After six years of learning how to prepare 3D-models for additive manufacturing, I think it is a good idea to offer my extensive knowledge in this field of especially colored (textured) 3D-models to the online community.
If you want to get your model 3D-printed and don’t know how to do that, or you know how to do that, but still can’t get it to work, mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll see what I can do for you. I offer a basic fixing service starting at 75 US Dollar for relative simple models, which I believe will solve most problems after which you can get your own 3D-print through a service like i.materialise or Shapeways. If you want, I can do this for you also.
I believe that the biggest rise in 3D-printed models for consumers in the near future, will not come from selfmade 3D-designs, but from scanned models with smartphone apps like 123D Catch and out of the vast online libraries such as Turbosquid and Google Sketchup, filled by (semi)professional 3D-designers. Consumers (such as myself;) will try to download and/or buy models, customise and combine them, and have them 3D-printed through online services.
The problem in printing most 3D-models that are scanned or found in online marketplaces, is that they simply can not be 3D-printed right away. Before that, they have to be ‘fixed’. Basically the 3D-model you want to print, has to be able to ‘exist’ in reality. This means that a model has to be ‘watertight’ and that nowhere in the model, there can be surfaces that have no ‘thickness’ (and are therefore infinately ‘thin’). To achieve this, you have to ‘repair’ 3D-models in a third-party software like MeshLab or Netfabb.
These software packages don’t however fix the parts of the model that are build up by ‘planes’. If you want to let these be recognized by the printer as ‘volumes’, you have to ‘thicken’ them. The thickening itself is problematic because it produces errors in the mesh and with complex shapes, it places heavy resources on your computer. The biggest problem however, is that it is very difficult to retain color information during the fixing process. As you can see in my portfolio and the attached images, I know exactly how to do that;)!