Inventor has many features that make it easy to design parts for 3D printing. Plus, if you’re an engineering student, you might already use it. You can download a free student license of Inventor Professional at the Autodesk Education Community website.
To enable the plastic part panel, you may need to open the dropdown on the far right side of the ribbon while editing a part file:
These features make it easier to design models that snap/screw together, have grills for cooling, or mate with other parts. For a guide on how to use these features, see the Inventor 2016 Online Help module.
The software used to send information to the printer uses .stl (stereolithography) model files and not the .ipt part files Inventor uses. If you’re ready to print your model, you’ll need to export it as a .stl file first in Inventor.
Note: If you are uploading your model to print with McMaster 3D Printing, you can submit a .ipt file and skip this step. You can still submit a .stl if you want, though.
Click the I symbol in the top left corner of the screen, then click Export and select CAD Format.
Ensure STL Files is selected from the Save as type drop down menu, then click Options. Under the Units dropdown, select millimeter.
Save the file on your computer and you’re done! It’s ready to be 3D printed.
While it will vary depending on where you 3D print your parts, with McMaster 3D Printing there’s no need to make one file containing all of your parts, if you have more than one. When printing, we can lay out parts on the print bed and move them around to make the best use of it’s space. Therefore, all you have to do is export each of your part files individually and upload all of the .stl files you’d like to have printed.
Note: If you are using other 3D printers, such as in the EPIC Lab, different guidelines apply and you may have to combine your parts and export them as one .stl file.
If you have a multi body part, there are a few options.
The first is to simply leave it as is and export one .stl. This may work if the bodies are close together, not touching, and share a bottom face for sitting on the print bed, but most of the time this isn't the best way to go. It’s better to split your multi body part file into it’s separate solids.
Exporting to .stl will only export visible solids, so the easiest way to export all your .stl files is to hide all solid bodies except one, export it, then go back and repeat for all the solid bodies in the part file. This will make your .stl files while leaving the part file the way it is.
Or, you could use the Make Part command under the Manage tab to turn a solid body into it’s own part file. This is useful for 3D printing, and for other situations when working with movable parts in assemblies.
In the Make Part dialogue box, expand the Solid Bodies folder and click the grey circle next to a solid body to include it. Make sure bodies you don’t want have a grey slash, and the one(s) you do want have a yellow plus. Give it a name, location, uncheck place part in target assembly, and click Apply.
Repeat for the other solid bodies, then export your new parts to .stl for printing.