Blender to Solidworks?

Hello! I am working in the engineering department for my work, and we just got a Makerbot Replicator Z18 3D Printer. We need to print some relatively precise parts, that can’t handle tolerances more than .05mm or so. In order to 3D model our parts, we have Solidworks. Ive spent years using blender, and I am not used to the modelling-with-solids thing. I also find Solidworks frustrating and stupid, perhaps just because of my lack of familiarity with the program. My job also only has two licenses for solidworks, so only two people can be on at a time, and there are 5+ of us who need to use it throughout the week. My question is:

Is there some way I could export my .blend files to a solidworks part file, or perhaps change blender’s measurement system to show mm, not fractions of meters?
Are they any plugins that could help me with building precise parts for 3D modelling?
Anything else that could be helpful to me to make sure my STL files print accurately and smoothly would be greatly appreciated.

Or should I just go ahead and request the company to buy a few more $8000+ licenses for a program that I kinda hate.

With that little specific info it’s hard to say what would be the smartest workflow in your case.

Blenders mesh geometry and Nurbs based Solidworks geometry are simply different paradigms. if the goal is just 3D printing you might not need to take the Solidworks route. Collapsing a Blender mesh at high subdivision can, depending on the model geometry be sufficient to output a good looking 3D print. Just zoom to roughly 1:1 size and turn off smooth shading. If you can’t spot any more polygons your printed model will look smooth too. Note that the Z18 is an FDM printer, hence output smoothness will be somewhat limited anyway.

In case you have rather complex models with precise joints and with parts which need to be very accurate in their dimensions one might have to (re)model in Solidworks and export for 3D printing from here. There’s no way to make Blender or any other mesh program accurate to manufacturing standards.

First week at my current job I went through the solidworks tutorials, and I’ve never touched it before. Next week I was making accurate assemblies of mechanical parts we use and framework (profile weldments) utilizing those parts. Working with it daily it still takes a couple of months to build confidence, but I found it waaaaay easier to learn (the chunks I needed to do my job - sw is pretty huge) than Blender (which I don’t use professionally).

I would never ever trust Blender with what you seem to be building (info needed). Blender would be way better choice if you wanted to print a Yoda head or some other freeform model. If you need ±0.05mm tolerances for mechanical parts (assuming mates), sw seems like the way to go.

Besides, if you work in the engineering department, why wouldn’t you want to get your hands on proper engineering software? Keep in mind, sw seem to require quadro gfx cards to work well, ref thisvideo showing the problem. If all you have is a gaming card, then go ahead anyway, as you might not touch the features requiring this. I didn’t while I was learning sw, but it quickly became a problem when I started producing what we make, and was forced to upgrade. So expect the price can go up even further. Also note that the standard edition (the “cheap” one :p) has no support for visualization, and you can’t even upgrade with only that - you have to get to the professional version which may have things you never intend to use.

…sorry, mixed up authors, deleted.

Just use Blender with the ‘3D print’ add-on activated. The 3D print addon is pretty good for evaluating and fixing Blender meshes for eventual export to STL. You do not need to use solidworks as an inbetween.

The blender model should be manifold and water-tight.

For example, this 3D print model was done straight from Blender as an STL files.

Solidworks (also solidege, inventor and so on) cannot be compared to blender because they have tools to create mechanical parts, and they are focused to it. Blender give you more power in terms of freedom, because you work directly over the mesh. In the same manner you think solidworks is frustating, a mechanical user may think the same about blender, and imho it’s hardest going from SW to BF Blender (because lack of tools)

We started a project, mechanicalblender , ba thread , intended to give the necessary tools for mechanical designs (focusing on productivity), it’s still in the beggining, but you have tools that could be great for 3D printing (like match tool) but it’s at this moment focused to precision modelling.

If you prefer addons, you can check this thread

@ Joemama198

I feel your pain.

I am the exact opposite of you - long time SolidWorks user, now trying to learn Blender. It has been absolutely maddening that something I can do so easily in SolidWorks I cannot figure out at all how to do in Blender. (Yet)

Have you found a good solution to your problem? Keep us posted.