CAD software discussion forum > ZW3D CAD > Please Help - .Stl assembly files for 3D Printers

Please Help - .Stl assembly files for 3D Printers

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Mattyvdv

Assistant Engineer

posts: 53

Registered: 2012-7-8

Message 1 of 24

 Please Help - .Stl assembly files for 3D Printers
12-02-2013 05:58 . pm | View his/her posts only
Hi Guys,
Our company has recently put in a multi-material 3D printer. To actually bring the files into the printer i need to export any CAD files as .STL format. No dramas there. The problems comes when i have an "assembly" i want to export. I need to export them as an assembly to be able to select different print materials for each part but as .STL files. I know solidworks does this very easily however i cannot see the option to export .STL's as an assembly through ZW. Am i missing something or is this option simply not available?

Cheers

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Paul

Moderator

posts: 314

Registered: 2011-9-17

Message 2 of 24

13-02-2013 02:11 . am | View his/her posts only
Hi Matt,
can't see why you cannot do that. File/Export/STL.
Just re checked with 2012 and exported a 20 component assy an opened in Minimagics to check. All good. ( I am sure earlier versions have always exported assys no probs too)
Make sure you are in the top level of the assembly not editing a part when you try and do it of you will end up with just the part.
Cheers - Paul

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davej

Assistant Engineer

posts: 73

Registered: 2013-1-16

Message 3 of 24

13-02-2013 08:02 . am | View his/her posts only
Matt,
I experienced the same that Paul did.

Worked as it should have.

Did you by chance try to save the file to *.stl rather than exporting to *.stl

There is a difference and you get more control and options with export to *.stl.

Dave

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Mattyvdv

Assistant Engineer

posts: 53

Registered: 2012-7-8

Message 4 of 24

13-02-2013 04:52 . pm | View his/her posts only
Hello Paul and Dave,
Thanks for taking the time to reply. When you guys are exporting your own tests does it export multiple .stl files which can then all be selected and opened as an assembly in another program or does it just export the one .stl file?

I have tried "save as" and also "export" however both of these options for me only ever exports the one file. To try help you guys understand whats going on ill try break it down a bit into point form.

*I have two .STEP files which, one of a car rim and one of a car tyre.
*I bring each part into a multi ooject in ZW3D 2012.
*I create an assembly of the two parts together.
*From the assembly screen (i have both rim and tyre on screen in assembled and aligned position) i try and export as .stl and/or save as .stl
*It only exports/saves one file which is them both together but as one solid part.

In other examples i have seen (from solidworks) it exports multiple .stl files (each different part has its own file) from this you can select every part and open it as an assembly and the 3D Printer software opens this assemble but with different parts being able to be individually selected.

I hope this makes sense and maybe you guys could help point me more in the right direction? (fingers crossed :D)

Thanks in advanced!

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davej

Assistant Engineer

posts: 73

Registered: 2013-1-16

Message 5 of 24

14-02-2013 03:51 . am | View his/her posts only
Reply 4# matthew8083

Matthew,


OK I now see what your trying to accomplish which is a single save or export to stl and the output be an stl file for each part in the assembly.
This is very common in CAD programs and in most cases an export setting will allow this.
In this case ZW3D seems to be defaulting to a single file and is not allowing you to do it the way you desire.
At my end some settings in the STL export dialog box are grayed out so I don't know if that would help.
Unfortunately in my case I must open up each file and save it out to stl.
This would be OK for a small assembly but very painful for a big assembly.


If this is really the way it is then an enhancement request is needed,


Perhaps Paul can steer us in the right direction on this.


Good Luck


Dave

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Mattyvdv

Assistant Engineer

posts: 53

Registered: 2012-7-8

Message 6 of 24

14-02-2013 04:32 . am | View his/her posts only
Reply 5# davej8835


Thanks again for getting back to me so quick Dave. I will definitely be putting in a request for this options as i would not expect my boss to fork out $$ for another CAD system which allows this.
Cheers.

