, yet highly advanced feature for full-color PolyJet users, the color picker. The color picker within GrabCAD Print rivals anything in the 2D graphics world, we can use RGB, HEX, CMKY and even PANTONE color builds. This means you can easily assign colors to 3D parts using the same color processes that are used in the 2D printing world. There is even a color swatch generator that will help produce a pallet of closely related colors so you can easily nail down an exact color build to match your brand. So simple, yet so powerful.
2. Input Full Color and Textures From SOLIDWORKS and 3MF Files
So I just gave the number 3 to a color selection tool, now I will give my number two most thankful feature in GrabCAD Print to another full color feature – importing full color and textured files. A part or assembly designed in SOLIDWORKS that has color, UV Textures or transparencies, opens in GrabCAD Print with their full graphics settings still applied. This also works with the 3MF file format, which can be exported from the latest release of rendering tools like KeyShot. This means your full color workflow has been reduced from using multiple software tools to designing your part in SOLIDWORKS and opening your part file in GrabCAD Print.
1. PolyJet and FDM Prints on One Platform
The feature of GrabCAD Print that I am most thankful for is that one piece of software interfaces with both Stratasys FDM and Stratasys PolyJet printers. From the Objet 30 Desktop v5 to the F900, GrabCAD Print has your covered. This means you can setup jobs, manage queues and view printer histories for all of your Stratasys equipment within one software environment.
Looking for additional ways to get high quality parts in as little time as possible? Our Design for Additive Manufacturing training course may be just what you need.