Creating textures for 3D printed parts is a great way to add a little extra realism as well as masking some of the layer lines present with a traditional FDM 3D printing system. In this week’s Video Tech Tip, we’ll show you how to design textures for 3D printed parts in SOLIDWORKS.
Adding Texture in SOLIDWORKS
The first step is to open Appearances, which allows you to select 3D textures under Miscellaneous > 3D Textures. There are several options available. Sort through until you find one you would like to use. The knurled bump is what was used for this example and applied to the face to which the texture was added. You have the option to apply it to the body, the feature or the face. As you can see in the video, you can rotate around the model. At this stage, the model is 2D. You'll be looking at a side view so there is no real depth to it.
To create a 3D texture, first select the body and toggle the face. There are different settings you can use. There is a preview that shows what the triangulated mesh will look like. By adjusting the Texture Refinement slider, you can add more triangles into your model to get a more accurate representation of the geometry. The upside is that you have a much more graphically accurate model. The downside is that your file size can increase substantially. You can play with it until you find a reasonable compromise between accuracy and file size. You can also adjust the offset to increase the depth of the feature. Once you are satisfied with the texture, click on the surface body and convert it into a mesh which will produce a solid, watertight model that can be used with various 3D printing programs. You can toggle the view of that by going back and forth and hiding the original surface body, just isolating the water-tight mesh. This will be what the 3D printing slicer software interprets as a solid body. You still have the solid body with the texture if you want to go back and make any additional changes. Hide this and export it as an .STL by clicking on Save As and selecting STL (.stl) from the drop-down menu.
Once you have finished modeling the part, it is time to bring it into GrabCAD Print and look over it before you send it to the printer. The first thing you will do with the model after importing it is flipping it over so the diamond-shaped feature is on the bottom of the model. You can see that it is coarse, and most of the triangles are still present, making a higher quality model with a higher resolution at the cost of a higher file size. This part should be acceptable for printing out a surface texture. Check your printer settings before clicking the slice button, which will convert the file into a series of vertical slices. Check the offset of the surface by a side view of the print, which will allow you to see the exact amount offset, verifying no support is needed on the front of the part. Now it is ready to be sent off to the printer.
Read our blog, How Do I print Wood?, if you want to learn more about adding 3D textures when 3D printing.