3D Printing Tutorial

MeshMixer Tutorial for 3D Printing Beginners

MeshMixer Tutorial

This MeshMixer Tutorial for 3D Printing Beginners will show you how to use Autodesk Meshmixer and how to make your model ready to print in 11 easy steps.

First of all, you will need to download and install Autodesk MeshMixer.

MeshMixer Tutorial – Step 1:  Import your 3D model

Now, you need to import the 3D model file you want to optimize: Start MeshMixer and click on Import in the middle of the window. Next, select the file you want to edit. Autodesk MeshMixer supports the four most common mesh file types: .STL, .OBJ, .PLY, and .AMF.

MeshMixer Tutorial – Step 2: Set the print space

When using MeshMixer you can either choose your printer from a list or, if not listed, enter the printer properties manually.

  1. Click on Print in the bottom left corner.

    Optimize 3D Models: Click on Print to switch to the print window.
    Click on Print to switch to the Print window.

  2. Click on Printer Properties.

    Optimize 3D Models: You can add your own printer or select one from the existing list.
    You can add your own printer or select one from the list.

  3. Select Settings in the Printer Properties window.
  4. Now switch to the Printers tab and click Add New Printer. This will return you to the Printer Properties.
  5. You can now name the printer and select Process of printing.
  6. Set the size of your Print Space measured from the bottom center of the build plate or a bottom corner.

    Optimize 3D Models: Add the settings for your printer.
    Add the settings for your printer.

  7. Set the Thickness Threshold to 1.
  8. Click on Add to list your 3D Printer so you can work with it in the digital print space.
  9. To leave the printing area click on the arrow in the top right corner.

MeshMixer Tutorial – Step 3: Learn the basic movements

  • Press the central mouse button to pan
  • Press Shift+central or right mouse button to orbit
  • Press Ctrl+central mouse button or scroll with the wheel to zoom.

MeshMixer Tutorial – Step 4: Move your model

Optimize 3D Models: Use the Transform tool to move your model.
Use the Transform tool to move your model around. It is not final though and you can place it on the build plate later on.

Click the Edit button on the left and select Transform. Here you can change basic placement data of the object or move and rotate it manually. You do not have to try to place it perfectly on the build plate! Autodesk MeshMixer will place it planar in the print preview.

Manual placement

  1. Check the Enable Snapping box at the bottom of the Transform window. You can change the Snap Step to the accuracy you need for placing objects.
  2. Click and drag one of the arrows to move the object alongside an axis.
  3. The quarter circles will rotate the object.
  4. To scale your model, click and drag the withe cube in the center to scale it uniformly. To stretch the model to one side, click and drag the square at the end of the arrows.
  5. Shift your model alongside a plane by click and dragging the triangles.

Data transformation

  1. Select either the Local or World Frame coordinate system – whichever suites you best.
  2. You can rotate the object onto a flat side by setting the different rotate axis to a certain degree or using the red, green and blue arrows to rotate it manually. Click on accept when your object is placed on a flat side. In the next point you will clip it to the ground, so do not worry if it protrudes.
  3. Now click on the Align command directly under Transform. You will have to try different settings until the object is placed correctly on the build plate, as every model has a different geometry.
  4. Set the Source to Basepoint or to Surface point and try the different axis in the next option. You can also check flip if the object is placed below the build plate. Click on accept to confirm.

MeshMixer Tutorial – Step 5: Check if your 3D model is watertight

Holes in the objects mesh can cause your 3D print to fail. Holes occur due to unintentional deleting or mistakes during saving/importing. MeshMixer has a handy tool that spots and repairs those holes.

  1. Click on Analysis, and then Inspector.

    Optimize 3D Models: MeshMixer can repair minor mistakes in the mesh. As soon as the sphere turns red you will have to do the fixing on your own...
    MeshMixer can repair minor mistakes in the mesh. As soon as the sphere turns red you will have to do the fixing on your own…

  2. You can now see all the holes highlighted in blue and a blue ball connected to them. If the ball and area is marked red, the hole is not manifold. That means you can fix this hole only by editing the object manually.
  3. Left click on a blue ball to repair the hole.  If the missing triangle is too complicated to fix, the ball will turn grey. Do not click on a red ball or Autofix when your object has a hole that is not manifold! If you do so, the program will cause havoc to your object! Try to export the model from your CAD or mesh editiong program again.

MeshMixer Tutorial – Step 6: Create a solid model

It is now time to turn the mesh into a solid.

