5 tips when designing for 3D printing

Kristian Rand Henriksen

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Mand og kvinde kigger på design på skærm

5 tips when designing for 3D printing

Do you want to start designing for 3D printing - and preferably with as good results as possible? We have gathered some expert tips to help you on your way.

Here, Business manager and 3D printing expert, Kristian Rand Henriksen, offers five tips that are worth keeping in mind when designing for 3D printing.

  1. Change your mindset!
    To design for 3D printing, we need to change our mindset. Before 3D printing, we had gotten used to the fact that it always cost extra when you had to remove material - with 3D printing, it suddenly costs extra to add material. When designing for 3D printing as a manufacturing method, you therefore need to focus on how little material you can settle for.
  2. To mand kigger på 3D-print design på skærmRemember that 3D printing is not just 3D printing
    Make sure that you have a basic technological understanding of the different 3D printing technologies - there is a difference in how you design for FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling), SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) and SLM (Selective Laser Melting). For instance, FDM and SLM have in common that they both require support structure when printing, while SLS does not require support. On the other hand, the big difference is that FDM is printed with plastic wire, while SLM is printed in metal powder. Therefore, it is important to look at the technology you have at hand - and to understand the limitations and possibilities of this technology.
  3. Control the contact surfaces
    When I design for 3D printing, I typically start by having complete control over the placement of my interfaces to other parts. Then I connect the contact surfaces in the most optimal way - and with as little material as possible.
  4. Take a peek at the neighbour
    With 3D printing, there is often a financial gain as well as new opportunities when you look at surrounding parts in e.g. a machinery or a product – i.e. the parts that are in contact with your 3D-printed part. Often it is possible to achieve what is called part consolidation, where you add more and new functions by putting several parts together in one.
  5. Print, print, print!
    When we develop new parts in the Center for Industrial 3D Printing, our mantra is "print, print, print!". 3D printing was originally developed as a prototype tool, so remember to use it as such. If you have access to an FDM printer, just print some prototypes in your development process - it will definitely save you both time and money. You can quickly test the ideas and answer all the questions that are not answered by looking in the CAD program.

So just try out the possibilities, and if there is a need along the way, you are more than welcome to contact us – we are sure that we can help you along.