Mar 10, 2016 | By Tess
If you’ve ever ruined a 3D print because of a poorly designed model, or even not been able to print your 3D model because its walls were too thin, you’re certainly not alone. Fortunately for makers struggling with this common issue, French 3D printing service Sculpteo has published a number of useful tips that can help make your model ready-to-print.
First off, when designing a printable 3D model, there are four crucial elements that must not be forgotten: scale, wall thickness depending on material, wall thickness depending on shape, and of course a little thing called gravity. If these four categories are kept in mind and the tips about them—which we’ll dive into shortly—are followed, you are much more likely to turn your digital design into a functional and accurate 3D printed object.
Scale is something that must be considered with any 3D design, as it will essentially determine how big of a print you will be making. In many design programs you are free to model without any measurements, simply working with proportions, so the decision for scale comes right before sending the file to the 3D printer. If your model possesses many small details, printing at a miniature scale, of millimetres instead of centimetres for instance, could make for a poor print. In the case of architectural models especially, scale is incredibly important as any details existing on the digital model could begin to disappear or be unprintable the more you scale the size down. Sculpteo also recommends removing certain details from accurate architectural models so that the 3D file does not have elements and information that will be impossible to print.
If you’ve got your object’s scale settled, the next important thing to consider is what material you will be printing with and whether your design’s measurements will work with said material. Stronger materials like Alumide, or Sculpteo’s Plastic material can be printed with a minimum wall thickness of 1mm, with other weaker materials, for instance Sculpteo’s multicolor material, the minimum wall thickness should usually be doubled to 2mm. Whether you are printing with a 3D printing service or on your own 3D printer, you should be able to consult the brand of filament you are using to see what the minimum thickness requirements are.
Of course, any minimum wall thickness also depends on the shape you are additively manufacturing. As I’m sure many of your know, 3D printers can create almost anything but are challenged by overhangs, and large flat surfaces. To additively manufacture an overhanging structure or object, 3D modelers will often add supports to their design, which can be either removed by hand, or with some technologies removed with a chemical bath. With SLS or other powder based 3D printing technologies, the bed of powder itself works as a support, allowing makers to 3D print more complex overhanging shapes.
For flat surfaces, makers often face the challenge of warping, which occurs when the object is cooling after the print. To lessen the chances of your large flat surface warping, simply increase the wall thickness of the print.
Last but not least is gravity: a force that keeps us grounded to the earth and can seriously ruin a poorly designed print. It may seem obvious, but if a certain part of your design is supporting too much weight—for instance a large flower head on top of a thin stem—your print could succumb to the pulling force of gravity. If you keep this in mind while you are designing and appropriately thicken the parts of your object that will bear the most weight and stress, your 3D print should be a success.
If you are using a 3D printing service to make your object, they will often have tools on their websites to help guide you through these steps, to guarantee that your design is printable. Sculpteo, for instance, offers a Solidity Check, a Thickness Tool, and even a Hollowing tool that can help you to check or fix your wall thickness problems.
If you are a beginner maker who has struggled with determining wall thickness before, just keep these tips in mind and you’ll be 3D printing original models in no time.
Posted in 3D Printing Technology
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