Jan 15, 2018
One of the benefits of Ultimaker Cura is the ability for users to extend the core functionality of the software to streamline the 3D printing workflow. Users can experiment and deploy modifications to Ultimaker Cura to integrate different software, read custom file formats, add custom menu items, and more. Plugin development is open to all users, who can add functions to the software as they see fit.
A tool for product designers and engineers worldwide
One currently available plugin is SolidWorks integration. The SolidWorks integration plugin is an example of a file reader extension - a plugin that can read a file format from a different software package.
SolidWorks is a prominent industry standard design suite, used by more than 3,246,750 product designers and engineers worldwide, representing 240,010 organizations across industrial, medical, scientific, consumer, educational, technology, and transportation sectors. Therefore, the ability to extend the functions of Ultimaker Cura to integrate SolidWorks has wide-reaching implications for organizations who have adopted 3D printing.
Bridging the gap
Objects designed in SolidWorks have proprietary file formats. Designs are made up of parts (.sldprt) which form assemblies (.asm). In the past, to prepare a SolidWorks design for 3D printing, it first had to be exported in a proprietary .stl format, where it could be opened in Ultimaker Cura, positioned on the build plate, sliced into layers and exported again as a gcode to be 3D printed.
Ultimaker Cura’s SolidWorks integration plugin sidesteps the need to convert files. When installed, the SolidWorks integration plugin performs two key functions:
- Users can open .sldprt or .asm files directly in Ultimaker Cura, as you would open any other file. The user can select the quality of the imported file, where it will be loaded on the build plate at the same scale and orientation as it was in SolidWorks.
- Users can add an “Export to Ultimaker Cura” button to the SolidWorks interface so that designs can be quickly ‘pushed’ from SolidWorks to Ultimaker Cura.
Easier design iteration
An additional advantage of the SolidWorks integration plugin is faster exporting when revising a design.
Suppose that, after an initial prototype, a design needs to be altered - a tolerance fit part is too tight, or a revision needs to be made for compliance reasons. With the SolidWorks integration plugin, all that is necessary is to revise the design, click the “Export to Ultimaker Cura” button inside the SolidWorks interface, and the plugin will open Ultimaker Cura with the latest design iteration in place.
The entire workflow is outlined in this screencast: