MatterControl has gone through some major changes to deliver to you the first of its kind design, prepare, and print software for any Maker. From a facelift to improved slicing operations, the experience of using MatterControl is what you've grown to love with even more robust features. One of the biggest changes is the ability to design and model within MatterControl using "Design Tools." These tools will allow you to add and subtract together basic objects to create interesting and complex designs. To give you the best start with Design Tools, I'm going to give a tour of what it is, how it works, and what you can do with it. Let's jump in!

When you start MatterControl, you have a series of folders and shapes to pick from. The folders you can find are:

  • Design Apps
    • Pre-built models you can customize, whether it's a business card holder with your name on it or a keychain with your favorite superhero logo.
  • Downloads
    • Your computer's downloads folder. Subfolders and files of the appropriate format (STL, etc) will appear here.
  • History
    • Here you have a history of various parts, slices, and print history.
      • Part History is a list of parts that were created or modified within the part designer plate in MatterControl
      • Plating History is a list of any models that have been placed on a printer's build plate across all of your printer profiles.
      • Print History will show you any print jobs that were started using MatterControl directly connected through USB or Wifi. It will show print jobs in yellow if they were canceled, green if they finished, their print time, print percentage, and date and time the print started and ended. 
  • Library
    • Library has several subfolders that are auto-populated or user generated.
      • Calibration Parts is a collection of parts we have added so you have quick access to a variety of prints to calibration your printer's slice settings.
      • Cloud Library is a folder that will follow you wherever you go; upload 3D models and have them ready to download at a moment's notice without having to scavenge the Internet and find them again.
      • Local Library is a folder you can use to organize 3D models, but it's tied directly to your computer and will not be accessible anywhere like the Cloud Library.
      • Print Queue is a legacy folder, and will carry over any files you may have left behind in your print queue from MatterControl 1.7
      • Purchased includes all the 3D models you have downloaded through the MatterHackers Design Store. When you click "Add to Library" this is where it goes. This includes both free and paid for models from the Design Store.
      • Shared with Me has all the models that friends have shared with you. You have "read only" access to these models which just means any changes you make on your computer will only affect you and not their original model.
  • SD Card
    • If you are directly connected to your 3D printer through MatterControl and your printer has an SD card/USB drive loaded into it, this folder will display any STLs or Gcodes that are on it.
There's a lot of support on the Home Screen, from help guides to links for ordering more filament.
There's a lot of support on the Home Screen, from help guides to links for ordering more filament.

In the side bar, the biggest difference is the full array of modeling "primitives," the term for the basic shapes that can be used to create more complex and creative models. All primitives can be modified in the basic width, depth, and height, but some of them have more advanced options. For example:

  • Cone can have its diameter, height, and sides modified, but sides will round down to the nearest whole number.
  • Cylinder can have a different top diameter or be cut up like a pie chart with different start and end angles.
  • Ring can have the inner diameter and outer diameter changed to make thicker or thinner rings.

There are many different ways you can utilize these features to make some incredible objects, but these are just the basics so be creative and figure how to mash these together to make just the right shape.

Each primitive can be modified in some way with most having unique options for customization.
Each primitive can be modified in some way with most having unique options for customization.

Now that we have the basic models understood, we can talk about what really makes Design Tools tick: the functions to combine, alter, and subtract different parts to make one intricate part. At the basic level, you can organize and break down models using a couple tools.

  • Group and ungroup is self explanatory; if you select multiple models you can group them together into one modifiable group (which is helpful when scaling up or down a set of models) or take one group and break it down into its parts with ungroup.
  • Duplicate and remove will duplicate the selected part or parts and place it in the same position as the original and remove will delete all selected parts.
Group is really helpful when you're trying to scale up a group of models and keep the scale factor consistent
Group is really helpful when you're trying to scale up a group of models and keep the scale factor consistent

More advanced but still introductory tools can be found in the next section of the top bar. These will allow you to better place your parts around each other for things like plate optimization, support structures, or simplifying prints by ensure the flattest surface is on the bottom.