  1. Click on Edit, and then Make Solid.

    Optimize 3D Models: Make Solid keeps the walls from getting paper-thin.
    Select Make Solid to avoid paper-thin walls.

  2. Select Solid Type. Now you can decide between different levels of accuracy to transform the mesh. Choose Fast, as this is pretty precise and also fast to process.

    Optimize 3D Models: Higher accuracy requires more processing power.
    Higher accuracy requires more processing power.

  3. Set Color Transfer Mode to Automatic.
  4. You can now adjust Solid Accuracy. This setting will connect generated cells to each other. Higher accuracy means a better detection of gaps but it will also take longer to process. First, set Accuracy to about 100. You can either use the slider or click on the value next to it and change it by typing.
  5. Change Mesh Density to 100 as well. This will determine edges. If you enter a smaller number, edges will be projected as chamfers.
  6. Offset Distance allows you to make your object thicker or thinner. The filament you are printing is always going to shrink when it cools down. PLA shrinks by up to 1.5% and ABS in some cases by up to 5%! So if you know the percentage of how much your filament is going to shrink, you can add some material to your object. If accuracy is no big issue and if you have a rather small object, just leave accuracy at zero. Click on Accept to continue.

MeshMixer Tutorial – Step 7: Make your model hollow

Sometimes when printing big models with a big volume, you might want to save time and material. This step will show you how to hollow your object.

Optimize 3D Models: This tool will save you time and money!
This tool will save you time and money!
  1. Click on Edit, and then Hollow (right below the Make Solid command).
  2. After processing, you will see the object as a see-through and with black pockets, representing the hollowed out area.
  3. You can now change the Offset. This will determine the thickness of the walls. But remember: Do not make the walls too thin or else the print might collapse. Walls should be a minimum of 1mm.
  4. Solid Accuracy and Mesh Density will improve the smoothness and the accuracy of the holes. The difference between a medium and a high quality setting is a noticeable but not much of an improvement. Higher quality will take a lot longer to calculate, though. So for a fast and good result it is best to pick about 250 for Accuracy and 100-150 for Mesh Density.
  5. Leave the other settings at their defaults and click Accept to proceed.

MeshMixer Tutorial – Step 8: Place for printing

  1. Click on Print in the bottom left corner.

    Optimize 3D Models: Do select the solid model!
    Make sure you select the solid model!

  2. Here you can see the 3D object file you imported in first place followed by the solid model you created. Click on the little eye next to the object’s name to hide or show it. The imported file should be hidden. If not, hide it and select the solid model.
  3. Now click on Transform to place your object on the build plate. Once again you can use the arrows to move and scale the model or change the coordinates. When rotating the model it is easier to use the Rotate by 90° option found below the current coordinate display.
  4. Click on Move to Platform.
  5. Fit to Volume will stretch the object to the entire build space evenly.
  6. Click Done when you placed and scaled the model.

MeshMixer Tutorial – Step 9: Check for stability & durability

Since you created a solid object and checked if your object is watertight it shouldn’t need any further repairs. However, you can still check the stability and potential breakage.

  1. Click on the little wrench and screwdriver next to Model repaired.
  2. Click on Strength to highlight weak spots of the print. In many cases those weak spots will not break, however, you should think twice about them.

    Optimize 3D Models: Stability
    The green sphere indicates correct placement on the build plate.

  3. Now switch to the Stability check right next to Strength. A green sphere indicates correct placement on the build plate. The red rectangle shows the connected area. If you see a red sphere instead, you will need to rotate and move the print into a more stable position by using the Transform feature.

MeshMixer Tutorial – Step 10: Add supports

Optimize 3D Models: Have MeshMixer add supports
Let Autodesk MeshMixer add supports to the model.
  1. If the model is placed correctly, you can now click on the Add supports button and let MeshMixer calculate the best support placement for your object.
  2. To tweak the support setting, click on the little icon next to Add supports. Here you either select your settings or choose one from the support list, e.g. Makerbot or Ultimaker.
  3. Click on Convert to Solid, and you’re done.

MeshMixer Tutorial – Step 11: Print your 3D model

Now your 3D model is optimized and ready for printing! If you own a printer in the list, you can send it directly to the printer’s original slicing program by pressing Print. You can also export the file and open it in the slicing program of your choice. Autodesk MeshMixer also has the option to directly send the model three online 3D printing services: Sculpteo, i.materialise and Shapeways.

Congratulations! You have finished this MeshMixer tutorial.