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2021 Netfabb (CAD): All You Need To Know to Get Started

Among the very many free software that is provided by Autodesk, Netfabb is one.

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It was in November 2015, that Autodesk acquired the German company Netfabb GmbH, which was originally the company that developed Netfabb software solutions.  The software is meant for additive design and manufacturing.

The current situation is that Netfabb has already been considered by many to be one of the most important 3D print prep tools in the industry.

After acquiring this software solution provider, less than a year later, the software giant released its first Autodesk-branded versions of Netfabb.

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And after that, the company has followed up with Netfabb 2018. In this article, we are going to write a Netfabb review of the software.

Overall, Netfabb is a comprehensive toolkit for additive manufacturing professionals.

The software integrates design enhancement, manufacturing preparation, and build simulation tools in a single software environment that shares a common installer, common file formats, and process definitions.

Since the time Autodesk has acquired this software it has added powerful new capabilities like:

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  1. Inclusion of enhanced simulation.
  2. Optimization and
  3.  Advanced toolpath capabilities

These are the features that provide engineers and designers with a broad collection of additive design and manufacturing tools.

Let’s start this Netfabb review article with the version of Netfabb that was introduced in 2019.

Netfabb’s current version

Netfabb 2019 is available for download with big improvements in the areas of simulation and latticing, cloud storage, new machine workspaces, and new support actions.

For all of you who are not up to the mark with the updates on this software, as mentioned above Netfabb are Autodesk’s take on additive manufacturing and 3D design.

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As per the claims made by the website, it’s tailored for 3D printing, rapid prototyping, and additive manufacturing.

The software is used for preparing 3D files for printing and converting them to slice files which can then be used to give to 3D printers in terms of input for producing a specific outcome.

For helping you prepare for a 3D print, this software offers features that make editing, repairing, and analyzing 3D files easier.

As per the website, this software’s subscription packages start at around $300 a year for the standard package and go up to $6,000 a year for premium.

For the software’s version 2019.0, or July 2018 update, Autodesk has made sure to keep up to speed with the fact that 3D printing is being used more regularly as a production technology.

For finding the download version of the new software which is updated you have to visit the website of Autodesk and figure out the software from the available many.

After having looked at Netfabb’s current version, let’s get to see the overview of Netfabb in general in our Netfabb review article.

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Overview of Netfabb as a part of Netfabb review

Netfabb

After preparing three-dimensional files for printing, Netfabb converts them into 2.5-dimensional slice files.

All of these files consist of a list of two-dimensional slice layers.

What the software then does is, it includes tools for viewing, editing, repairing, and analyzing three-dimensional or slice-based files in various formats.

For performing the print preparation operations, this software uses a Stereolithography file format for creating a mesh of the part.

Three-dimensional corner point coordinates and flat triangles are something that the STL files of this software contain.

In this software, adjacent triangles in a model typically use common corner points and share edges.  As a result of which, what you get is a continuous triangle mesh.

It is because STL files do not contain any topological information concerning the mesh, so errors can occur when CAD files with different formats are converted to STL.

This software can be used to detect and repair these errors and then be utilized for creating a faultless mesh without holes, deformations, or intersections.

Slice files that are completely ready for additive manufacturing procedure can be converted from these meshes here onwards.

After getting to you the overview of this software in our Netfabb review article we will now get you through the new features that the current version of Netfabb offers to its users.

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Noteworthy Features of NetFabb

Although there are many features that the current version of Netfabb possesses, but below mentioned are the ones that we find really noteworthy.

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My Machines

My Machines NetfabbCredit: autodesk.com

The feature focuses on the daily needs for managing and operating multiple 3D printers at the same time.

Apart from this, what this feature also does is, it has had an overhaul of access to and management of machine workspaces.

Autodesk on its websites claims to have: “No more scrolling large lists of machines not in your arsenal, no more saving of empty projects to store machine settings!”

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Lattice Commander

Netfabb Lattice CommanderCredit: ytimg.com

If you have operated the prior version of Netfabb you would know how extensive changes and improvements were made here.

While updating the software, Autodesk took some time out and explained that the user interface has been reordered into three tabs. Thee are:

  1. Statistics and ways for creating or importing components.
  2. An overview tab for managing the selected component.
  3. A tab for managing, and working on, the selected body.

In this newer version, you also have a grid overlay that is kept in to help users visualize the division of space and a new body property that sets the role it plays when a part is generated from the component.

Giving out an explanation for this, Autodesk says: “We added a new function to generate a part from component bodies at the click of a single button.

While we were working on the Lattice Commander’s user interface, we also collated the different latticing tools into a common section of the project tree to have them all in one place.”

