Does blender work well with 3D Printers?

MODELERS OF THE B.ARTISTS , HEED MY CALL!

We’re considering getting a 3D printer at the office for both product design and some small mockups of interiors ( judging by the size of the average 3D printer it’ll be in pieces for me to assemble).

Now I’ve known about 3D printing for some time now and I’m wondering how well blender interacts with the 3D->3Dprint software and also how well those prints end up being.

Have you used a 3D printer? If so which one and what are your remarks on the quality of the print and the user friendliness of the software that supports it?

Important things I’m thinking about are bridge printing, printing resolution and how fast you can get a complex model ready to be printed.
A lot of 3D printers seem to prefer CAD drawings as opposed to .obj’s or other polygonal moddeling formats.

I believe Shapeways use Blender, though I don’t know what type of 3D printer they have. They suggest exporting to .stl or .vrml. In my experience they are very friendly and happy to help or provide advice.

Depends on your printer and what format it takes.
If .stl the software used to actually create the file is pretty much irrelevent

Even file formats tend to change over the course of time.
For instance, blender isn’t too keen on .3ds files. Of all the 3ds files I’ve had on my desk the last year, maybe 1 of em was importable into blender. ( it was a blender .3ds export )

So I’m a bit scared that some exporters might become depricated as 3D printing evolves.

And then there’s the question of printing quality. How well do those 3D printers compare to one another.
Not every company allows you to send in files that are printed and sent to you so it’s difficult to get samples.

Our IT partners recommended us this product https://shop.ultimaker.com/en/ultimaker-kit-new.html .
The problem is that I can’t really find any solid comparisons between printer results from different companies, as far as transparancy goes they’re pretty much a solid wall.

I have Replicator 2 from MakerBot Industries and use Blender to export STL files for printing.

There seems to be a move underway to build a 3D printing toolbox for Blender
https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups=#!searchin/makerbot/blender/makerbot/ln3f4UHz5V8/DVBzUpKSXNEJ
But, frankly, all of this is irrelevant to your choice of hardware.

Rep 2 has been out for about 6 months already and a lot of the issues and fixes are know and published on the forums.
Ultimaker seems pretty solid too and their community appears to be active.

There is also a new printer coming on the market every week. But unless you are an experienced tinkerer, I recommend going with something with a track record. You WILL encounter problems and tech support is as good as non-existent. Having an active community can be the difference between making things and making plastic goop.

Make has a great guide to 3D printing with comparisons and all

Printing Toolbox is included in Blender 2.67 to make it easy print out 3d models from blender.

Cheers, mib.