Preform .form to .stl export

I think having an export/save as .stl format would greatly benefit users. Preform is a great nesting program for our dental lab but if we want to export/save files as .stl files for other 3D printers it’s not possible right now. I believe adding an export option to Preform would be a great addition to the program but seeing as this program is solely suited for Formlabs’ printers I can see why it may not be an option plus it’s a free program so maybe I’m asking too much. :dizzy_face:


I can certainly understand why Formlabs does not have the export function. However I (and at least a couple others) have run into the instance where I lost my STL for whatever reason (data loss, accidental deletion, etc.) and the .form file was my only remaining version of the file. Luckily in my case I could easily re-create my object, but an export function could be beneficial in some cases.

1 Like

Curiosity is getting the better of me here… If you created the file in CAD, how is it you can’t export another stl?

1 Like

Exporting a STL from PreForm with supports in place is only good for another FormLabs printer in which case a FORM file is as good or better. Exporting a STL from PreForm without supports is pointless, since you had to have a STL without supports to import in to PreForm to begin with. What would be the point? You just end up with what you started with. I don’t get it.

Kevin, I hear what you’re saying, and please don’t take this the wrong way, but… “Backups”? Asking for a feature to be added to PreForm to help you recover a model because you didn’t have backups, I don’t really get that either.

I probably didn’t explain it correctly in my original post but I would want to export it with the supports on it. For example our other 3D printer needs an extra step/program (Netfabb basic) to add nodes to our dental models which involves a lot of clicking and is quite tedious then we add supports/nest the object in another program similar to Preform. I was thinking it would make things so much easier if both of our 3D printers could use Preform and take out the step of adding nodes all over the model. I hope that makes sense. :grin:

That is very unfortunate Kevin and I can see why that would be a helpful function in that case. I didn’t even think of that. :open_mouth:

One long-winded possibility - if no other options exist, is to use OpenFL, get the sliced FLP file and stack it up again into a whole object, then export to STL.
It will have to be smoothed out at the very least!

@rclaborne @Randy_Cohen Imagine you are me. It’s Friday afternoon and you have to get a print finished by Monday morning. Since you are me, you don’t know how to use any 3D CAD program any more than you know how to transalte ancient Aramaic into Latin. The guy who emails you your STLs is in another country (Mexico) and already home for the weekend. You have in your posession a only a .form file, you really wish you could export to an STL because your boss wants you (me) to make one very small edit, then reimport and print.

In the above scenario (which really did happen) we were forced to have me spend an hour or two learning 123Design and recreate the item to close enough to exact specs where no one noticed. It was a pretty simple item iirc, something like a very simple soap dish with rounded corners.

EDIT: all of that being said I can see how my case is completely an edge case and not a reason by itself to add this functionality. But the ability to export your supports and then edit them in another app…that seems like it could be very valuable…albeit edge case as well.

1 Like

You’re short-changing yourself, owning a 3D printer and not having any CAD skills. Without the ability to create objects to print, your printer is basically a glorified copy machine. And you can’t modify objects that someone else has created, for example, to fix a problem that’s preventing you from printing it successfully.

When I’m starting a new project, I will often look for something in the public domain that’s close to what I want, and then modify it. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel. But you can’t do this without at least some rudimentary CAD skills, either.

Programs like 123D or SketchUp are free and, at least for the kinds of things you’d be printing with a FL printer, more than capable. It’s well worth the investment in time and effort to learn one of these tools. They’re good for 99% of what a FL printer might print and have a much shallower learning curve (and price) than something like SolidWorks.

1 Like

There is no way to get the STL file with supports out of preform to use in other SLA printers? It would be nice to be able to evaluate preforms support ability with my current printer as part of the decision of switching to a form printer. Open-ness is important to me, as once I get a workflow that works, I don’t want to be forced into any specific path with a company.

1 Like

Conversely, if FormLabs’ support system is superior they’d be crazy to give PreForm an export capability that would enable the use of their free software with other manufacturer’s printers. Especially when adding such a feature would only be of benefit to a narrow slice of their customer base.

That’s what I’d assume, doesn’t hurt to ask though! :smile:

Lots of people find STL export function useful, even maybe just to have a model repaired and keep it in a stl “repaired” version. If formlabs made preform usable in some extra cases like this they would be as crazy as autodesk is being with meshmixer, giving out amazing functionalities to everybody, including formlabs users, that can hollow a model only using autodesk technology as of now. Generally speaking, open is good, closed is bad. Especially for the 3d printing ecosystem. | sure would love to see that happen. Plus I can’t see how it would hurt FL. I find it at least bold how they close their software up with no export capabilities, and when you need to hollow the model you are pointed at meshmixer that shows you how other companies are more open and prone to grow the industry.

1 Like

123Design is no longer supported by AutoCad.
I’m now using Rhino5.

But I see his point. I think that FL made preform a one-way program on purpose so as to avoid any remodeling headaches of have to support a CAD program too.

The did not make it a one way program; it is what it is. They are not going to implement this feature because it’s not their job to fix the shortcomings of other people’s software or oddball workflows.

Well it does fix models that it determines need fixing so isn’t that fixing the shortcomings of the print.?

Personally I think the reason for the lack of export, is they wanted to allow people to share their prints with others, but prevent “reverse engineering”. By reverse engineering I mean the ability to extract the model, and modify it in anyway.

This is a very neat way to allow others access/sharing, but prevent future copyright squabbles. You can print it, but that’s about it.

1 Like

PreForm uses technology licensed from NetFabb. I don’t think it’s exactly the same as the freeware version of NetFabb, I’ve had situations where NetFabb said a part was good and PreForm said it was bad, and the other way around. Mostly, I run my models through NetFabb and they load in to PreForm cleanly.

1 Like

The only thing that the Internal engine seems to do is close holes, and get rid of degenrate triangles, which usually accounts for most of the non-manifold surfaces.

It doesn’t do any Boolean operations. So if your model has a lot of intersecting faces and such, it will be printed as such.

If you truly want to have an error free model, and can’t afford the price of the Pro version of NetFabb, you should try other tools like Meshmixer. One of the reasons you’ll want to Boolean unify your model, is so you can hollow it out properly prior to printing.

Another option that the program formlabs would have to have the Mirror is very lacking not having an option of that.Sem título