3D modeling for printing on a 3d printer

Who encountered 3d printing knows that modeling for 3D printing can be problematic: the printed model does not match the dimensions with the model in 3D, there are no uniform sizes. We all use different programs, we print with different materials, and not only we use different printers and printing technologies. It is absolutely not normal to feel the loss when printing, sometimes it seems impossible to design a perfect 3D model for 3D printing. That’s why we took a combined list of errors to avoid them when printing on a 3D printer.


Ignoring materials that are used for printing. Each material that is used for printing is different and has its own properties. The materials can be brittle or durable, soft or hard, smooth or embossed, can be heavy or light, and so on. This also means that the object should ideally be designed for a specific material. For example, if you know that you want to print your 3D model in ceramics, you need to take into account some subtleties, such as support, elements, smoothing corners when printing, curing speed, brittleness, and so on. The choice of your material for printing should follow the instructions clearly. Each material for 3D printing is different. Make sure you read the instruction for the material that you selected. Solution: Follow the instructions when selecting your material for successful printing. Ideally, you should read the instructions for 3D printing before working on the 3D model. In addition, you can compare with the materials that other 3D artists use for similar works.

Ignoring printing technology. Not only the chemical characteristics of materials, but also the technologies that are used for printing matter. The reason that lies not in the material A itself in the technology that it uses for printing these materials. Materials like plastics are printed on the same technology, metal and ceramics on the other, all this should be taken into account when designing the model.

Ignoring the thickness of the walls. Even if you find information that the thickness of the walls in the instruction is a certain value, you should take this as a recommendation. The problem is that some models can not be printed because of the wrong thickness of the walls. In some cases, the thickness of the walls is very thin. Very thin walls create too small parts of the model, which can not be printed or destroyed during printing. Otherwise, if the walls are very thick, they can also be deformed due to internal stresses when the material hardens, or because the model does not have time to solidify in time. Therefore, the choice of wall thickness should be approached with particular care and this is also a key to successful quality printing.


Ignoring file type. You read the printing instructions for a particular printer model, you know exactly which material to use, the thickness of the walls was determined, everything is fine, but now there can be one more problem: the file extension. For 3D printing, the most common type of file is stl. This means that the model will be written in the language (triangles). And the entire surface will consist of many polygons. Here is an illustrative example from left to right

models with different grid densities from too low density to very high right are presented. To solve this problem in most modeling programs, when you export the file, a dialog box appears with the export options. They indicate the distance between the faces and the export format of stl that you export. We recommend setting a value of 0.01 millimeter for high-quality exports. Exporting less than 0.01mm does not make sense because 3D printers can not print detail above this value. If you print a model with a lower detail value, then you can consider the faces and triangles of the 3D model itself when printing. There is also a limitation on the file size in megabytes that often do not exceed 100 MB for the model that is being printed. To create 3D models, use a lot of 3D software. Some of them are specially created for modeling objects for 3D printers, others are mainly used by 3D artists and their models require additional processing before they can be printed. For example, you specify the wall thickness in some programs automatically, but you must set this value manually.

Even if you are using a program for beginners that was specifically created to solve similar problems with 3D printing, for example Tinkercad, you may also have problems printing a hollow model. In this case, you can use the free meshmixer program. Study which modeling program suits you best, since each program requires different preparation of models for 3D printing. If you choose the Blender program that is used for 3D graphics and animation, or scetchup is popular in the environment of architects or z-brush for sculptures and 3D artists, the preparation of models for printing will be different. The shell may require additional connections, the models must be made integral, the thickness of the walls must be added and the print sizes must be set. Once again, note that each software is different. Solution: carefully read the guide for preparing and exporting the model for 3D printing. If you can not find them on official websites, use Google to learn. If you have exhausted the capabilities of your program, open your model in meshmixer for basic preparations for 3D printing.

We sum up. How to prepare a 3D model for printing, let’s make an exhalation, do not worry, many things sound much more complicated than they really are. Just make sure that the programs and materials are selected correctly. If you doubt that your model is correctly prepared, you can find additional information in the lessons and videos on the Internet. You can also ask a question to 3D design professionals who can help you, for example, we do not offer 3D printing services, but we have vast experience in creating both simple and complex models for 3D printing.