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10 Tips For Modeling For 3D Printing

May 29th, 2013

10 Tips For Modeling For 3D Printing

3D modeling brings you out of space. It loosens your hands and releases your fantasy. You can sculpt, combine, model, shape, form any most ridiculous object that contravenes physics and is far beyond the reality. Since is holding 3D Printing Competition, there are a few things each 3D designer must definitely know about.

When you design a print-ready model, a process of modeling changes a bit. While modeling 3D printable objects, you must always be aware of the reality. At least, a little. In order to answer all your questions and save your time, we offer to look through these guidelines to make sure that your modeling is going to the right and bright side. Special thanks to our 3D printing competition's sponsor 3DPrintUK for simple, but amazing visuals!

1. Forget Surfaces

Keep in mind that the walls of your 3D model must be thick enough. If you want a model to be 3D printed, a wall must be not less than 0,5 mm, 1mm would be your absolute guarantee. So, as 3DPrintUK reccomends, draw in solid bodies, because they are easier than surfaces. If you are not fully convinced, watch this video:

2. Shut Your Model's Face

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Open faces do matter. To make it simple, an open face is where a model is missing a face from the surface of the part. In other words, an object must be so called waterproof. If there are any open faces left after your modeling, close them. If not, it will not be possible to 3D print it.

3. Separate Edges

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Be aware that your 3D model must not contain any shared edges. Better replace it with a 0,1mm gap between two bodies or just overlap if parts have to be joined together. Otherwise, it results in a crash of 3D printed object. Damn.

4. Correct Normals

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All surfaces of a designing model must have their normals pointing into the right direction. Happens that your 3D model contains inverted normals, so most of 3D printers cannot determine the inside or outside of your mesh.

5. Hollow Your Models

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3DPrintUK advices to hollow out large volume objects. Hollowing saves you money, because filling model's inside with expensive material is pointless. Take a look at huge price differences! Only by hollowing a model, this designer has managed to save 80% of the amount!

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6. Scale It Down, If You Can

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Another way to reduce 3D printing price is to scale your model down. Think twice if you do not want to make it smaller. If you cut the size in half, you will reduce a printing price by eight times. Worth to consider.

7. Stay Within The Limits

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3D printers have a particular volume which you cannot build larger than. If your model is larger than the build volume, either break it down into smaller individual components, or cut join lines through the model. Model reasonably.

8. Always Leave A Gap

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While designing moving parts of a 3D model, always keep in mind to leave a gap between them. It must be at least 0,5mm in order not to stick and provide an unobstructed movement.

9. Keep It Stable

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In the 3D printing's slang there is a so-called 'thin arm syndrome'. You must not leave thin arms with unsupported weight at the end. Especially after scaling a model down, be sure that the arms are strong enough to hold it. Moreover, shapeways reminds that your 3D model will always stand on its' feet, while a real one may keel over. So, consider the size of a character and the shape of contact area. It must not be significantly smaller. Or keep in mind that you always can add an artificial base for stability of a model. This is an example, how the size of contact area properly matches the dimensions of the object:

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10. Model Characters Accurately

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While modeling a 3D printable character, you must be careful about the details more than ever. Even the smallest part does matter. Make the arms and legs of your model strong enough. Just imagine Shrek, standing on two tiny legs. Do not forget that any surface details must be supported on at least one side of the another surface. Thinness of it should not be less than 0,4mm. Fingers are vulnareble part of a body. So, they are likely to break the first ones. Try to keep them together.

Put your character on two feet better than on one. If you want it to raise a leg, put it on a stone. Furthermore, avoid precisely small details. If you are not sure if you can print it out, better remove it. Do not experiment a lot in character's shape also, keep body parts going across or along X,Y or Z axes.

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Yes, it is a lot to remember. But you can always follow these guideliness in order to design a proper 3D print-ready model. Do not think that these are the rules to restrict your creativity. We need it. That is why originality matters that much in our competition.


Tell us what you think!

3dyantram wrote
hi,very good.. Yantram 3D Animations studio is one of the leading 3d architectural visualization & 3D Design studios in India, offering high quality Render Services like Architectural 3D Modeling. visit us :
3drendering wrote
Thanks for the tips......!
bc-2 wrote
One step that I can definitely recommend is that you also verify the model before sending it to print. I use to check the model using their free online service - it will ensure that the walls are thick enough for the material I want to use. It also gives me prices for the material from a couple different services (though I almost always use And I can get their straight from Rhino using their Add-on ( Highly recommended!
will45richardson wrote
Precisely, this is not far from actual 3D modeling projects. Hoping that this could possibly help the newcomers who are taking drafting careers in outsourcing or freelance. Thanks for sharing this great effort.