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davej

Assistant Engineer

posts: 73

Registered: 2013-1-16

Message 7 of 24

14-02-2013 06:34 . am | View his/her posts only
Reply 6# matthew8083

Matthew,

Let's not call this done yet.
Paul may have some input.
I'm sure in the next few days when the Chinese New Year is passed that we will hear from the official tech support team.


Dave

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Mattyvdv

Assistant Engineer

posts: 53

Registered: 2012-7-8

Message 8 of 24

14-02-2013 06:43 . am | View his/her posts only
Reply 7# davej8835


Yeah mate i hope its just some underlying thing i am missing.
Cheers.

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Paul

Moderator

posts: 314

Registered: 2011-9-17

Message 9 of 24

14-02-2013 01:41 . pm | View his/her posts only
Hi Matt,
I can only comment on 2012.
OK - kinda got what your issue is.

As far as I know STL doesn't support assemblies as such. It is designed for single objects but seems to support multi body 'single' objects.
ZW2012 does not support automatic creation of separate stl files for each body or part.

What is the problem with doing two exports? or more.
It allows you to manage the naming for each object. And it doesn't take long as the conversion is snappy.I am not sure what the advantage of the SWx process you describe is except for maybe a bit of time saving.
It makes no difference to the printer if it is an assembly, it only sees a multibody thing to print.. 6 of 1, half dozen of the other.


Curious to see waht your comments are. Cheers

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Mattyvdv

Assistant Engineer

posts: 53

Registered: 2012-7-8

Message 10 of 24

14-02-2013 05:22 . pm | View his/her posts only
Reply 9# mudcrab

Hello,
I completely understand the point you are trying to make and exporting single objects is absolutely not a problem, i rarely have assembled projects more than a couple of items in total anyway. The problems is this, if I export the individual parts and bring them into my printer software it arranges them next to each other and not assembled. the examples that i have been shown from other software when exporting an assembly as a whole (yet each part has its own .stl) is that when you select and open every file into the printer software it brings it in assembled.

On a side note if you guys want to see a few things we are making at work please check our facebook and give it a "like" as i would greatly appreciate that.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cammpro-solutions-through-innovation/203510919794336?ref=stream

If link doesnt work search cammpro

Once again thanks for taking the time to try offer some insight/solutions.

Cheers

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Paul

Moderator

posts: 314

Registered: 2011-9-17

Message 11 of 24

15-02-2013 04:18 . am | View his/her posts only
Hi Matt,
if you want to print the assembly, blank the parts you don't want to print, then export the assembly. You get one stl file but the parts will be discrete in the build IF there is enough clearance. Maybe you are doing that already.It seems to me that individual stl files that have to be assembled again is a bit of a waste of time compared to just creating one file form an assembly.
Cheers - Paul

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davej

Assistant Engineer

posts: 73

Registered: 2013-1-16

Message 12 of 24

15-02-2013 04:47 . am | View his/her posts only
Post Last Edit by davej8835 at 2013-2-15 04:49

Matt,

Hope this isn't getting to confusing but it appears as if Paul and I are thinking along the sames lines which is kind kind of contrary to what you need.

It used to be that what was really cool was the fact that if you wanted to build an assembly in a 3D printer the whole goal was to have a single file. The parts did not have to be be touching and the support material very neatly held the floating parts into position until the support material was removed and you could dazzle people with how you did that. The typical adjustable wrench (one on your facebook page) that functioned or perhaps some kind of assembly that had a part within a part that could not have been made and assembled with normal building block type approaches. When the ability to output the assembly in multiple stl files was added the whole reason was so that you could individually build the parts. Not so that you could assemble them back together. So then we got to different colors that was handled very simply and neatly by additional nozzles. So at each level or slice the support material, one color, and another color were added. Very impressive technology.

I think you initially mentioned that your machine has the ability to do multiple materials. Is this what requires the individual files that need to be put back together. I am very likely wrong about this but I would think that we would jump back to the issue of additional nozzles to take care of this.

