This instructable is designed to help users through the process of designing and printing an object using a 3d modeling program and an online 3D printing service. In this tutorial I will use Autodesk 3DS Max because that is the program I use and know best, but there are plenty of free alternatives that can be used.

Some recommended free alternatives include Blender and Google Sketchup. Any software settings or commands I discuss should have relatively similar processes in both of those programs or any other 3d modeling program, but if not a quick search with your favorite search engine should yield some helpful results. Nothing I discuss will be very complicated.

The 3d printing service I use is called Shapeways. They have a large selection of materials and a great user support base, as well as frequent updates to their website and material library, and low prices. (Very important!) However, there are many options out there and it is up to you to decide which one you like best.

Step 1: Set Up the Modeling Program

It is very important to adjust your program's settings before beginning. You want to ensure that your units are correct so that your model is printed at the correct scale. Your grid lines should also be set up so that you can easily create and manipulate your model based on the preferred units.

I always like to work in metrics. Even though I am American, I find that metrics make the design process simpler and it makes scaling models easier. It is also easier to work at small scales using millimeters as opposed to inches. This is useful not only because many 3d printed models are small and/or detailed, but it helps you stay conscious of your maximum wall thickness and other measurements, which I will discuss later.

In 3ds Max, it is very easy to change the units settings. Simply go to Customize>Units setup. There you can change which unit category you want to work in, as well as which unit will be the base unit. (The base unit is which specific unit measurements are based around. For instance, if I have my base unit set to cm and I create a 1 cm x 1 cm x 1 cm box, the box's size will be shown as 1 x 1 x 1. But if I change my base units to mm, the box's size would now be shown as 10 x 10 x 10, even though the physical size of the box never changed.)

To change the system units, which are the units that rulers and grid lines are displayed in, press the "System unit setup" button, located at the top of the units setup screen. By default, it is set to 1 unit = 1 inch. I like to change this so that 1 unit = 0.1 [unit I'm working in]. This is because each grid line represents 10 units, so that way each grid line becomes 1 unit. But feel free to change it to whatever works best for you. I recommend keeping the unit in the same measuring system (metric, generic, etc) as you are working in.
Very good idea but what program are you using.<br>
I'm using Autodesk 3DS Max 2009 in this instructable. It's an expensive program, but students can get it for free for 14 months. I use it because that's what we use in my animation class, but you could get Blender for free and do it, or SketchUp.
how do you send the .max file to shapeways??
Shapeways doesn't support .max files. To upload your file you must export to a different format (as described in step 4).
All dont forget the opensource REPRAP!!! 3d printer - www.reprap.org
I am a blender and shapeways user. This workflow and business model changed everything for me. Thanks for making and sharing this (I'll share it with other aspiring 3D entrepreneurs).
Also, netfabb is a very useful piece of software that can help check models for printability (free version is fine). It'll show you and repair holes in the mesh, allow you to measure in real world units, and give you a good idea if shapeways can print it before uploading.
Netfabb is an amazing piece of software. I highly recommend that anyone who plans on trying 3d printing download it. However, it is important to remember that it is no substitute for proper modeling workflow and clean geometry. If there are hundreds of large errors in your mesh it might be worth reconsidering your modeling technique. Most modeling programs have a feature that lets you check for holes, double faces, etc. before you export, to hopefully minimize the post-processing in Netfabb. In 3ds Max it is the stl check modifier, but I'm not sure what that would be for other programs.<br><br>Anyway, I still recommend checking out Netfabb for everyone: http://www.netfabb.com/
I'm glad I could help!
I use Maya &amp; Blender. (Blender is far superior with text)<br>Very happy with Shapeways.<br>Waiting for my 499$ 3D printer.....coming in February!!<br>Kickstarter PrintRbot<br><br>http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/printrbot/printrbot-your-first-3d-printer?ref=users
Awesome!!!!!<br><br>I would love to see it added to the 3D print group I have just started<br><br>https://www.instructables.com/group/3Dprint/<br><br>Thanks

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