Optimize a 3D Model for 3D Printing.
Creating a 3D printable model comes with basic rules and guidelines that are necessary to guarantee a perfect print. It is essential to know how to optimize a 3D model for 3D printing. Before getting to work, we need to have a basic understanding of the 3D printer mechanism and the building process in order to create a 3D model that will print with the least amount of supports, for a clean result and easy print.
Since we have quite a lot of experience in this field. we gathered 11 short tips from our design, modelling and QA teams on how to optimize a 3D model for 3D Printing.
Of course, there are a lot of other great guides out there, and we may be repeating things you already heard, or omitting things some of you may find important. We think our files speak for themselves and make our advice worth listening to. Feel free to add comments with your thoughts and additions to this list. We love learning new things!
For this guide we assume you understand terms like normals, polygons and mesh and that know your way around modelling, the 3D world and 3D softwares.
From 3D Model to 3D Printed Product, in use :)
When you create a 3D model, you must first have a good understanding of the shape different elements. there are many parameters to take into account for a perfect print and we listed below some important ones, still this first one is crucial. Think about the building process, a 3D printer moves on 2 axis to build a thin horizontal slice of what you modeld, then goes up a bit, and builds the next slice or “layer”. Picture the process in your mind and find solutions for “problem” you anticipate. Remember, try to build the model with low polygons where possible to smooth it later in your modelling software.
From our experience, the best approach is to make the model you want to 3D print as one whole mesh. Some of the slicers (software, either open source or came with your 3D printer, used to turn a model into printing instructions, often called G-code) can combine, by default, multiple parts that intersect to one sliced model. Still, we always make sure the model that we send to be 3D printed is combined and fixed before slicing.
Try to avoid parts in the 3D model that are just placed together, make sure all parts are combined. Some slicing softwares will combine them together for you others will cause various issues on the connection area leading to failed prints or prints that fall apart.
as mentioned earlier – keep your 3D model in one mesh for optimal results.
The resolution of 3D printers is becoming quite high and can handle printing a 3D model with very thin surfaces. However keep in mind that thin parts have a higher chance to fail, and often cause the whole print to fail with it. Additionally once we we remove a product from the printer’s print bed we tend to examine and touch it in every direction and side,too thin parts and walls may fall and break. All that said, thin walls are printable on most 3D printers, try to keep them at least 1-2mm in thickness.
During the modelling process, pay attention to the vertices and edges and make sure they are connected and there are no holes on your model. If there are holes, slicing will most likely fail. There is software available online that can help close the mesh, but sometimes these tools can’t even detect these issues. A good way to be safe is to make sure after the slicing process that your model looks intact and there are no inconsistencies.
Supports are something you must get familiar with quickly. They are thin structures (resembling scaffolding) that are added during slicing to serve as support for parts later on in your model (higher) that overhang. Imagine 3D printing the letter “H” standing up, the printer will do fine until it reaches the bridge part in the middle and then it has to print mid-air, this in most cases will result in failed prints or drips of filament unless a thin structure is printed to support this bridge when it arrives. Later on, supports are usually simple and easy to remove from your printed part. Rule of thumb is that any angle lower than 35° anywhere in your model will require support structures, some 3D printers can do with less, as low as 25°, but to be on the safe side, plan for over 35°. You can plan your design in a way it won’t need supports or need a minimum if you take the 35° rule into account when modelling. You can also use smart placement of your model, rotating it to minimise the need for supports. do note that rotating can influence the final strength of a product depending on the direction the layers were printed in relation to what the product is used for. When you optimize a 3D model for 3D printing, supports are something you always have to take in mind.
The best print bed placement for a model is on the flat side of the model so it has a solid strong base for the first layers to be built with. Sometimes, for a good print, you will need to flatten an area where you want to place the model on for slicing. From our experience, even a minimal flattened area can go a long way in improving the final result. Try to be smart about it and incorporate it to your design and modelling process, rather than flattening a part out of need once done. You can do this through your 3D modelling software or using other free tools like Meshmixer.
That’s it. We hope you find this list useful and that it gave you at least a few new ideas and tips to make better models for 3D printing.
Happy modelling! :)