Have you ever wondered what made it possible to engineer and build all the technological wonders around us so precisely and calculated?
For years engineers in the mechatronics industry have been widely using Solidworks to conceive, visualize and construct devices that have made our lives so much easier.
Solidworks was made back in 1993 by MIT graduate Jon Hirschtick, and later, in 1997, it was acquired by Dassault Systèmes, a major software company.
Since then, this computer-aided design (CAD) software has been a primary tool in an engineer’s and designer’s arsenal.
From products as simple as a circuit board to more complex systems like a smartphone or electric cars, Solidworks has done a decent job assisting engineers in creating these for a more innovative future.
Solidworks allows its users to create detailed photorealistic 2D images of different elements of a product or device and visualize and analyze its industrial application in the real world. This means that Solidworks’ collaboration with 3D printers can result in a killer partnership producing outstanding results.
Can You Use Solidworks for 3D Printing?
Using Solidworks for 3D Printing opens a ton of avenues for engineers and designers.
There are several features that Solidworks has to offer; if employed efficiently, engineers can do the development of a 3D model or product effectively without wasting time and resources.
After this, the manufacturing part becomes a piece of cake.
Of course, like every other software, a learning curve is also associated with Solidworks, and it takes time to get the hang of different functions and buttons.
Otherwise, the user interface of Solidworks is absolutely beginner-friendly, and eventually, the navigation becomes second nature to a user.
So what are those remarkable features of Solidworks that make it compatible with 3D printing?
These features revolve around the three most intricate parts of the developing process; visualization, testing, and manufacturing.
Solidworks Visualize is a top-notch tool that developers can use to produce photorealistic renderings or animations of a 3D model.
The resulting images and designs are advertisement quality.
They can be readily shared with team members to better the model and with clients and investors to give them a better picture of the product.
For testing, Solidworks Simulation can bring forth a model’s functionality in real life by using accurate data.
This can be extremely helpful, especially in the initial stages, as it makes it possible to fix any problems associated with the product before any physical prototype is produced.
Finally, the CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) “add-on” produces STL files of a 3D model in real-time, which can then be imported into a 3D Printer to construct the model.
Pros and Cons of Using Solidworks
Solidworks has a reputation for being an industry standard. Several reasons make it the number one choice of many engineers.
- Compared to other solid modellers in the industry, Solidworks is easier to learn and does not have a steep learning curve. The user interface is simple and intuitive, possibly the best in the entire CAD industry, which results in an excellent user experience, evident from the fact that it is the go-to software for more than 6 million engineers, designers and students worldwide.
- Solidworks’ strength lies in its ability to design parametrically. This aspect of the software is particularly useful for 3D printing, as it makes the modelling process efficient and allows the designers to explore different ways to optimize the final product better.
- The Simulation and Visualization features allow users to detect any issues with the model in earlier stages, which can be really cost-effective and prevent any real-life disorders after 3D printing.
- In Solidworks, you can set certain parameters concerning the final model intended. However, based on these parameters, Solidworks generates varying designs with thorough descriptions of their durability and cost implications. The designers can adapt to better options in no time.
- Besides saving the solid model in an STL file, Solidworks also supports 3MF files (3D manufacturing format), which can store more data and information, helping the 3D printer create a better physical model.
- In comparison to CATIA and NX, Solidworks is the cheapest solid modeller.
- Solidworks is not very effective when it comes to working with large assemblies, unlike other alternatives like NX and CATIA. Even after a bit of manipulation of the options, the resulting 3D model lacks that eye-catching quality.
- Solidworks operates better with 3D models, and thus, it has limited 2D functionality. For 2D models, Solidworks’ counterpart AutoCAD is a better option.
- Processing in Solidworks gets exceptionally slow, especially when large assemblies are being worked with. This can be countered by closing extra windows, but the overall speed remains slow; sometimes, a high-end PC is required to work.
- It is not really a cost-effective choice if 3D Printing is your hobby. There are other less expensive alternatives available, but they lack the features provided by Solidworks.
How to 3D Print With Solidworks?
