3D Printing can be intimidating, especially when you are new to the industry and have no idea how the technology works.
Challenges pops-up while learning to use your 3D printer, either FDM or Resin, and then you should start to learn to design and adjust your 3D models.
If you can relate, AutoCAD is here to make your life easier, and I’ll guide you through the whole process from scratch until you end up with your very own fully functional 3D-printed model.
AutoCAD is an industry-standard computer-aided design and drafting software that has made it possible to plan mega projects without hassle. It is without doubt the most used CAD among architects and engineers across all industries.
Its 2D features significantly contribute to its fame because of its diverse applications in fields ranging from architecture to project management.
However, owing to the recent developments in the software, it has gained recognition in the world of 3D.
Using AutoCAD can open a whole array of opportunities for you to implement applications of 3D printing in your occupation and business, paving the way for a more innovative future.
Can AutoCAD Be Used for 3D Printing?
Despite the fact, that AutoCAD is not a standard tool used for 3D modeling, if you’re already familiar with the software, you can design and print your models with AutoCAD.
And I’d recommend you to do so, as it will save you a lot of time as when you should learn design in other tool.
The dedicated workspace for 3D modeling provides you enough functions to create and export 3D models from it.
They help you step by step throughout the 3D modeling process until you end up with your desired design.
Its capability of producing STL (.stl) files makes it possible to easily import them into your favorite slicer.
Using the many modeling methods in AutoCAD, professionals can produce excellent designs to convey their ideas better.
Using this software, 3D prototypes can be produced efficiently and quickly, saving you and your venture valuable time and resources.
AutoCAD does not offer any simulation capabilities.
So if you’re planing to create models that require stress testing or any other functions to test the model under various physical conditions, you’d need to choose another alternative or buy 3D party solution.
Main Features of AutoCAD 3D Printing Software
Various types of 3D modeling like wireframe, surface, solid, and mesh can be done in AutoCAD using the diverse toolset.
Any modeling technique can be used depending on the model’s configuration.
However, the best designs are made by combining all these methods.
You can use the ‘wireframe’ for building a particular model’s skeleton, which can be used as a reference piece, or the ‘solid’ for constructing the main body.
When it comes to curved surfaces, surface and mesh modeling are the most suitable for achieving that smooth exterior.
The latest feature of My Insights provides helpful tips to the users throughout the modeling process so that they end up with the desired result much more quickly.
For a 360 view of your model, use the 3D ORBIT option. The camera will then revolve around the focused design, giving the user a finer visual perspective of their model.
The Visual Styles allow the user to view their creation in different orientations. Visual Styles essentially regulate the edges, boundaries, lighting, and shading of a 3D design.
There are several predefined styles, including Wireframe, Conceptual, Shaded, and Realistic, to name a few. Using Visual Styles enhances a 3D model, allowing the creators to comprehend its performance better.
Apart from the Visual Styles, the rendering capabilities of AutoCAD are worth mentioning.
Using them, you can produce jaw-dropping renderings of your 3D models that can better present your ideas when coupled with lighting effects.
This is handy when you work on a group project to communicate with your teammates and incorporate their feedback in your designs.
Pros and Cons of Using AutoCAD
Like every software, AutoCAD has its strengths, and using them to their fullest can create wonders for you.
But at the same time, the software has some shortcomings that the developers must address.
AutoCAD boasts its fame because of its compatibility with different industries.
Building a model from scratch is no longer complicated and can be done offline, thanks to AutoCAD’s engaging interface.
A significant factor distinguishing AutoCAD from other CAD software is its ability to detect errors in your digital design before it is 3D printed. These errors can otherwise negatively impact your creation and hinder your model’s application in the real world. This saves a lot of time and resources.
What’s even better is that AutoCAD can be run on separate interfaces. It does not matter if you have a PC or a simple smartphone; there is no limitation to using AutoCAD to make incredible digital designs using the diverse tool sets available.
This is accommodating when you are a business involving many designers; the employees can use one AutoCAD account on various systems rather than having a different one for every device.
AutoCAD provides many satisfactory deals, like reduced costs on long-term contracts and a 30-day free trial to check if the software is suitable for you.
