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3D-printer parts placer and plate generator
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Demo video »

Video tutorial »

Plater is a 3D printer plates placer and optimizer. It takes a few STL files and some parameters such as the plate dimension, part orientation and spacing, and it tries to generates 3D model to print your parts with at least as possible plates.

It uses a really simple configuration file that contains the list of parts with their quantities and dimension. You can then build your STL plate(s) and release it with your part, or simply release the plater.conf file and let people do their own plates using their own settings.

Note that Plater will not choose the best orientation of a part for you, this is up to the user because it depends on a lot of things.


With the GUI

To make a plate, first load your STL files. Click "Add Part(s)" button and select one or more .stl file.

This will open a wizard, you'll be able to select the orientation and the quantity of the part.

Then, enter your plate dimension (in mm). You can also adjust the spacing of the parts and the precision (internally, plater use a discrete representation of parts, lower is better).

Hit "Run", this will generate you the STL file(s) corresponding to your plates.

All the settings you change can be saved to a config.json file using the "File > config.json" menu. This file will be created in the same folder as plater executable and will be loaded on startup.

With the command line

Plater usage is:

plater [options] plater.conf

Where plater.conf is the name of your configuration file. If - is given as a file name, the configuration will be read from standard input.

Here are the options:

  • -v, increase the verbosity, this will output more things on stderr during the placing of the parts
  • -W width, width of the plate, in mm (default 150)
  • -H height, height of the plate, in mm (default 150)
  • -j precision, precision, in mm (default 0.5)
  • -s spacing, parts spacing, in mm (default 2)
  • -d delta, sets the spacing of the brute forcing (see below), default 2mm
  • -r rotation, sets the angle of the brute forcing, default 90°
  • -p, will output .ppm files instead of STLs
  • -o pattern, sets the pattern of output files, default is plate_%03d, this means that the first plate will be named plate_001.stl, the second plate_002.stl and so on.

The plater.conf file

The configuration file looks like this:

# This is an example of plater.conf file
part.stl 1
other_part.stl 3 back
yet-another-part.stl 8 left

Each line begins with a part name, followed by the quantity, and optionally the side that should be on the plate. The side can be bottom (default, you can also put nothing), front, top, back, left or `right.

You can put comment lines begining with #, it can be useful to add some advices on how generate your plate or some copyrights.

The file should be described relatively to the plater.conf file.

If a filename contains a space ( ), you can escape it with the \ character (like some\ plate.stl).

How does it works?

The problem of placing parts is quite hard and very likely NP-complete. Plater is an heuristic based on greedy algorithm that use brute force.

Each part is first pixelized into a bitmap (each pixel is white for free space and black for used space), with a given precision. Then, this bitmap is dilatated with a given spacing.

Then, the placer tries to put each part one by one on the plate, brute forcing position to maximize a score based on a simple gravity-like property, which tend to pack the parts. If it can't place the part, it try adding a new plate and so on.

It is runned multiple times with multiple parameters, and the best solution, i.e the one with the less plates is kept.

Note that the result can be bad in some limit cases, and it will not replace your expert brain! However, it is useful to do the placing automatically and quickly.



To build plater, go in the plater/ directory and then use the cmake:

mkdir build
cd build
cmake ..

This will create for you the libplater and the plater command tool


First, install Qt 4.8.0. Then, be sure you built plater in plater/build/.

Using QtCreator

You can simply run QtCreator on and build it.

Using command line

Go in the gui/ directory, and do:

mkdir build
cd build
qmake ..
sudo make install

This will create the plater-gui binary file.

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