What Is The Best 3D Print Plugin For Blender?

Used for a variety of different projects and industries, the 3D application Blender is one of the most versatile applications that money can’t buy (because it’s free). One example of this is in 3D printing, but Blender does not have many tools that surround this workflow. Therefore we need to find the best add-ons that will make Blender more suitable for the process of designing 3D printable models.

The best addon for 3D printing is the 3D print toolbox, which allows you to locate any geometry on your model that may either be nonmanifold geometry or not be physically possible to exist on a real object, such as a zero face. Unfortunately, there are a limited number of addons aside from this relating to 3D printing, but there are many related to modeling workflows.

So almost by default, the 3D print toolbox is the best add-on for creating 3D printable models in Blender. But does that mean it is any good? And what tools does Blender need to rival other applications as software for designing 3D printable objects?

Is The 3D Print Toolbox The Only Add On Related To 3D Printing?

When we talk about 3D printing in Blender we are referring to a specific workflow of 3D modeling that refers to creating models for the purpose of 3D printing. So in theory many of the addons related to 3D modeling can also be used to help improve our workflow for designing 3D printable models.

The 3D print toolbox is the one add-on that is specific to the art of 3D printing, as it is used to both identify and fix geometry that would cause issues during the 3D printing process. There are however a few other add-ons that we would recommend to help improve your modeling workflow that is applicable here.

The bool tool is a fantastic modeling tool that allows you to access modeling tools that are normally difficult to reach in the easy-to-access location that is the side panel.

The measurelt add-on is useful for determining the distance between specified parts of the mesh. For example, you can select two vertices and then segment them to show the distance between those vertices in the form of a straight line.

Add extra objects is a simple tool that you can use to increase the number of primitive models that you are able to use from the start. These models are very suitable baselines for designing 3D printable objects.

With Auto Mirror, you can use an object’s lines of symmetry along any of the three-axis to half your workload by having Blender perform the same edits on the other side of the object that you do.

How Do I Use The 3D Print Toolbox?

The primary purpose of the 3D print toolbox is to identify problem areas of a mesh that are likely to cause issues when 3D printing the model.

Its secondary purpose is to act as a quick fox for nonmanifold geometry. This is a form of geometry that would not exist in the real because it is perhaps too thin or has overlapping faces.

The add on can also be used to export your model quickly as a format that is deemed suitable for 3D printing when sent to a splicing application (Which is often used to convert a model to the code format for the actual print).

Print Toolbox Addon

It is the number one add-on that you should learn to use if you are planning on creating 3D printed models in the near future, as it is the best tool for identifying those problem areas in your mesh.

There are many different factors that can cause a 3D print to fail and most of these can be identified using the toolbox. Below we have a fix of potential issues that the print toolbox can identify.

  • Non-Manifold Edges
  • Bad Contiguous Edges
  • Intersecting Faces
  • Zero Faces
  • Zero Edges
  • Non Flat Faces
  • Thin Faces
  • Sharp Edge
  • Overhang Faces
  • Volume And Area

Print Toolbox Location

What Does The Bool Tool Do?

The bool tool is an alternative method of being able to create a boolean operation between two objects. The add-on is disabled by default so you will need to go Edit > Preferences > Add Ons and type in Bool into the search bar, then tick the box to enable.

The add-on will then be available under the edit tab, although if you open up the information of the add-on in the preferences panel you will see that you are able to change what the tabs heading is if you want to.

We also recommend ticking the option for wireframe in the preferences so that it becomes easier to visualize the booleans effect on the model.

The options for the bool tool are split into two methods, auto boolean and brush boolean. You then have the four boolean types under each method. These are Difference, Union, Intersect, and Slice.

Bool Tool Add-on

Auto boolean is the method used when you want to create a permanent change to your model using the boolean of choice. It is fast and simple but if you get it wrong then you will need to use the undo feature to revert back to before you used it. Think of it as another way of using the standard boolean tool, which is also a permanent effect.

By contrast, choosing one of the options under brush boolean acts as a modifier instead of a one-time tool. With this, you can reposition your boolean wherever you want and see the effect in real-time. If you go to the modifiers tab after using a brush boolean, you will find a custom modifier has been added to the modifier stack.

The boolean tool is one of the most common tools to use in 3D design, especially for 3D printing. So the bool tool is a useful way of having quick access to this toolset.

How Does The Auto Mirror Tool Help With Designing 3D Printable Models?

When you are designing your models the design may have lines of symmetry across the X, Y, or Z-axis. If this is the case with your design then you can use the auto mirror tool to take advantage of that line of symmetry and half your modeling workload.

For this tool to work you first need to have a base model that is the same on both sides of an axis. For example, a UV sphere is symmetrical across all three axes. Then you can go to the tool menu just above the 3D viewport, and enable the auto mirror tool on the axis that you need. The buttons are found above options for viewport shading, and you can choose to enable each or even all of these lines of symmetry.

Auto Mirror Tool

Note that these options for enabling the auto mirror tool will only be visible while in edit mode. However, in edit mode, the tool will be visible regardless of the selected tool from the toolset, as auto mirror is designed to work WITH these other tools.

You will now be able to select, grab and extrude your geometry on one side and Blender will mirror what you do on the other.

Why Do I Need To Use Measurelt?

The size of your model is a key factor when designing for 3D printing. Different printers are capable of printing in different size ranges, with desktop printers only able to create models a few inches tall. As the designer, you need to be aware of the sizing for your model across all the dimensions, as well as its area and volume.

The latter can actually be calculated by the print toolbox add-on, which allows you to accurately calculate the area of a selected object (The combined size of the faces) and the volume (The space that the object takes up).

Measurelt Add-On

When compared to the measurement tool in the toolbox, the measurelt addon is more precise and has additional functionality including the ability to color-code measurements, calculate the distance based on a single axis, add labels to each created measurement, and even calculate the distance between different objects in your scene, although the latter is less useful for 3D print design.

For 3D pointing in particular, the more you know about your object the better, as you can more easily design your model within the assigned specs of your project. It is the versatility of add-ons like this that help make the process of designing 3D models a whole lot easier.

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