Even more remarkable is that these deals come with several perks and enhancements
But I think the strongest argument under the “pros” is the advanced design possibilities this tool is offering you.
For students and educators, the company offers free one-year educational access to the product.
And last, the surrounding community is strong enough to support you with any challenge you’ll be facing.
If you are just starting with it, you can join the free Autodesk-Community-Forum on their forum page and learn AutoCAD for 3D printing, or anything you are interested in.
A significant downside of AutoCAD is that it is a relatively expensive investment. The monthly subscription costs $235, with reduced prices for annual or even 3 years subscription.
This is why AutoCAD is primarily only suitable if you use it professionally.
For hobbyists and learners, other cheaper alternatives are a better choice. However, it should be noted that other CAD software lacks exceptional features that can only be manipulated in AutoCAD.
The company has recently introduced the “flex” pay-as-you-go model for occasional users, where you buy tokens and use them occasionally. So it might be something for even personal use if you don’t plan to use it intensively.
Like every other software, it also has a steep learning curve. As much as the outstanding features and toolset of AutoCAD are a blessing, they can be intimidating for new designers without any experience in the world of 3D.
However, AutoCAD is definitely worth learning as it gives you a skill set that can help you significantly in your career.
Another complication when it comes to working with AutoCAD is that the software is operable on high-end PCs. Recommended specifications for usage are a 3+ GHz processor, 16 GB memory,10 GB disk space + min. 6 GB free hard disk for 3D modeling, and a 4 GB GPU display card.
A functional computer system that is compatible with AutoCAD can be an expensive investment in and of itself.
Nevertheless, I believe most of the average laptops today would fulfill these requirements.
How to 3D Print With AutoCAD
3D Printing with AutoCAD can open various avenues for designers and businesses.
The modeling process can be done in a jiffy using the interactive toolset, and then follow the steps below to start learning AutoCAD for 3D printing.
To begin, you first have to create a 3D model that you will finally print. Start with opening the AutoCAD application and creating a new file by clicking on ‘New’ in the quick access toolbar.
After you have opened a new file, you will come across different templates to work with. Among them, select the ‘acad3D’ template and hit ‘Open’.
In the AutoCAD application button menu, click on ‘Drawing Units’ and specify the units of the drawing. Also, in the ‘Drawing Units’ dialog box, specify the length type as ‘Engineering’.
Now is the point where you build your 3D model using either solid, surface, or mesh modeling. Combining these techniques is always a good idea as each of them opens more ways for you to better your model.
You will use different commands to optimize your model during the design process. To execute it, type the command in the command prompt text box. Then select the object in question, enter the required quantity, choose the position by clicking on the screen, and finally hit enter.
After modeling, save your design as an STL (.stl) file. Every file in AutoCAD is default saved as a DWG file, the primary 3D drawing file. An STL file is created using slicing software which saves the 3D model in many 2D layers. The printer understands the STL file format, and a smooth print job is executed.
Export the STL file to the printing software. Here you will determine the dimensions of your final product by scaling and rotating your model depending on the volume of the printer chamber.
After you are done positioning, begin with the printing process.
Is AutoCAD Worth It?
AutoCAD tops the list in many aspects compared to competitor computer-aided design software.
While it has shortcomings like an expensive annual fee and difficult-to-grasp interface, it can boost your 3D skills with its excellent latest features and interactive toolset.
The recent updates in the software have made it possible to create sounder 3D designs and product prototypes than before, which is why AutoCAD is recommended across the industry.
Even more promising is that mastering AutoCAD can make your resume or business name shine in various fields.
It is also true that AutoCAD may not be suitable for you if you are on a low budget. If you can afford it but are paranoid about AutoCAD being a good investment, you can always try its trial version, which will show you the software’s capabilities.
AutoCAD is among the few software that is in our good books.
It allows its users to work efficiently and smartly and express their ideas more comprehensively.
The best aspect of AutoCAD is its diversity, from construction and architecture to engineering, and even the medical industry is now requiring it. The constant addition of new features and the improved older ones shows that AutoCAD has a lot to offer and will continue to be a necessary part of a digital designer’s life.