Enclosed is a model Airplane Engine Prototype that was developed in Autodesk Inventor and printed out using the MakerBot. I made it at TechShop ( http://www.techshop.ws ). The following steps detail how to take digital Inventor files and generate real "hold in your hand" prototype parts using a 3D printer.
Step 1: Develop Your Design in Autodesk Inventor.
Develop your design in autodesk inventor. While developing and utilizing autodesk inventor is outside the scope of this instructable, it is interesting to know that a part that is made in Autodesk Inventor can be printed out using a MakerBot and the following steps.
Step 2: Export Files to STL Format
Using Inventor, export the file to an STL format. This is accomplished by clicking on File -> Export -> Cad Format. In the CAD dialog box, select STL in the Save As type drop down box. (See image below).
Step 3: Import File Into MakerWare
Using MakerBot, open the MakerBot software. Open up the appropriate STL file. See image below.
Step 4: Place the Virtual Part on the Table
Open the STL file using the steps below. A dialog box will pop up and ask you if you would like to place on the table, select "YES". Then follow the next steps.
4.1 Click on the Make It button.
4.2 Select Support and Raft check boxes.
4.3 Select Medium as the print quality.
4.4 Click on "Export"
4.5 This will generate an X3G file.
4.6 Save a copy of the "X3G" file that the MakerBot software converted from the STL file onto the SD card.
4.7 Turn on the MakerBot hardware, if not already done.
4.4 After the system has initialized, place the SD card into the SD card slot on the MakerBot.
4.5 Using the multiselect button on MakerBot (model MakerBot Replicator 2), select "BUILD FROM SD CARD".
4.6 Scroll down to the X3G file and press the button to select.
4.7 The heater will turn on and will start to print the object in about 45-60 seconds.
Step 5: Wait About 15-30 Minutes and Then DONE.
The image below is a picture of the finished part (after the support material has been removed).
Step 6: Final Thoughts
It is amazing that it is possible to "print" out parts that previously existed only as zeros and ones in a computer file. Also using this technique before actually milling and lathing the part has helped to find errors in the design that I will fix later.
Below is an image of all the parts. The total printing time of the project was about 4 hours.