3D Software

Stratasys goes direct from CAD to 3D print with GrabCAD Print Advanced FDM

With the help of GrabCAD Print, a cloud-based CAD software, Stratasys 3D printers can now go directly from CAD to print, thus removing the conversion to mesh file step to streamline the workflow.

Mark Walker, Stratasys’ Lead Software Product Manager explained, “For design and manufacturing engineers, one of the most frustrating processes is ‘dumbing down’ a CAD file to STL format – only to require subsequent re-injection of design intent into the STL printing process.”

“This software is engineered to do away with this complexity, letting designers reduce iterations and design cycles – getting to a high-quality, realistic prototype and final part faster than ever before.”

GrabCAD Print Advanced FDM for creating machine toolpath. Image via GrabCAD.
GrabCAD Print Advanced FDM for creating machine toolpath. Image via GrabCAD.

GrabCAD Print Advanced FDM

GrabCAD is a Massachusetts-based startup owned by Stratasys. In 2016, the startup launched the GrabCAD Print to make the workflow of Stratasys 3D printers more efficient. The latest addition in this effort is the Advanced FDM feature, which can slice CAD models directly for 3D printing, making the manufacturing process leaner.

GrabCAD Print is now used by companies such as McLaren and Eckhart, an industrial automation company.

Robert Heath, Eckhart’s Additive Manufacturing Application Engineer, explained, “GrabCAD Print Advanced FDM’s geometry-based workflows have allowed us to fine-tune part builds – meeting application requirements and process parts more quickly than we could before […] The seamless transition of moving a build between applications is easy and intuitive.”

Advanced FDM: End to End Full Demo

11 min 13 sec video

A new way of slicing

All CAD files need to be translated into a mesh file before they are sliced for 3D printing. Since the introduction of 3D printing technology in the 1980s, mesh files like .stl and .obj have been the standard for creating 2D slices (or 3D printer toolpath). Hence, there is always a step in between the CAD file and the gcode that is send to the 3D printer.

A CAD file contains a high level of detail about the part geometry, converting it into a mesh file creates many problems, such as loss of geometrical information. Problems like these are fixed in software like Netfabb. Experts in the 3D software industry have tried to counter such problems. GrabCAD Advanced FDM feature is another step in this direction.

It lets users create toolpath (gcode) for 3D printing directly from the CAD model. This way there is no need to deal with all the problems of .stl (or other mesh) file formats.

Dave Hewitson, Rapid Prototyping Programmer at McLaren said, “Advanced FDM has proved invaluable in improving our part processing time. When processing a very large number of tools and fixtures in a very time pressured environment, it was crucial to ensure stronger tool areas were correct first time, every time.”

From CAD to print

GrabCAD Advanced FDM feature currently supports all of Stratasys Fortus systems (except the 250 mc and 360mc), F900 and F370.

Due to the nature of workflow of the Advanced FDM (i.e. from CAD to 3D print), .stl and .obj are not supported. However, many other professional CAD file formats like IGES, STEP, CATPART, and SLDPRT. The sliced file can be exported to the cloud or to the 3D printer as a .cmb file.

Support for such industry standard file formats adds another layer of efficiency to the CAD to print workflow. As Hewitson said:

“Advanced FDM negates the requirement for multiple programs – creating a more streamlined process. It’s also allowed us to more effectively control the structure of end-use car parts, something that was previously very difficult with the solutions we had in hand. This means we can get better parts to the track faster.”

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Featured image shows GrabCAD Advanced FDM for creating machine toolpath. Image via GrabCAD.