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Model Analyzer

Now you’ve converted your design into an STL file – but is it ready for printing? That’s where our Model Analyzer tool steps in and saves the day! Instead of having to manually check every corner of your design, this tool does it all for you so you don’t have to. Among the things it flags up are missing triangles (intentional holes in your design will be left in peace though), inverted normals (when the outer side of a triangle is facing inwards), bad edges and untrimmed surfaces.

Checking if your model is printable

Once you have your model in STL format, it’s time to sit back and send the file to the printer, right? Wrong. Chances are high that during the slicing of the STL file, you will get an error due to flaws in your design, and the slicing software will be unable to generate a proper G-Code for the 3D Printer. A G-Code is the code that the printer needs to receive in order to print your design, so without it you won’t be going anywhere. And if you’re using a service bureau to do the actual printing, costs could run up pretty high if they need to correct your file before they can print it.

Where it all goes wrong

It’s not because your model looks great on a screen that it can be printed successfully. Often surfaces seem connected, but in reality, they aren’t. There might be a gap between the different triangles, or they might be overlapping or inside-out, and all these imperfections as well as many more need to be repaired. With Materialise Cloud, the struggle of getting a printable model is a thing of the past.

illustration for model with a gap between the surfaces

A Watertight Design

As we mentioned before, triangulated 3D models have three components: vertices (the points that define the corners of the triangles), edges (the lines between the points) and faces (the surfaces between the lines). In order to 3D print your design, it needs to be a complete closed entity. This characteristic is usually described by the terms watertight, manifold or solid.

illustration for watertight design

A non-manifold model is a typical beginner’s error. If you were to fill your 3D design with water, the water should not be able to leak through any hidden cracks in the walls. All triangles need to be connected to form a seamless blanket and make sure the geometry can be printed successfully.

How the triangles should connect

Another important issue to keep in mind is that only two triangle faces should be connected to one another at a time. For example, you can’t connect two triangles to the same edge of another triangle. This is another error that might occur when you convert your CAD model to an STL format, and it needs correcting as all surfaces need to be properly aligned to obtain a manifold design.

illustration for triangles connection

How it works

illustration for different models' geometry

“1) This mesh will not print at all. It is made up of several separate components (the ball, and 14 spikes) and none of these are watertight - the ball has missing faces where the spikes intersect, and the spikes are open ended cones. Even though these parts intersect, creating what looks like a good mesh from the outside, this part will be rejected by the printer.

2) This mesh will print - but it will cost you! All of the components are watertight, but your pricing won’t be cheap. The pricing calculator uses the total volume of all of your parts. This means that where the spikes and the ball overlap, you will be charged twice - once for the entire volume of the ball, and again for the entirety of the spikes.
Since it is possible to have intersecting but watertight models, your model will turn out correctly. This can be used to your advantage - often it’s easier to pay a little extra rather than spend a lot of time resolving particularly complex intersections. Just make sure you overlap the two objects as little as possible.

3) Perfect! Not only is this mesh watertight, but it contains no unnecessary geometry, and is all contained in one single mesh. This will give you the most affordable result.”

Where the Model Analyzer comes in

Nobody likes build crashes and losing valuable 3D printing material, and if you aren’t aware of the errors in your model before trying to print it, you’ll be forced to start all over again and waste precious time and energy by manually fixing every error. With our decades of experience in developing 3D printing software, we’re perfectly placed to help you make sure you stay one step ahead of 3D printing errors. The Materialise Cloud Model Analyzer will check if your model – once converted to STL – is watertight, error-free and ready to be 3D printed.

Find out more about common 3D printing errors on the Model Repair webpage.