Preparing Files with FlashPrint

Printing on the Finder

The Finder can print tethered or untethered. Tethered means that the Finder is physically connected to your computer, such as by the USB cable whereas untethered printing is when the printer doesn’t need to be physically connected. The ability to print untethered is one of the reasons that we like the Finder so much for educator use.

Regardless of what method you use, you’ll still need to prepare files the same way in Flashprint. Remember, the Finder can’t read a .stl file directly, so you’ll always have to import the file into FlashPrint first and then export the .gx file for the Finder. This section will provide an overview of the general slicing process as well as each printing method.

flashprint interface screenshot with low poly owl

Loading Files

The first step is to have an .stl file! Once you have the file, you’re ready to import it into FlashPrint. The software supports a few different ways to import the .stl. Let’s walk through some of them.

Method One: Drag and Drop

Perhaps the most direct way of importing a .stl file is to drag and drop it into FlashPrint. Here are the steps for this process:

  1. Locate the .stl file on your computer. If I know that I’m dragging and dropping a .stl file I typically keep it on the desktop or downloads folders for quick access.
  2. Click the file and hold down the left mouse button and drag the file into FlashPrint:flashprint drag and drop low poly owl stl
  3. Once the file is inside FlashPrint, release the left mouse button. Once this happens, you’ll likely be prompted to place the file to the platform. Click Yes to proceed:
    flashprint loading low poly owl drop platform
  4. The .stl file is now loaded onto the platform! Depending on the size of the file you may need to adjust the scaling to fit it on the Finder’s bed.
  5. Click the Print button once you’ve positioned the model on the bed. After this point, any changes you make in FlashPrint (such as scaling or bed position) will require you to repeat this process.
    flashprint model with print button highlighted
  6. After clicking the Print button you’ll be presented with slicing options. Select the quality setting you want (Low or Standard are recommended for most prints) and select Preview or Print When Slice Done:
    flashprint print options visible
  7. After you select the settings click the OK button to slice the file for printing. Choose Preview if you plan to save the output .gx file to a USB drive. If you’re printing tethered with WiFi or USB cable, select the Print When Slice Done option.
  8. Choose a destination to save the output file and you’re ready to go! Note that if you’re printing via USB drive, you’ll want to choose the USB drive as the destination.

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Process Overview

The Finder is unable to read a .stl file as it is. The model needs to be sliced and then output as G-Code for the printer. It may be helpful to review the Design to Print Workflow, especially for the first few times that you use FlashPrint.

You’re going to have three files to manage during this process:

  1. The .stl file: This is the model that you exported from design software such as Tinkercad. Remember, the .stl is similar to a wireframe or mesh and contains structural information about the model. There is no color information included.
  2. The .gx file: This is the printer readable file format that results from the slicing software. In this case, we’re using FlashPrint to slice and control the Finder. You’ll want to save the .gx file to a USB drive if you plan on printing via that method. Any .gx files you save to a USB drive will be readable when inserted into the Finder. STL files located in the USB drive will NOT show up when searching through the USB drive when it’s in the Finder.
  3. The .fpp file: The .fpp is the FlashPrint project file. If you plan to revisit the project at a later time, you’ll want to save this. You can do that by going to File->Save Project. The .fpp file can be reloaded by FlashPrint and contains modifications that you’ve made to your model, such as scaling and rotations.

You’ll determine what methods of file management work best for you. I tend to keep my .fpp and .stl files in a folder on my computer and then save a copy of the .gx into that same folder as well as on the USB drive. This way I have a backup of all of the files incase I ever lose the USB.

Note that if you make changes to your model, such as changing the size, you’ll need to re-slice and output another .gx file.

Happy printing!

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