  • Align is the first major tool you can use, but at least two models need to be selected to make it work. With it, you can treat models the same way you would use justification in word processors (left justified, center, etc). You can use this to make sure your two or more parts are perfectly aligned along X, Y, or Z or even use the advanced options to make two parts offset from aligned.
  • Lay flat simply drops the part to the surface Z0 plane and with a slightly rounded object will do its best to find the flattest face that's already oriented toward Z0.
  • Make support is really cool; with it you can turn any model into support material. This means you can drag a cube into a hole in the side of a model and have only that supported, rather than turning auto-supports on and be limited to buildplate only supports (which wouldn't cover that side hole) or have support everywhere (which depending on the model could be way more than necessary.
Customizable support gives you full control over just what parts of your 3D model is supported.
Customizable support gives you full control over just what parts of your 3D model is supported.

The next section gives you even more advanced functionality. This is how you will actually be able to modify and create new objects, shapes, and models.

  • Combine will take two selected parts that are overlapping and merge them into one printable part. Drop a sphere on top of a cone and create an ice cream cone that's one complete model.
  • Subtract will take two selected parts that are overlapping and ask which one should be subtracted from the other and turn that part transparent once you've selected it. Click update to put it in effect and cut out part of your model.
  • Intersect will take two selected parts that are overlapping and keep only the part that is shared in space between the two. Drag a cube into half of a sphere, click intersect, and have yourself one hemisphere of the sphere left behind.
  • Subtract and Replace will take two selected parts that are overlapping and ask which one should be subtracted from the other and rather than completely remove it, instead it cuts along that boundary. Effectively you create a dual extrusion model because the walls are perfectly flush with each other. Use subtract and replace to cut out a logo from a cylinder, then move the part to have a perfect fit inlay.
Combine and Subtract will be doing the bulk of the work when you're designing in MatterControl
Combine and Subtract will be doing the bulk of the work when you're designing in MatterControl

When you want to create a repeating shape, the array section is where you're going to look. Whether you wants your parts in evenly spaced rows, a circular pattern, or a mix of the two, these are the tools you need.

  • Linear Array allows you to specify how far the next repeating object is from the start of the previous, along with how many you want in the array and what direction it goes.
  • Radial Array allows you to specify how many is in the array and the radius of the circle they're rotating around. You can also choose whether or not the part is being rotated as it goes around the array, or if the front is always facing the same way.
  • Advanced Array combines the both, so you can create a linear array that goes around a radius and you even have the option to make it scale as it moves along the array.
With array, you can do complex operations or create something like a LEGO brick almost instantly.
With array, you can do complex operations or create something like a LEGO brick almost instantly.

The last section is most useful for text, in that certain shapes won't respond well to the modifications.

  • Pinch will take your shape and "pinch" the back of it to be smaller than the front. Essentially, the Y and Z dimensions of the back face is maintained but the X gets squashed,
  • Curve will bend the object along a circle and maintain that the back surface is flush with that circle. You can also choose whether you want it to bend around the outside of a circle or the inside.
  • Fit to Bounds is getting into the advanced stuff. Really, you will only need these if you intend to make a Design App. The Fit to Bounds will take whatever input you have that is a different size than the original and makes sure it fits in the box. We have an entire article and video dedicated to explaining Design Apps and the creative ability they reinforce.

Pinch, Curve, and Fit to Bounds (before and after) are advanced operations that you'll probably only use in very specific scenarios.
Pinch, Curve, and Fit to Bounds (before and after) are advanced operations that you'll probably only use in very specific scenarios.

That about sums up the massively new variety of tools, models, and abilities that have been added to MatterControl. Of course as time goes on, the team will be adding more features to help spur the creativity of you and other users and make the process even easier to get started and harder to want to stop.

We'll be creating lots of documentation, tips, and guides for how MatterControl works to make it easier to get crafting, so stay tuned for more to come.

Happy designing!