How to reduce the file size of an STL or OBJ for 3D printing

Reducing an STL file size
3D printing in Toronto

How to reduce the size of an STL for 3D printing

Using MeshLab to Decimate an STL file

The size of an STL file is determined by the complexity of the object and the resolution of the model, and it may vary depending on the file format being used.  In general, most 3D printers can handle STL files with a few million triangles, however larger files do not necessarily always mean better quality.  Most 3D printers have a limited amount of memory, so if the STL file is too large, it may not be able to be processed by the printer's firmware. In this blog post, we will discuss the best way to decimate large STL files for 3D printing.

STL files, the most common file format for 3D printing, are made up of a large number of triangles, which are used to create the surface of the model. The more triangles a model has, the larger the file size will be. This can cause problems when trying to print the model, as the file size may be too large for the printer to handle.

The solution to this problem is to decimate the model, which is the process of reducing the number of triangles in the model. Decimating a model can significantly reduce the file size, making it easier to print.

One of the best ways to decimate large STL files is to use a decimation software. There are many decimation software available, both paid and free. Some popular options include MeshLab, 3D Simplify, and Microsoft 3D Builder. These software allow you to import your STL file, and then decimate the file by reducing the number of triangles. In this guide we will break down how to do this using MeshLab.

MeshLab is a powerful and open-source software that can be used to decimate large STL files for 3D printing. Here are the general steps to use MeshLab to decimate a STL file:

  1. Download and install MeshLab on your computer.

  2. Open MeshLab and click on the "File" menu, then select "Open" to open the STL file that you want to decimate.

  3. Once the model is loaded, you will see it in the main window. Select the "Filters" menu and navigate to the "Remeshing, Simplification and Reconstruction" option.

  4. There are several options for decimating a model in MeshLab, but one of the most commonly used is the "Quadric Edge Collapse Decimation" filter. This filter allows you to reduce the number of triangles in the model by collapsing edges while preserving the overall shape of the model.

  5. To use this filter, select it and a new window will appear. In this window, you can set the number of faces that you want the model to have after decimation.

  6. Click on the "Apply" button to apply the filter. This may take a few minutes depending on the size of the model.

  7. After the decimation process is complete, you can preview the model to check the quality and make sure that it meets your standards.

  8. Once you are satisfied with the result, you can save the decimated model by clicking on the "File" menu and selecting "Save As".

It's important to note that MeshLab offers other filters and options for decimating a model, so you can experiment with different methods and find the one that works best for your specific model and printer. Also, it's a good idea to preview the model before printing to ensure that it meets your quality standards.

Another way to decimate large STL files is to use a 3D modeling software such as Solidworks, Rhino, or AutoCAD. These software allow you to import your STL file and then edit the model to reduce the number of triangles. This is a good option if you need to make changes to the model, in addition to reducing the file size.

It's important to note that decimating a model may cause a loss of detail or accuracy in the final print, so it's important to find the right balance between file size and print quality. It's also a good idea to preview the model before printing to ensure that it meets your quality standards.

In conclusion, decimating large STL files is a necessary step to ensure that your models can be printed successfully. Decimating can significantly reduce the file size and make it easier to print. It's important to use a decimation software or a 3D modeling software, and to find the right balance between file size and print quality.