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How to Create a Digital Model for 3D Printing


Zaxe Creating Digital Model for 3D Printing

3D printing is the process of turning a digital model into a 3D object using different methods. To even start printing, you will need a digital file of the model you want to turn into a physical object. Most people download the model file of the object they are going to 3D print from the internet and the idea of making one of your own will seem complicated. But the process is actually fairly simple if your design is also simple. This article will work as a guide to making your first 3D printing model.

Types of Digital Model Files

There are more than one file type for 3D printing. Each file type comes with its own abilities and restrictions. Depending on the 3D project you are working on, the needs of your specific design and the model of your 3D printer, the file type you are going to use might change.


STL stands for stereolithography and is one of the most popular file types for 3D printing. It is supported by most 3D printers on the market and is fairly easy to work with. STL's shortcoming is that it only supports one color but other than that it is completely fine for most models. If you are an inexperienced user and want to make your own digital file, this will probably be the one you want to work with.


Gcode files are a popular choice among experienced 3D printer users as it includes more than just the model, color, and texture for a 3D print. You can adjust anything from extruding starting points to extruder movements.


AMF stands for additive manufacturing file and is another good choice for 3D printer users. Unlike STL, it supports color. What makes it a good choice is that AMF file sizes are almost half of what they would usually be with STL.


VRML stands for "virtual reality modeling language" and is one of the newer types of files you can use for 3D printing. It will be a popular choice among people who need to use multiple colors on their 3D prints.

Software You Can Use

For this article, we will mostly focus on .stl files as this is a guide for making your first digital model and .stl is the most commonly supported file type and it is easy to work with.

Firstly, you will need CAD software. There are countless options on the market and some of them will be free. Each CAD tool comes with different features for varying experience levels. Some of the CAD software you can use are;

  • AutoCAD
  • Blender
  • Fusion 360
  • TinkerCAD
  • Meshmixer

How to Make a Digital Model File

The amount of time it takes to make a 3D printing file will mostly depend on the complexity of the model. In the future, when you are more experienced with CAD software, you can make more complex designs but for your first time, we suggest sticking to something simple.

Step 1

Download and install the CAD software if necessary. Some software comes with the convenience of being browser-based, so this step might be skipped, but usually, you will have to download the CAD tool from the original website and install it on your computer.

Step 2

Experiment with the tool and make your own design. The interface will change depending on the CAD software you are using at the moment but the fundamentals are usually the same. Start with a 3D shape example your software gives you and make changes to it however you like.

Step 3

Click the “Export” option on your CAD software. The software will ask you to choose the file types you are going to export your design as. As we have said .stl will be the safest option for you right now. After choosing your file type, export the file.


And just like that, you are done. Now you can put that model in the slicer of your choice and start turning it into a physical model using your 3D printer. Some of the options may vary from software to software but most of them will be intuitive enough for you to figure out on your own.

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