Form 1 = Use More Polygons

Here’s a tip on something I’ve noticed, particularly coming from the Makerbot/Reprap world.  The Form 1 has a ton more resolution than I was used to, even when printing at low layer heights, with Makerbot printers.  Before the Form 1,  I would normally save objects for printing with relatively low polygon counts–both because it sliced faster and because the Makerbot wouldn’t really show off the extra polygons anyway.

With the Form 1, I try to remember to save things with  much higher polygon counts, particularly when I’m exporting items from programs like ZBrush or Rhino.  That way, the curves and fine details really look good on the final print.  I’ve been doing 500k - 1mil polygon objects, but I’m still learning to see what the best balance is.  The Form 1 software does a good job, even with big models, so there’s not as much downside from exporting really high resolution objects.

And, of course, this all applies to objects I download too.  Just about everything I download from Thingiverse will print really well, but lots of times the model doesn’t have as much detail as I can do with the Form 1.  One fun thing I’ve done with these less detailed models is just to print them really small, which comes out great.  But I’ve also had really good luck with higher resolution models from other places online, like GrabCAD or the downloads section of Shapeways.  (  Many of these models were made from the start with professional-quality 3D printers in mind, so they often have a lot more detail.

Here’s a tip for applying smoothing filters to your parts to increase the number of triangles:

  1. Download MeshLab for free:

  2. Load your part, and experiment with Filters>Smoothing, Fairing and Deformation

These smoothng functions work particularly well for organically shaped parts.

When exporting from software that lets you specify deviation from the mesh to the model I usually specify tolerances of 0.01mm and 5degrees.  For example, see SolidWorks’s STL export  I think this ensures you are limited by the resolution of the machine rather than the STL.  Bits are cheaper than atoms :slight_smile:

For users who are in a corporate environment, I recommend a software called Transmagic. It has the ability to open and save files across multiple CAD platforms into universal formats like STEP, IGES, OBJ, Parasolid, and STL.

So, you’re thinking, “big deal. My CAD program can export to STL already”. Yes, but most CAD programs export STL using “adaptive faceting”. This type of algorithm is trying to evenly space elements throughout the model, typically for the purposes of performing an FEA analysis. To get better quality out of your 3D printer, you’re having to turn up the  resolution of the mesh, which can balloon the file size.

I’ve discovered Transmagic has an option to use “procedural faceting”. This algorithm is looking at the 3D and determining the intent of the geometry. For example, the resolution is cranked up around rounds and fillets and turned down on flat sufaces. This really helps put the emphasis on the features without having to generate a massively huge STL file.

I’ve attached 3 images - original, adaptive, and procedural so you cal see the differences in the mesh. It really makes a huge difference on other 3D printers I’ve used!


That’s a really good point.  I’ve also had good luck using the decimation tools in ZBrush which can do a kind of procedural faceting, putting the extra polygons where they belong.

What is the max polygon count the Form1 software can handle?

SAP (Deep Exploration) does a good job

Anyone with Geomagic / Sensable Freeform can attest to the great job their "Reduce for Export’ function does in decimating (reducing triangle count) adaptively.

The results are exceptional. Another alternative…