To think that a 3D modelling software as advanced and complete as Meshmixer is available for free is a wonder of modern times and it keeps getting better. Autodesk’s free all-in-one suite for 3D printing has just been updated to include more options. It now allows you to set up a wide range of print analyses and print directly to a 3D printer. Currently, however, the software only integrates Stratasys models, ranging form Makerbot Replicator to Dimension, Fortus, Objet and uPrint professional and industrial machines.
Importing, creating, sculpting, modelling and painting multi-mesh mashups to prepare them for 3D printing is not easy, especially for those who have no previous 3D modelling experience, but with Meshmixer 2 it is easier than ever before.
The new “Make Solid” feature allows users to automatically heal together multiple meshes into a single 3D printable object, while “1-click” Automatic Repairing does just what is says: it repairs any file to make it 3D printable. Another option allows you to set the object to be hollow and regulate wall thickness to save on material and time. Printing supports are also set up automatically but more experienced users can revert to manual control.
Along with a scale function for X, Y and Z dimensions, the Meshmixer’s analysis screen includes an inspector tool to identify mesh defects, a stability tool to correctly evaluate the centre of mass position as compared to volume and base surface area, and a strength evaluation tool to indicate areas that may be too thin and weak to withstand the printing process. More options allow you to regulate slice thickness and modify overhangs.
Once the mesh is ready, all you need to do is either export it or hit the print button (at the bottom of the left icon menu). The print screen lets you select materials and colours and then gives you three more one-button automatic analysis tools for structural strength, stability and slicing. At this point the mesh can be sent straight to Makerware, Makerbot’s own printing software, or exported to .stl. That is, unless you are a Microsoft Windows 8.1 user: in which case you can send it directly to the 3D printer through the Windows integrated 3D printing support.
Here’s a short video overview from Autodesk123D: