You’ve already decided what you want to print. But are the files ready to be sent to the 3D printer? Read on to learn how to prepare files for 3D printing to get the best printouts.
Nowadays, you can 3D print anything; from jewelry and toys to bridges and houses. If you want to print something for the first time, you may not know what to pay attention to while designing your model. Even if you’ve used a 3D printer before, you may want to learn how to optimize your file for the printing process.
Roger Liucci is a building information modeling (BIM) and 3D printing specialist at Microsol Resources, an Autodesk reseller. In this guide, he will explain how to correctly prepare your files for 3D printing:
How to Prepare Your Files for 3D Printing
Preparing your file for 3D printing can be quite complicated. One wrong step and your model may end up unusable.
Since 3D printing can be quite expensive, it’s important to make sure your file is set up and ready to go before you start the printing process.
Here’s what you should be cautious of when designing a model and preparing it for the printing process:
1. Characteristics of the Material
While you’re designing your model, it’s easy to get lost in the world of your modelling software. Since there is no gravity or physics in the software, your model can be as wild as your imagination allows. However, if you’re not mindful of real-world laws while designing, you may end up with a model that doesn’t work in real life.
Before you start designing, think of which materials you’ll use. Once you decide on a type of material, keep it in mind during the design process.
For example, if the material is fragile and breaks easily, it’s best not to make a model with a lot of intricate parts. Additionally, keep in mind what you’ll use the model for and whether the material can sustain the damage necessary for the said use.
Before you start printing your model, triple-check its weight distribution. Can the model stand on its own? If you want it not to topple over at the slightest push, make sure the bottom is sturdy enough.
Additionally, if your model is heavy on the top, it may break if you don’t give it some weight on the bottom as well. Give the model at least two to three points of contact to the ground.
However, if it’s too heavy on the top, it’s your safest bet for it to have at least four contact points.
The Size of Your Model
Before you start printing your model, make sure it can actually fit into the 3D printer. Although it seems obvious, many creators forget about this step when 3D printing. If your model is too big, it will shrink, as that will be the only way for it to fit into the printer. Even if it’s slight and hardly noticeable, the shrinking can affect your model greatly.
For example, if your prints are meant to fit together like a puzzle, one slightly smaller piece can ruin your whole model.
Additionally, stay mindful of certain materials when choosing a size. A few materials, such as bronze, silver, steel, and brass, can shrink slightly during production.
Thicken the Vulnerable Areas
Another common mistake is failing to reinforce vulnerable areas while designing the model. This, in turn, leads to parts of the model snapping off during the printing process. Even if they don’t snap off immediately, the areas are more likely to break later on.
Make sure as many parts of your model are connected to the widest part of it. For example, if the model has arms or legs, it’s best for the appendages to stay as close to the core as possible. Alternatively, if your model has a lot of delicate parts, you may need to reconsider the pose.
Try to redesign it so that the fragile parts are reduced to a minimum.
Make Your Model Seamless
Your model needs to be a seamless mesh. Everything, from buttons to arms, legs, and hair, should connect via a single mesh. Otherwise, you will need to glue the individual parts together later on. If your model isn’t meant for 3D printing, it may be difficult to make it seamless.
Your mesh should be watertight, i.e., if you were to fill it with water, it would not leak from anywhere. For your mesh to be watertight, you must make sure the edges of your model are completely closed. Additionally, make sure your normals face outward, as some 3D printers read flipped normals as holes.
If You Can, Make the Model Hollow
It’s not necessary for a 3D model to be hollow for it to print correctly. However, if you want to save on material, hollowing out your model is your best bet. Additionally, a lot of 3D print vendors sell their services by volume in cubic centimeters. That means you can lower the cost of the printing considerably if your model is hollow.
Although your model may appear hollow while you’re designing it, it’s not. The 3D design software interprets the model as solid unless you prepare it as hollow. You can do so by negatively extruding all the faces along the surface. Once you do so, examine the surface closely. Make sure there is no overlapping geometry or other issues on it.
If there are no issues, your model should have a separate outer and inner shell. The distance between these shells is the wall thickness of your model. Many vendors require a minimum thickness, so make sure you don’t make the model too thin.
If you follow these tips, you can rest assured that your next model will turn out just as you intend. Make sure to use a high-quality printer and materials as well. The material should fit the use and design of your model. Additionally, it should be able to resist various environmental conditions, especially if you want the model to be outdoors.