If you’re new to the world of 3D printing, it may seem appealing to just dive straight in, or to plug in and play – but despite the rise in this technology over the past few years, it’s less about being able to just tell your printer exactly what you want and more about preparing yourself and your kit ahead of time.
You’re going to need to consider exactly how your prospective 3D printer is going to tackle your design project, particularly when it comes to delivering an end product that you can be proud of.
Websites such as Total3DPrinting offer some fantastic regular advice on what to expect from your 3D printer and from the process in general – but today, we’re taking the bull by the horns to look at some of the major design considerations you’ll need to prep before you switch your printer on for the first time.
Get Your Base Right
Unless you have a sturdy, rigid base to print onto, you run the risk of your print job failing early on in the process. Practice makes perfect, of course, but you can save yourself a lot of time and plenty of headaches by making sure your plastic filament of choice is melted into a reliable surface, or bed, for work to layer onto with ease.
This first layer is pretty crucial – otherwise, you could be looking at a messy pile without any adhesion whatsoever. The perfect base is one which is strong and resistant to warping, and which is wide enough to both support your prospective 3D model as well as to encourage adhesion. Once again, practice is key here – you’ll be making miracles if you get the bed right first time.
Getting to Grips with Overhangs
Who says you need to just print objects that are 100% solid? The best printers on the market allow for overhangs, or holes, to be created and supported throughout the process without intervention.
If your models are set to rely upon little support, it’s worth preparing your printer and any software you may be using to compensate in plenty of time. It’s perfectly possible for you to print items such as baskets and ornaments with hole motifs throughout – but it’s going to need planning for, otherwise it’ll all fall apart.
Grain and Orientation
Structural objects printed with a 3D device require considerable support – and without getting too deep into the intricacies of printing, it’s important that you make use of the X/Y axis during the design and printing process – 3D printing, believe it or not, works to a grain, and therefore, you’ll likely be able to print and produce stronger models by working along the X/Y plane.
Print Certain Parts Separately
If you are working with a 3D model that is composed of several parts and pieces, you may wish to go for a trial run wherever possible with some of the more important fixtures and fittings.
More complicated models will rely upon the smallest of pieces to fit just right – and it’s important that you understand you’ll likely not get the right fit straight away unless you are incredibly tight with your figures. Print out various pieces and parts separately that you are dependent upon before going ahead for the final run so you know which amendments to make, if any.
Working with Walls
Many 3D printers will require you to identify the thickness of walls in play with your object so that they know how much of a perimeter of filament you will require. The best course of action to take is always to consider the size of your printer’s nozzle.
Work with a multiple – i.e. a 0.6mm nozzle will work well with wall thicknesses of 0.3mm or 0.9mm. You’re going to need to consider how much room your printer will have to fill in between walls – as if you’re working with very thin walls, there may not be much room for infill at all. With this in mind, it’s always worth over-compensating.
Trust a Visualisation
One of the most important things you can do pre-printing is to consider your software’s visualisations. While only maverick hobbyists choose to print straight away without a preview window, it’s never recommended.
Visualisation can help you to check wall thickness, infill ratio, structural issues and more besides. All good 3D printer hardware will arrive with solid software and technology in place to help you see and understand your object before it finally arrives. No mistakes!