Thanks Much,

Dave

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Mattyvdv

Assistant Engineer

posts: 53

Registered: 2012-7-8

Message 13 of 24

15-02-2013 05:06 . am | View his/her posts only
Reply 12# davej8835

Hello,

I wish i could bring you guys here and show you what i mean haha, what i will do over the weekend is hopefully do a few screen shots and post some photos to be able to show you my exact problems. I understand what you guys are saying and yes i can export an assembly all together and print it no problems. The parts move freely exactly as i would want. however, to be able to pick each part individually (in the software) and assign a material to it i need to export them as separate files but bring them all in to the software as an assembled part. if i export each part individually in ZW and bring them in to the software it brings them in fine, i can assign materials to them however the parts are laid out side by side and not assembled. :(

As i said i will try get in on the weekend and screen shot some examples :)

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Mattyvdv

Assistant Engineer

posts: 53

Registered: 2012-7-8

Message 14 of 24

15-02-2013 07:13 . am | View his/her posts only
Reply 13# matthew8083

Ok guys i have figured it out. Massive thanks to Paul and Dave who have helped and it was the last suggestion which worked. So here it is for all other with a similar problem down the track.
Design all your parts as normal. Assemble them the usual way. Blank off everything and export each part as a .stl individually (which could become quite a tedious project). Once finished you will end up with seperate .STL files however when bringing them in to other software they are seperate yet assembled.

I would love to see the option of exporting assemblies as individual files added to the options however this will do for now.

Cant thank you enough for taking the time to help :)

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davej

Assistant Engineer

posts: 73

Registered: 2013-1-16

Message 15 of 24

15-02-2013 10:31 . am | View his/her posts only
Matt,

Great suggestion by Paul related to the blanking out.

This works around one of the problems that you faced.

The issue about saving individual parts out to stl and them not keeping their relationship to the World Coordinate System when you import them into another program. I did some testing and experienced the same thing. Even though from ZW3D you can select world or local when you export the part out out its seems to at all times use local rather than world. Therefore all the individual parts just bunch up at the origin. Or said another way the export process seems to not export the relationship of each individual part to the world coordinate system.

I ran exactly the same experiment in two other very well known CAD programs and they worked perfectly and positioned the parts out in space away from and respected the relationship to the WCS.

Paul's solution very nicely solved this individual part problem.

Dave

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Mattyvdv

Assistant Engineer

posts: 53

Registered: 2012-7-8

Message 16 of 24

15-02-2013 11:08 . am | View his/her posts only
Reply 15# davej8835

Yes i also tried the world and local (i was trying anything and everything). Hopefully this is something minor which can be resolved in the next update.

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Paul

Moderator

posts: 314

Registered: 2011-9-17

Message 17 of 24

15-02-2013 07:18 . pm | View his/her posts only
Post Last Edit by mudcrab at 2013-2-15 19:21

Hi Matt & Dave, I suspect there are some issues with the Local/Global - yes maybe not.
Kinda depends how you built the parts.

IF they are top down and share the assembly origin, ( you used the common global origin regardless of where the part sits)((This might require two assemblies to work well, one static, the other ans true assembly- dynamic)), then no problem.
IF they are discrete builds, constraint assembled, their origin is their own origin and bears no relation to the assembly except in context of the assy.
So maybe VX is doing it right.
Blank just means we use the assy origin, 'cos we are in the assy. (I know you guys know that)

A while back VX had a macro/design automation language/DAL. In that form, there was a 'wizard' for doing exactly what you want. As I recall it went further and allowed you to choose the export type on the fly etc etc.,Real nice.

So drifting off topic a little...
Alas, every new version of VX/ZW required a re write of the macro/DAL so it would install correctly for the new version as the location for the various calls seems to move around and the guy doing most of the developments, the most honorable Professor CAD, Mr. Chris Ward decided he would do no more until there was some stability and certainty in the future processes. Who knows where it is at? Hover your cursor over the Professor CAD text above to get a link to his site. Top man. (links do not show up well on this forum hrrumph)

If you look closely at SWx, much of it's apparent smarts are just macros built into rather than added onto the software. E.g Weldments, they are just a automated plane. profile and sweep command slicked up to do the donkey work for you. Add dozens of these together and you get a lot of work done with comparative ease. makes for attractive modelling environment as you don't actually need to know too much to output stuff. You also get a bloated install in the Gb+ range.

