Guidelines for 3D Printing


Guidelines for 3D Printing

This short guide will help fix, modify and export 3D design data to a format suitable for 3D printing.

  1. Step 1:

    1. Solid Objects
    2. Surface Normals
    3. Holes and Open Edges
    4. Duplicate Surfaces
    5. Detail Sizes
    6. Floating Objects
    7. Hollowing Parts
    8. Large Models
    9. Export Options

  2. Step 2:

    1. Solid Objects

    A part generated in 3D CAD software must be made into a solid ‘watertight’ object in order to be printable.
    Solid objects drawn in CAD software contain a volume. It is important for a 3D printer to recognise an object’s
    volume in order to apply material in the correct places. Single-surfaced objects contain no volume and cannot be
    printed. Therefore, ensure any single-surfaced objects are given a specified thickness.

  3. Step 3:

    2. Surface Normals

    Check all surface normals face the correct direction on your model.

    Every single-surfaced object drawn in 3D CAD packages have an inside and outside face. Where multiple surfaces
    face the inside to enclose itself as a solid object, a 3D printer will place material. Occasionally, the inside or outside
    direction known as surface normals are displayed incorrectly and this can mean material is placed in the wrong
    locations. Most CAD programs have the ability to highlight normal directions and unify them which makes inside
    facing normals hidden from view.

  4. Step 4:

    3. Holes and Open edges

    Any holes or unconnected edges can cause errors during the print process.

    If a drawn object contains holes or open, unconnected edges, the geometry will not be recognised as a solid entity.
    This may cause errors during the print process. To correct these, fill any holes or gaps to make the object

  5. Step 5:

    4. Duplicate Surfaces
    Any duplicate/overlapping surfaces must be deleted.

    Identical surfaces that exist on top of each other can cause errors during the print process and must be deleted.
    Use dedicated selection tools to highlight hidden duplicates. Often a rendered view of the model will show the
    duplicate surface as a flickered texture.

  6. Step 6:

    5. Detail Sizes

    Thicken small details so that they do not break once printed.

    For unsupported fine details we recommend that they be thickened to ensure your model does not flex or break
    when the part is removed from the printer. The minimum thickness for details is typically 1.0mm but 0.7mm to
    0.8mm can be achieved if they are well supported.

  7. Step 7:

    6. Floating Objects

    Make sure all objects within your model are supported and not floating in empty space. Details that are not joined
    correctly will print as separate objects.

  8. Step 8:

    7. Hollowing Parts

    To reduce waste and save on cost, large volumes of data can be hollowed.

  9. Step 9:

    8. Large Models

    One way of producing large prints that exceed a 3D printer’s build envelope is to split the data into sections, 3D
    print them and join the sections together post printing.

  10. Step 10:

    9. Export Options

    Most 3D CAD packages support a range of export formats that are compatible with 3D printing software. Choosing
    the right export format depends on the type of model you aim to have printed. The standard format for 3D Printing
    is .STL, however this format cannot hold colour information. In the case that your model has colour and textures
    applied, it would be better to select an alternative format such as .VRML or .ZPR.

    Below is a list of recommended formats accepted, as well as the formats properties to help select the
    most appropriate one for your data. For SketchUp users it is advised to send us the native .SKP format as it is easier
    to examine and fix any data anomalies in our editing software.

  11. Step 11:

    Please feel free to contact me for any additional advice and information by emailing or leave a comments here.



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