How Parts Are Designed for 3D Printing


If you think that designing parts and printing them right away is as easy as counting to three, think again!  There’s much to learn before you dive in and give it a try. Check out these critical things you should know about designing parts for 3D printing.

1. Ensure you understand and know the technology

Many types of 3D printing technologies are available.  Before you get started, it’s wise to know their different features, advantages, and disadvantages before you select the approach that’s most appropriate for you.  FDM, SLS, SLA, DLP are some of the popular technologies/filetypes that you’ll encounter. Each one of these file types comes from a different suite of CAD (computer-aided design) software and operates differently so selection should be based on your desired outcome.

Let’s look at the SLS technology, for example.

With SLS technology a laser traces patterns of the design on a layer of nylon powder and elastic material.  The bed operates as though weights are added and it lowers as each additional layer is built upon it.  This building up process continues until the 3D pattern is formed.

2. Become an expert with using CAD (computer-aided design) software

It’s important to thoroughly know the CAD software in use, since each has its own method of conversion for 3D printing. STL, STEP, and IGS are popular files for 3D printing.  Once you have your design saved, the next step is to slice your drawing. Many slicers exist so select one that will get the job done accurately.

Slicing software prepares your 3D model for printing, by cutting it into many thin layers and converting it to 3D printing language. Make sure you know the scale and structure of your model then build supports and rafts to hold your 3D part in position while printing.

3. Selecting materials for your 3D printer

Different printers use different materials. PLA and PETG polymers are popular because they are biodegradable and recyclable respectively.  The Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers use a wide range of materials including wood and metal filaments. Many others, like the SLS printers, use nylon.

Different types of nylon are chosen for the SLS process based on their tensile strength, melting point, hardness and other features.  SLS printers use a laser to harden and bond small grains of nylon and other materials, while PLA, ABS and PETG are commonly used for FDM style printers.

When choosing a substance to 3D printing; accuracy, flexibility, and strength of the material, are factors you should consider when making your selection.

4. Setting up your 3D printer

Your next step is to copy your STL file to the 3D printer and follow the procedure for filling and refilling of the various materials.  Adjust the thickness for each layer and provide any other material the settings required for your style of printer.  Your product can be printed in as little as a few hours, or as much as a few days depending on how large it is.

5. Handling your 3D printed product

You can now take your 3D printed product out of the printer.  Take your time to avoid injuries and breakage, and carefully remove any unwanted powders.  Once you are satisfied, clean up your workspace, and repeat the process again with your next part or design!

How to Save Time and Money When Designing Parts for 3D Printing

If all that seems overly complicated, we have found that almost everyone we talk to is surprised by how quickly and cheaply it’s possible to have something 3D printed. Rather than spending thousands of dollars on 3D-rendering software and hundreds of hours trying to use it, as well as the time and cost of purchasing a 3D printer and learning how to use it, send your job to us instead. For a few hundred dollars (sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on what you need) we can usually print your part or product and get it to you in a matter of days, saving you lots of time and money!

Call 1.888.202.2052 or email [email protected] for more info.

  3d printing
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