Additive Manufacturing Strategies

A New Look at Netfabb Basic

ST Medical Devices

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When I first saw netfabb in 2009 or so, I was astounded by how cheap it was. Impressed with how netfabb fixes files, I urged Shapeways to work with them and this became the basis for the automated mesh repair functionality used by Shapeways customers. I also ended up using a free version of netfabb for years. When netfabb was acquired by Autodesk, it became a part of an expensive subscription that I didn’t want to use. Now, Netfabb and Fusion together is $4,000 a year. I’m sure it’s worth it, but I’d rather buy a really nice watch. Some of you may want to head over to this video that shows you how to install Netfabb and get the Basic version for free.

Reviewing Netfabb now, with its Basic functionality, I can say that it really does get you a formidable free 3D printing software package. Netfabb’s repair tools remain amazing and provide a quick, automated way to repair meshes. You can do this through importing several parts at once. It’s possible to run your own repair routines or repair individual triangles, if you want to get down and dirty in the vertices. You can also find wall thicknesses that are too thin and identify them, to determine what wall thicknesses are problematic per process or setting. Meshes can be manipulated by changing models via hollowing them out, or you can check for surface deviations, and smooth over rough parts.

Other possible operations include extruding geometry, making reliefs, adding textures and colors, and even projecting an image, pattern or texture onto an existing surface. You can make parts greyscale and extrude certain areas of a greyscale texture.

It’s possible to label parts, add serial numbers, and even attach a tracking QR code. This code can be automatically ongoing so that you help manage parts automagically. More people should use this function not only to keep track of manufacturing parts, but for a very easy way to check which version of a file you have in your hands at home.

You can add multiple printers to send files to different printers, as well as nest builds for a single printer. It’s possible to automatically populate a print bed with the maximum number of components printable. Is your model too large? Cut it and the tool will automatically add clips so the part can be assembled post-print.

The software features collision detection, and examines Z-removability and interlocking parts. Have a last-minute worry about a part? Measure geometries, walls, holes, wall thicknesses at certain areas to see if they are up to spec. Measure the distances between points, as well.

You can also export reports via Pentaho Report for invoices, reporting or quotes. It’s also possible to build your own pricing tools using this functionality.

If you’d like to get started with 3D printing, Netfabb is a really complete and usable tool. If you’re making hundreds of Yoda heads or moving towards manufacturing your first 3D printed product, Netfabb is something you should have in your arsenal.

When Autodesk made Netfabb expensive, a whole generation of desktop 3D printing people lost touch with this software, and just as many new CAD people joined our market, so Netfabb became a tool for the lucky few. If you’re one of those people who never really gave it a spin, totally try it out. And if you remember the heady days of one-click repairs with the original netfabb, you can try out this package once again. If you want to quickly optimize something its also a great little tool.

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