Key design considerations for 3D printing

Key design considerations for 3D printing

Different design processes have different restrictions and capabilities. This article will cover design considerations for all types of 3D printing types material.
There are many options for 3D modeling, depending on your preference and skill level. All with great online tutorials and how to videos available online. There is no right or wrong software to use. There have been outstanding designs made with all of them. Whatever you are comfortable with, and fits your skillset and needs the best is the right one for you to use. Explore your options, try as many as possible, and decide from there. You may find you like different software for different design types.

Digital Vs. Physical

Its always important to remember, and also easy to overlook the fact that your digital design will become a physical object. Within the digital design environment there are no restrictions or limitations, like the most basic rule of all, gravity. Anything can be drawn or designed in 3d in the digital world, but not everything can be 3D printed. Each 3D printing type will have its own limitations. There are some key design considerations that are universal to all 3D printing. 

Universal Design Considerations for 3D Printing


All 3d printing types print layer-by-layer. A layer can not be laid without a layer below it, its not possible to print onto thin air. There must always be a base layer to build onto. Overhangs are parts of a model that are not supported at all. All 3D printers have a limit to the achievable printable unsupported angle that can be printed. Most FDM and SLA printers reach that limit at approximately 45-50 degrees. Whenever possible it is ideal to limit overhangs within your model to 45-50 degrees to avoid as much support material as possible. while support material can make steeper overhangs possible, supported layers have a rough surface finish which is obviously less than ideal. 

Wall Thickness

Another important consideration during the design process for printing is wall thickness. Every 3D printing type can achieve extremely accurate thin features to a limit. Knowing that limit and keeping it in mind during the design process can make the difference between success and failure. This is even more important if you plan to scale your model down for prototyping. Something that may be possible at full size, once scaled down may be to thin or too small to be printable. It is good practice to design your model with added thickness. walls with a thickness at or above .8mm can be printed very well with any type of 3D printing.

Often overlooked, your final 3D print can experience physical changes for multiple reasons. Large flat surfaces can be especially prone to warping, and curling at the corners. Many warping issues can be avoided by ensuring proper machine calibration, proper print environment, and by ensuring adequate surface adhesion between your print and the print bed for the material you are using. you can also utilize helper discs into the design to mitigate these possible issues.

Level of Detail

During the design process it is important to keep in mind the amount of achievable detail reproduction for the type of 3D printing you plan to use. The material used, as well as the mechanical capabilities of the machine can also impact the amount of detail that will be translated to the final print.  The detail level can also impact the speed and cost of your final print, eliminating some unnecessary detail may become a critical decision in your design process.

General Rules of Thumb

  • Avoid unnecessary overhangs in your design, especially over 45-50 degrees.
  • Utilize wall thickness of at least 0.8mm
  • Avoid large flat surface that can be prone to warping
  • Determine the proper level of detail achievable in your final print
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