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5 Tips for FDM 3D Printing: How Can I Get My Model 3D Printing Ready

Whether you are designing for CNC machining, injection molding or sheet metal bending, understanding how to create a 3d model to match your manufacturing method can make all the difference. Here are some tips to get your model ready for 3D printing!


1. Make sure that your model is watertight.

Having a "watertight" model has no gaps in the mesh and the model is properly sealed. If your model is not watertight, try and repair it with Microsoft 3D Builder or in your modeling software.

This image is after the software slices the models. Notice how the right model has gaps because of the intersecting meshes.
While both models look fine, the right model is actually not watertight. There are intersecting lines in the mesh which causes gaps in the model when sliced.
While both models look fine, the right model is actually not watertight. The model has intersecting meshes that have not properly been combined. When sliced, this can cause gaps or negative space in the model.

2. Have an appropriate wall thickness

If your model's walls or floors are paper-thin, there's a good chance that the slicing software won't recognize the surface as printable. Depending on your nozzle diameter, most walls should be no thinner than 1mm for optimal results.

This is an example of a thin wall. The wall here is 0.09mm thick. Notice how the slicing software disregards the walls and only slices the floor.
This is an example of a good wall thickness. The wall here is 1mm thick and the slicing software slices it normally.

3. Avoid large skeletal structures

Prints like the one below are problematic for multiple reasons. They can be fragile, hard to slice, would require large amounts of support (some of which won't remove without destroying the model). To print a model like this, try cutting it up the model so it can lay flat on the bed.

This model has almost no surfaces touching the build plate, making it very difficult to print. Additionally, the thin structures would most likely break off due to the lack of material holding it together

4. Don't have minuscule detailed objects in the print

If your model is small and has tiny, there is a good chance that it won't print well or at all. Small objects with large overhangs or immense flat panels are not good for 3D printing due to the nature of FDM format 3D printing.

Even something as simple as a little tree could be incredibly complex and impossible to print. This example would need excessive amounts of support which would be impossible to detach from the print itself.

5. Understand your model

Print time is exponential while being dependant on size, detail, and density. A large model may take as much time to print a small dense model.

Keep some things in mind while modeling to make it easier to print.

If you want a cleaner finish on your prints, try and model them so they don't need support material. Think about what orientation you want your model to be printed in to make sure you get the best surface finish.

If this is a structural or engineering print, keep in mind the tolerances of FDM 3D printing. If you need a stronger material that prints at a higher temperature, the chance of warping increases as well. Using a carbon fiber infused filament can help mitigate the effects of warping.

These 5 tips are enough to take your 3D printing skill to the next level. Once you got all of this down, then you need to make sure you have a great first layer. You can find out how to get a perfect first layer here.

Happy Printing!

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