July 28, 2015 | By Simon

Although we like to think that 3D printing and the ability to create custom physical objects on demand is completely perfect, the reality is that there are a lot of constraints and variables that can drastically affect the outcome of one 3D print from another.  

While there have been a number of post-processing tools released in the past few years for ensuring that users are left with a final object that is usable, there are still a lot of details that need to be considered even before the big “print” button is even pushed.  Unfortunately, many of these variables - such as infill - exist as digital sliders rather than as physical representations of what an object will look and feel like.  Considering that nobody wants to waste time and/or material, these factors are important to understand.  But as important as they are to understand, how is one to go about understanding them?

Thankfully, a number of 3D printing community good samaritans have put together a variety of 3D printable models that enable users to test the limits of their 3D printers and use the resulting 3D printed objects as samples for future 3D prints.  More recently, Thingiverse user ‘duncan916’ uploaded what are sure to be necessary reference tools for anybody that is serious about their infills and/or shells.    

Designed as educational displays for the ‘Design Spot’ within the Arcade branch of the Sacramento Public Library in Sacramento to help teach young people about 3D printing, the ‘Infill Percent Display’ and ‘Number of Shells Display’ communicate concepts that are often done digitally in a real-life accurate 3D printed model.  The displays, while customizable for different 3D printers, were designed to be used with the library’s three Makerbot Replicator 2 machines and PrintrBot Jr. in mind.     

“It can be difficult to explain important 3D printing concepts like infill percentage, shells, resolution, and the need for supports,” explains duncan916.  “Sometimes all you need is a visual aid to make things click.”

In order to show the effect of different infill percent settings, the Infill Percent Display features a one-inch cube that has been printed fifteen times with various infill settings. Cubes with 0-20 percent infill are on the first row and then 25-50% infill are on the next row followed by 60-100% on the top row.  When using the display in tandem with the 3D print dialogue software, it’s easy for users - both young and old - to see just how much the infill percentage affects the final outcome of a 3D print.

While the Infill Percent Display focuses on creating a visual display for infill settings, the Number of Shells display does the same for showing the effect of different “number of shells” settings.

Similar to how the Infill Percent Display made use of a series of 1-inch cubes, the Number of Shells Display uses rows of cubes featuring 1-5 shells on one row and then 10, 15, 20, 25 and finally, 30 shells on the next row.  The goal of the Number of Shells Display is to educate users how changing the number of shells on any particular 3D print can drastically affect the stability and translucency properties.

“There is enough space between the cubes to squeeze them to feel how flexible or rigid they are,” explains duncan916.  “It's a great way to quickly find out how many shells you should use for your project.”

For those looking to create their own 3D printed displays for home, work or classroom environments, duncan916 has generously supplied both the final STL files as well as the native SketchUp files for anybody who would like to make changes to the original design to better suit their needs.  Interested users can find the Infill Percent Display here and the Number of Shells Display here.   



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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