So, ZW has missed out on being a wiz king even though the power is definitely there to do so many things for the user via the magic wand process. Some really amazing things.


The reason I went with VX years ago was because I was doing propeller designs using multiple cross section foil point data sets, in SWx it took an hour of mind numbing clicking to import each foil point set and build the blade shape only to see the surface ripple at the tip transitions - yucky.
VX demonstrated a DAL that took 3 clicks and one minute to import a single csv file AND asked if I wanted a solid or a surface! The surface was ripple free too. Wow - hooked. The 'Foil Curves In DAL' was written by Chris for Stone Manganese Marine Ltd who make massive ship props.
Anyway - IMO this DAL thing needs to get sorted ASAP so we can see some reduction in the work load doing the basics.


So that is something for the men in head office to think about. Welcome back from the New Year holiday guys.


Glad you've got it sorted. Cheers - Paul;P

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Paul

Moderator

posts: 314

Registered: 2011-9-17

Message 18 of 24

15-02-2013 07:35 . pm | View his/her posts only
FYI. Here is a link to STONE MARINE PROPULSION who were at one stage using VX to draw props. BIG ones. You need to click on the Stone Marine link in their side bar.Cheers - P

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davej

Assistant Engineer

posts: 73

Registered: 2013-1-16

Message 19 of 24

16-02-2013 02:41 . am | View his/her posts only
Reply 18# mudcrab

Paul,

Much appreciated is all the details that you provided.

I'm a new reseller of ZW3D in the US and though very experienced in CAD I'm new with ZW3D.


I followed that link to the big props.


Cool stuff that company is in to.


Dave

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Mattyvdv

Assistant Engineer

posts: 53

Registered: 2012-7-8

Message 20 of 24

16-02-2013 12:37 . pm | View his/her posts only
Reply 19# davej8835


Thanks for the detailed info Paul. Also, wow! when you said big i didn't expect THAT big. Very interesting stuff!

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Orchid

Super Moderator

posts: 34

Registered: 2011-6-24

Message 21 of 24

16-02-2013 01:48 . pm | View his/her posts only
Reply 14# matthew8083

Hi Matt,
In the current version of ZW3D, Paul's suggestion is a uesful way to meet your demand. No other direct mehtod to do it now.
Export a assembly part as the multi-STL file. It can be considered for a improvement needs.:)

Good discussion for 3D printer.

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Mattyvdv

Assistant Engineer

posts: 53

Registered: 2012-7-8

Message 22 of 24

16-02-2013 07:39 . pm | View his/her posts only
Reply 21# orchid


Thanks alot! Great to know that that theres a possibility of improvements to this in the future. As for now im just happy we figured out a way to manage.

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Mattyvdv

Assistant Engineer

posts: 53

Registered: 2012-7-8

Message 23 of 24

18-03-2013 10:19 . am | View his/her posts only
Post Last Edit by matthew8083 at 2013-3-18 10:20

Reply 22# matthew8083


Hi guys,
Sorry to bump this but thought it was valid for anyone in the future who has similar issues. We came up with a solution to my problem by going into an assembly, blanking out everything which was not needed then exporting the .stl file and unblanking and so on. A much quicker way is to do the following:

Click File - Export - stl - OK. This will open up a new box. In the top right of this box it has two options - 1: All objects. 2: Select from screen. Simply press select from screen, choose what you want then click ok. Give it a file name then hit ok again.

This eliminates the tedious task of blanking and un-blanking.

Cheers.

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davej

Assistant Engineer

posts: 73

Registered: 2013-1-16

Message 24 of 24

18-03-2013 11:06 . am | View his/her posts only
Matt,

It's been a few weeks so I may be a bit fuzzy on the details. Didn't we go over this solution a few weeks ago and I thought the result was that it put the parts at the local origin versus the the assembly (global) origin. I thought Paul's blanking solution was necessary for this reason.

Thanks Much,

Dave
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