You’re ready to print. You have a 3D file. You know the budget you have to work with. You have an idea of the materials you’d like to use.
Not so fast. You have a 3D file – necessary because 3D printers can’t work off of 2D images – but is it optimized for 3D printing?
As 3D printing becomes accessible to more individuals and small businesses, many are attempting to pull together their own 3D models to save money. There are great choices out there for 3D modeling software, but optimization isn’t something the software is going to do for you.
Without optimization, your 3D printed object may end up being a mess. Too many supports result in a clunky, wasteful design. Lines that look all right in the model don’t turn out so well on the physical object. Pieces don’t fit together well.
Follow these four tips to get the best starting point for your 3D printing endeavor:
Use a Single Mesh
The 3D model mesh is the collection of lines, vertices, and faces that make up the object you’ll be printing. You don’t want to save multiple combined meshes in your 3D file. Instead, your design should consist of only one mesh. If you have multiple meshes, your 3D modeling software should allow you to combine the meshes into one.
Mesh is made up of shapes called polygons. These polygons determine the shape of your objects and are usually named for the number of vertices (points) they have. We recommend you use triangular or rectangular polygons in your 3D files.
The reason for this is the slicer, which is the software that turns your model into printing instructions. When slicer software is preparing your 3D model for printing, it breaks the file down into the layers that will build your product. Slicers have difficulty with polygons that have more than 4 vertices.
A normal is a line, vector, or another object that is perpendicular to an object (in this case, the surface of your 3D file). Before you consider your 3D file complete, double-check that all of your normals are facing in the same direction.
Thickness of Parts
One appeal of 3D printing is that we can create very streamlined objects. But that streamlining does have its limits. You should keep the walls of your design at least 1-2 millimeters thick. If you expect your design to see a lot of handling, you should consider making the walls even thicker.
Go Out and Print Something
Making these changes (and recognizing that they need to be made) takes practice. The more files you make, the easier it’ll be to remember these tips. So go out and start making some files!