Designing for 3D printing

There are general considerations when designing for 3D printing. If you have a specific material in mind, please check the latest information on the professional 3D printing services websites. The technology is improving all the time.

  • Check the size of your model before printing. The virtual environment can be misleading and your model might be tiny or gigantic.
  • 3D printing is costed by volume. A solid cube will cost more than a hollow cube, as the hollow cube requires less material to make.
  • It is easier to use software, such as Anarkik3D Design, which has been designed for use with 3D printing.
  • Certain 3D file formats such as .stl, .obj, .wrl are required to print 3D models.
  • If some of your parts overhang others, these parts may need supports to allow them to be printed. These can then be easily snapped off.
  • If you want your model to be hollow, you may need to create an opening at the bottom for excess material to drain out.
  • Ensure your digital model does not have surfaces that have been pushed right through the opposite surface as this is not possible in real life and cannot be printed. You can check your model using free applications such as Netfabb, Meshlab and Magics, although they cannot repair it for you.
  • The level of detail in your printed model will depend on the resolution of the printer type and the material used.
  • Certain modelling techniques work with some 3D printing technologies and materials but not others. If you have a certain material in mind, please visit the websites of the service companies for the latest design guidelines. For example:
    • For articulated parts the use of materials such as polyamide is recommended with a gap of 0.5 mm for it to work correctly.
    • The minimum thickness of your model’s parts will depend on the strength required and on the material you use.
    • In standard white plastic (polyamide), a wall thickness of 0.8 mm is both reasonably strong and slightly flexible.