Learn 3D Modeling for 3D Printing – Design 3D Print Models

Along with summoning the spirit of innovation, one of the first and most critical stages in 3D modeling is making a design and production plan. Taking time to learn about suitable 3D printing materials, 3D printing technology, and understanding 3D design guidelines are all important to the success of any product. 

Design 3D Print Models with a Clear Vision

Shapeways custom 3D printing services activate an instant quote and printability analysis as soon as a designer uploads their 3D model; however, submitting an accurate 3D printing file saves time, and makes the journey to manufacturing a quality 3D printed product faster, and more efficient.

The additive manufacturing process requires keys steps during product development, including:

  • 3D model design
  • Configuration of layout
  • Digital file conversions for 3D printing
  • Choosing suitable 3D printing materials for prototyping and/or end-use manufacturing

3D Modeling Programs

Shapeways 3D designers and engineers rely on a variety of well-known 3D modeling software programs, but mastery requires dedication. Most are created as multi-purpose learning tools from the beginner level, including programs like:

  • Blender – a great choice for learning fundamental tools, as well as offering tutorials and a variety options for 3D design and editing.
  • Cura – open-source slicing software that is easy to use, breaking the 3D model down into many, tiny layers and allowing for modifications to the 3D model’s internal structure.
  • Sketchup – known as a powerful choice for 3D modeling and architectural design, featuring a user-friendly interface for navigating design and 3D printing.
  • TinkerCAD – another easy-to-use 3D modeling for 3D printing program, offering training in the basic practice projects for novices, and a free import feature for making edits to existing designs.

3D modeling for 3D printing involves a learning curve, but results in valuable knowledge necessary for creating complex parts. No matter what type of 3D modeling software designers use, it is key to understand specific guidelines. The guidelines begin with software, but should be aligned with 3D printing project requirements.

Design for 3D Printability

It’s better to allocate time at the beginning in perfecting your 3D design, rather than dealing with issues or errors in printability later, or during the actual additive manufacturing process. Configure the basic layout for good adhesion and support, as well as planning for any overhangs–especially steep ones.

Preliminary considerations for size and weight of the 3D model are imperative to success. If 3D designs are not scaled properly, they could result in complete failure during production. Refer to bounding box guidelines to avoid such problems, ensuring that models are scaled within the listed dimensions of the bounding box–a 3D imaginary outline of a box enclosing the smallest area occupied by a 3D model. 

Following is an example of the bounding box dimensions for 3D printing materials like Nylon 12 [Versatile Plastic]:

  • Bounding Box Max
    • 650 × 350 × 550 mm (Natural White)
    • 180 × 230 × 320 mm (Natural Black)
    • 200 × 150 × 150 mm (Processed & Premium)
    • 345 × 375 × 440 mm (Smooth)
[Parts over 330 mm long in any direction may have a visible line due to our dual laser printer]
  • Bounding Box Min
    • X + Y + Z ≥ 7.5 mm (Natural)
    • X + Y + Z ≥ 25.0 mm and axes must be ≥ 2.5 mm (Processed & Premium)
Artist: Joe Doucet / Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
Photo: Donatello Arm

Converting 2D Models and 3D Print File Types

Many models emerge from 2D drawings which are then extruded into 3D, or built from basic to more complex 3D structures using a variety of different software programs. It’s easy to turn a 2D image into 3D. Just upload 3D images via the Shapeways 2D to 3D converter, to receive an OBJ file. 

You may also be interested in converting or transferring other files. Compatible file types include:

  • File types: DAE, OBJ, STL, X3D, X3DB, X3DV, WRL, 3MF, STP, STEP
  • Full-color printing: OBJ, MTL, DAE, WRL, X3D, X3DB, X3DV
  • Maximum file size for all types: 64 MB and/or 1 million polygons

Choosing Suitable 3D Printing Materials and Technology:

In choosing the proper materials for a 3D model, consider whether the product will be an exclusive piece or a versatile design that can be manufactured in a variety of textures and colors. This allows for better understanding of the design and material guidelines, compatibility between 3D printing technology, and project requirements from the beginning .

Listed below are our most popular materials for 3D printing, with specifics on the accompanying 3D printing technologies.

Nylon 12 [Versatile Plastic]

Shapeways customers use Nylon 12 [Versatile Plastic] for countless applications. Without a need for supports, expanded design freedom in Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is a huge advantage–eliminating the need to make intricate structures for stability during the 3D printing process, making it possible to pack hundreds or even thousands of parts into one build via nesting, and decreasing the potential for damage in post-processing. 

Nylon 12 [Versatile Plastic] is available in the following finishes and colors:

  • Natural – Matte standard finish with a slightly rough surface.
  • Processed – Some material is polished away to create a smoother surface.
  • Premium – This upscale finish is both smooth and glossy.
  • Smooth – Offering the smoothest surface, with a slight shine, this finish is attained via vapor smoothing.

Colors: Versatile Plastic is naturally white. Shapeways offers the following dyed colors: Black, Blue, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red, and Yellow.

Nylon 12 in Full Color with Multi Jet Fusion

Nylon 12 in Full Color with Multi Jet Fusion possesses superior mechanical properties, dimensional stability, and good resistance to impact, and chemicals. Defined by the capacity to deform under tensile stress, Nylon 12 Full Color (MJF) is flexible for structures with a thinner design but becomes rigid for use with thicker parts, offering the durability and density required for end-use parts.

This versatile material is available for Nylon 3D printing in Natural and Smooth glossy finishes–suitable for products like jigs and fixtures, braces and casts, interlocking parts, medical models, and prototypes for testing.

Nylon 11 [PA11(SLS)]

Nylon 11 [PA11(SLS)] offers durability and heat resistance. Nylon 11 [PA11 (SLS) parts are 3D printed with SLS 3D printing, and built to last. Often targeted for use in automotive, aerospace, and drone applications, this material is well-known for its ability to hold up to rigorous conditions. Excellent impact resistance makes it suitable for parts like protection equipment for sports. Available in a natural white finish, Nylon 11 [PA11(SLS) is also resistant to a wide range of chemicals. 

The heat deflection temperature for Nylon 11 [PA11(SLS)] is 180°C.

Stainless Steel 316L

Stainless Steel 316L is an extremely heat-resistant metal 3D printed with Binder Jetting technology. Offering excellence in corrosion resistance and tensile strength, this metal 3D printing material is a single alloy, 100% Stainless Steel. Shapeways customers rely on Stainless Steel 316L for 3D printing mechanical machinery and parts like heat exchanges, fasteners and brackets, and surgical tooling.

The heat deflection temperature for this metal 3D printing material is 1375-1400° C. 

Sometimes things do not go exactly as planned during the modeling process, despite all efforts, and a design may require customized feedback or more complex file fixing via the User Application team at Shapeways. While they do everything possible to regenerate files which may be problematic, for more challenging issues the UA Team may need to work directly with the customer regarding necessary changes.

About Shapeways

Enjoy the benefits of this advanced technology and a wide range of materials from Shapeways for 3D printing your creations with accuracy, complex detail, and no minimum or limits in terms of mass customization or single part orders. Shapeways has worked with over 1 million customers in 160 countries to 3D print over 21 million parts! Read about case studies, find out more about Shapeways additive manufacturing solutions, and get instant quotes here.

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