How to Reduce the File Size of .STL and .OBJ 3D Models (Part 2)

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What export setting should I choose to get a small, high-quality 3D file?

In many 3D modeling programs, you will be asked to define the maximum tolerance, precision or deviation of your STL export. This tolerance is defined as the maximum distance between the original shape and the STL mesh you are exporting. So if you choose the right tolerance here, you can be sure that your exported STL mesh will be perfectly printable and won’t look pixelated.

It is advised to choose a tolerance of 0.01 millimeters for a good export. Exporting with a tolerance smaller than 0.01 mm does not make sense because 3D printers cannot print this level of detail. When exporting a file with a tolerance larger than 0.01 mm, triangles might become visible in the 3D print.

What to do if your software doesn’t allow you to reduce the size of your 3D file?

File size is mostly a problem for programs that use NURBS modeling (meaning they express mathematical models). These programs typically allow you to set the quality of the .STL file in one way or another.

Some 3D modeling programs, however, do not offer an option to choose a tolerance for your .STL export, or any other tool to reduce the polygon count. In this case, take your high-detail size-heavy 3D file and continue editing it in another program.

For example, you can give the free 3D modeling program Meshmixer a try. Choose the ‘Select’ tool from the menu on the right, then double-click on your model (this will select your entire mesh). Then click on the ‘Edit…’ option and select ‘Reduce’.

You can now reduce the polygon count using several options. The best working choice is to use the percentage tool. It will immediately tell you by how much percent your file size (and polygon count) has been reduced.


Created by Fabian in

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