Preparing Files for 3D Printing: File-Fixing Terminology Explanation and Checklist (Part 1)

For all who are new to 3D Printing, Rapid Prototyping and Additive Fabrication in general
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Creating a model for 3D printing can be somewhat intimidating at first. In this blog post, we will cover some essential tips designers should keep in mind to get a stunning 3D print.

Sticking to this checklist will make sure that your 3D model is perfectly prepared to be 3D printed.

1. Watertight / Non-Manifold

A printable model must not have any holes in its surface. Ask yourself the question: if I were to put water inside my model, would it flow out? If that’s the case then you need to find those holes and close them. Sometimes this process is also called ‘creating a manifold model’.

The design below is an example of a model that is not watertight. You can clearly see that there is a big gap in its surface.


2. Wall Thickness and Volume

It’s very important that every surface of your 3D model has been assigned a wall thickness. When using your 3D modeling software it is possible to design a surface without a wall thickness. Many visual 3D models (i.e. 3D models intended for games) only have surface visual purposes and thus do not have wall thickness.

However, 3D printers need information about how thick you intend the wall of your object to be or if you want to print a completely solid model. Therefore, when turning a 3D model into a real 3D print, the wall thickness or volume information is needed.

Wall thickness is simply the distance between one surface of your 3D model and its opposite sheer surface. Many printing problems can be traced back to wall thickness issues. The minimum printable wall thickness primarily depends on the material you choose.


3. Auto Intersections/Internal Overlapping/Self-Intersecting Surfaces

While a model might look great for 3D printing from the outside, intersections in the model can make it unprintable and confuse printers about what you want to print exactly. Intersections and walls within your design will therefore make your life difficult. That’s why it makes sense to think about your model in a 2-dimensional space first.

In the case below, the left shape will not be printable once it is transformed into a 3-dimensional object since as it will feature paper-thin walls within the object. The shape on the right, however, won’t be a problem to print because it won’t feature those walls on the inside. In most cases, it is useful to implement a Boolean operation, which is a function that helps to merge several overlapping elements.


4. Reversed Faces/Inverted Normals/Surface Orientation

Another problem that can occur is the phenomenon of so-called inward-facing or reversed faces. Most 3D modeling programs distinguish between the inside and outside of a surface in order to determine the model’s volume.

A reversed face or inverted normal means that the surface of your model is facing in the wrong direction: typically this means that it is facing the inside of the object instead of the outside.

It’s important that you double-check your file and make sure that all normals are facing the correct direction.

Created By Aura

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