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3MF Support

3MF Support

The support has been improved for files with this extension. This step has come taking into account how large companies are working on replacing the STL format with 3MF files.

For making this transition happen, Netfabb is constantly striving to make 3MF files as easy as possible to use.

Technically this means that there is now an option in this software that can interpret components as groups.

So, when you are exporting 3MF files using this software, the software will see groups and apply them as components.

All you have to do is check the settings for changing this. In addition to this, support for large counts of parts and triangles has been improved.

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The Simulation Utility

Netfabb The Simulation UtilityCredit: autodesk.com

On its website, Autodesk lays out twelve changes that it has done to the simulation utility.

A few of these twelve include, a new “Getting Started” window that provides direct access to the Processing Parameter library.

In addition, users are warned if their graphics card is not suitable for running Sim Utility.

Additionally, processing parameter (PRM) files can be generated on the cloud, including hot spot and lack of fusion PRMs and browser information now includes the PRM details for each object and support and the material for each build plate.

lastly, new icons provide quicker access to operations such as editing, scaling, and opening the stored location of a PRM file.

After seeing the features which are upgraded in the Netfabb, let’s now look at the updated user interface and some of the specific tools in this Netfabb review.

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Updated User Interface and Toolset

Updated User Interface and Toolset

The interface of this software consists of a menu and toolbar across the top of the screen.

This is connected with panels that contain the project tree, cut plane, and content frames on the left and a large display area on the right.

The right part i.e. the display area allows you to view your model on the build platform while the left part i.e. project tree lists all parts, slices, and structures contained in the model.

Coming to the layout of the interface, it can be adjusted by resizing, repositioning, and even detaching frames and moving them around.

Although the user interface has changed after Netfabb was acquired by Autodesk, it is familiar to anyone who has used Netfabb in the past.

Tools that are a part of this interface enable you to reorient the display area and reorient parts that have been placed in the display area.

In addition to this, you can also easily adjust the size of the build platform and change it to match that of the hardware on which you will print the part.

Netfabb 2018 included an extensive library of machines that you can also specify your custom build platforms that are build by yourself.

The main functional capabilities lie presented in modules of Netfabb.

An example of this scenario is, there are modules for creating supports, repairing models, mesh manipulation, part analysis, labeling, part orientation, and so on, so you can see if you have a part or functional prototype that is complicated you can create that using this module.

Amongst these modules, each one loads its own components to the Netfabb interface and then changes the tools available in the menu and toolbar.

In addition, it also modifies the graphical representation of the part in the display area. Also, a new branch is created in the project tree for each loaded instance of a module.

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For Preparing parts to Manufacture

netfabb For Preparing parts to Manufacture

Once you are familiar with the updates that are mentioned in this Netfabb review, you can move onto the creation of real parts or functional prototypes via using those updated tools.

After the geometry has been read into Netfabb, the software permits you to fix errors in a triangular mesh that would otherwise make the part unsuitable for further printing preparation steps.

Netfabb is able to automatically repair parts for stitching triangles, close holes, fix flipped triangles, eliminate self-intersections, and so on.

The software also comes preloaded with some recipes of common repair sequences that are used for making parts and functional prototypes.

In customized cases, you can create your own recipes using a simple dialog.

If not that, you can also use manual repair tools to enhance the manufacturability of models, as well as manually cut out errors, and edit meshes.

Netfabb also allows you to compare repaired parts with the original model to determine deviations and verify build geometry.

Once the parts are repaired on Netfabb, you can save them in the STL format for 3D printing.

The other option is to use tools in Netfabb to analyze parts to make more informed estimates of the effort necessary to prepare parts.

To explain a bit more, parts can be compared, with differences displayed as heat maps.

The latter is also an effective way to compare an initial design with simulation data to see where and how much distortion will happen due to thermal effects during printing.

An option over here is also to analyze up- and down-skins to determine areas of the model that need to be supported, determine the center of gravity of parts, and so on.

For doing so, you can then use other tools to generate supports to hold parts in place and mitigate thermal effects during printing.

The software provides three main types of supports, namely:

  1. Bar,
  2. Polyline and
  3. Volume supports.

The point to note here is that the program handles support parametrically.

Support structures for parts or functional prototypes can be created with few or no manual steps and can be recreated whenever the arrangement of the parts changes.

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The Conclusion

Netfabb is a great software that is available to designers, students, and professionals in the field for 3D designing of parts as well as functional prototypes.

This Netfabb review article is something that you can make use of to better your understanding of the software and enhance it.

With the new updates, if there is a tool that you have missed out on, you can know about it from this review and apply it to better your 3D design.

Apart from that, it is useful for people who are currently looking to get a new 3D design software to compare it with other options.

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