How to Design for 3D Printing

When a product idea is taking shape, designing is the step where the vision meets the reality head-on. And in 3d printing, a good design matters even more. There are various software tools available (some for free) for diverse applications. Some of them being Blender, SolidWorks, Fusion360, etc. With easy access to 3d printing services, time required to materialize a product from scratch has reduced drastically. However, designing still takes up a chunk of the remaining time.

After you’re done on the design part, it is job almost done. But wait, is it? Not necessarily.

From what we at Morphedo have seen, most of the times the end goal (3d printing) is ignored in the 3d design process. This results in a design file that either requires too much rework, not 3d printing ready, too fragile, or too costly to print. These hurdles are regularly seen, which results in delay.

So what needs to be done? In this article, I have mentioned 5 things that should be kept in mind when designing for 3d printing. The model that has to be 3d printed must be designed with considerations that are essential to the viability, quality and cost of the part to be 3d printed. Make mental notes of the following points or forward them to your designer for your next brilliant idea or project.

  1. Which 3d printing technology?

Design guidelines are different for each 3d printing technology. So first, you must understand which technology serves your purpose best. We will help you with it. Most widely used technologies are FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) and SLS (Selective Laser Sintering). While FDM is a favourite of newcomers and hobbyists and is ideal for general purpose prototypes, SLS is a more high precision industry choice and is being widely used for functional prototypes.

3d Printing

  1. What material?

Materials used for 3d printing differ by technology and within technology as well. In FDM, thermoplastics like ABS and PLA are used. When going for SLS 3d printing technology, variants of Nylon 11 and 12 are used as raw materials in powder form.

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  1. Wall Thickness

Wall Thickness is the one area where most designers try to replicate their product dimensions instead of thinking about it from the perspective of 3d printing and this creates hassles on so many levels once the design is ready (not really) for additive manufacturing/3d printing.

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  1. Solid vs Surface

While designing, there are 2 common modeling techniques used. Solid Modeling and Surface Modeling.

3d printing services

As the name suggests, Solid modelling is for creating solid objects in the field of engineering and CAD which have their internal details included. Whereas, Surface modelling is more about external aspects of an object. Both modelling techniques have a different set of software tools which serve their own purposes but 3D printing is about creating an actual product which has to be solid. So even if you’re using a surface centric design tool, you will need to create a solid of it and then hand over the design for execution. As expected, using Solid Modeling tools for designing, to begin with, is much preferred and convenient.

  1. Tolerances

In any kind of manufacturing, tolerances of the equipment and the material need to be remembered to design effectively and accurately. Such is also the case with additive manufacturing techniques. While tolerances for desktop 3d printing techniques are very minimal, Industrial printers have negligible variances.

We hope you remember these important aspects while designing for 3d printing and enable yourself to develop products more efficiently than ever. When you grow, that when we grow. After all, growth is mutual.

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