Using Solidworks to implement your 3D printing ideas is quite simple.
Follow the steps given steps for a successful print job:
Click on the ‘File’ option and select ‘Print3D’.
If you are new to 3D Printing, you must select the desired printers first to perform the print job.
Click on the ‘Printer’ option to display the available printers. The printer selected would be featured in the ‘Favourites’.
Click on the ‘Print Bed Location’ and then the ‘Bottom Plane of Model’ option and select a planar you want the bottom face of your printed model to be.
Analyze if your selected 3D design can be printed and fit in the available space of the printing chamber.
If a part of the geometry is outside the premises, it will be indicated by a red highlighter and will not be printed.
If your model does not fit in the given volume, click on ‘Model Orientation’ to change the model’s orientation using the translation arrows to fit a specific bed angle.
Click the ‘Scale’ option to select a suitable scale for your model to be printed.
By default, it is set as ‘1’, which is the size of your model in Solidworks.
The ‘Scale to Fit’ option gives you the maximum scale value your model can be printed in the given space.
Under ‘Options’, set a value for ‘Job quality’ and ‘Infill percentage’ and check the fields ‘Include supports’ and ‘Include rafts’ if required.
Check the properties specific to the printer by clicking on ‘Printer Properties’.
Then click on the ‘Preview Tab’ to check your current printer settings.
Print the model by clicking on theoption.
Top 3 3D Printers For Solidworks
The following are the best 3D Printers known for their compatibility with Solidworks.
Their diverse features and the precision and quality of the final model make them excellent for print jobs.
This is the first 3D printer on our list for several reasons, primarily for its high-quality print job.
This is the most suitable printer if you do 3D Printing as a hobby.
Along with a special built-in camera, through which you can view the entire printing process, the 2.8” front screen is the main control panel taking less space.
It also supports different filaments, including PLA and ABS, as the main building material.
However, you should note that Monoprice Voxel is a home-based printer that does not support large print jobs.
The printing chamber’s volume is limited, making the printer suitable for printing smaller models. This makes Monoprice Voxel the best option for all 3D Printing hobbyists.
If you do 3D Printing as a professional, using Stratasys F120 side by side with Solidworks can create wonders for you.
Supporting the latest FDM technology, this printer does the print job effectively with functionally strong and durable ABS and ASA plastic as the main material.
This also makes the final product or prototypes high quality.
F120’s excellent speed is the major factor in its popularity in the industry, known for printing in less than half the time compared to other printers.
It is relatively easy to install, reliable and using it does not involve many implications.
The print jobs are clean and silent, done in a spacious chamber, making the printer suitable for use in an office environment.
Ender 3 S1
Last but not least is the gem of the Ender 3 series, S1.
It is a high-performance printer that does not require much space and is absolutely compatible with Solidworks.
The sprite dual-gear steel extruder does an excellent print job, positioning the layers of filaments as precisely as possible.
The user interface is simple and is presented on a 4.3-inch LCD screen.
The print job is done completely free of noise, and the final resulting model is durable and incredible to be presented as a prototype.
Ender 3 S1 supports different filaments ranging from PLA, TPU, ABS, and PETG.
The print job is uninterrupted even after a power failure; the printer continues printing from the same point automatically when power is restored.
Can Solidworks import STL files?
STL files can be imported into Solidworks in various bodies, including graphical, surface or solid data representing the mesh. First, start Solidworks and click on ‘Open’ to import a file. In the file types, click on STL (*.stl). After that, select your desired body format from among the three options. You can also convert the imported file to Solidworks features.
How to measure STL files in Solidworks?
Solidworks provides a measuring tool, using which you can measure the distance between two points. To measure the space, you have to click on the ‘Point-to-Point’ option and manually select two points to calculate the distance between them.
The Mechatronics industry has yet to offer us many incredible inventions, and Solidworks will be a major force behind them.
It has revolutionized the 3D Printing industry and is assisting in making its application more common across the marketplace. Using Solidworks for 3D Printing can open a million routes for our imagination to manifest itself in physical form.