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Troubleshooting Tips: SolidWorks Color Exports for 3D Printing with the HP MJF 580 3D Printer

Kainon Irons

 

In this Help Article, we will look at three common issues you could come across when exporting a color file for 3D printing with SolidWorks and the HP MJF 580 3D printer. When prepping a file for color printing, one problem that can occur is that you may not realize your model has geometry issues that need to be auto-fixed using a special tool. The second issue is that after exporting your part file, you find out that the color is gone! The last issue is that colors can change from your Solidworks export to the 3D build manager import. Let's start off by addressing the first two issues:

Broken Geometry and Lost Color

To fix the first two issues, we need to bring in a middle man to fix the model and correctly export the color. I use two programs for problems like this. The first one will fix the vast majority of my file issues, and the good news is that this program is free! The first program is a Microsoft App called 3D Builder which works with 3MF color files. The next program is a much more robust file fixing and part nesting program called Materialise Magics which works with both 3MF and VRML files. I am going to cover how to quickly do this in 3D builder since most of you will have the ability to use this program. So let's take a look at how to do this with a controller example.

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First, we export as a 3MF from SolidWorks. Make sure when you “Save As” that you go into “Options” and click “Include appearances”. If your file has geometry issues you will get this message as the file exports:

 

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When you look in the folder you exported, you will see that in fact, SolidWorks did export a 3MF file. I do not understand why this happens but hey, that’s how it works! Take this 3MF export file and drag and drop into the 3D Builder.

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You will notice that an error message appears for our geometry with an offer to fix it. Go ahead and have the program fix your part file. Once your part file has been fixed, inspect the model to make sure everything still looks good and then save as a 3MF from 3D Builder.

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Now we take the 3MF file exported from 3D Builder and pull that into the HP Build Manager to send to print.

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When you have a successful export from SolidWorks that loses color in the Build Manager, go ahead and pull your SolidWorks 3MF Into 3D Builder and re-export. I have had this work for me in certain cases.

Changing Colors on 3MF Export (White to Gray)

If you are having trouble with colors changing from one model to another, our next tip may do the trick. A way to work around this issue is to export each colored element of the model as a different part file and then bring each part file into an assembly for the final export. For example, I recently had trouble exporting color on a white part that contained a red logo and a black QR code. When exported to a 3MF, the white part turned to gray but the logos and QR code stayed the same color. In order to fix this, I had to split the model into 3 different parts: The white body, the red logo, and the black QR code. I then brought these items into an assembly and exported as a single 3MF file. It worked! All of the colors turned out great with this strategy.

Note: I have not experienced this issue with the VRML file format, but the VRML file resolution capability was not high enough for my application. The end result was tesselated. A 3MF file will allow you to export at a higher resolution from SolidWorks. 

There you have it, I hope these quick tips will help you export quality color models for 3D printing. If you would like to see how you can start producing your own color parts, feel free to contact us at Hawk Ridge Systems today!

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