i.materialise Article – 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Designing 3D Models for 3D Printing

25 March, 2017

i.materialise published an article in their blog not too long ago which I feel is too valuable a lesson for CAD modellers who are serious about 3D printing.

i.materialise article – 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Designing a 3D Model for 3D Printing

But, just like I normally do here, I don’t normally post these things without adding my own additional advice:

In the article above, they mentioned 5 major mistakes which can happen when designing for 3D printing:

  1. Ignoring material restrictions
  2. Ignoring printing technology
  3. Ignoring wall thickness
  4. Ignoring file resolution
  5. Ignoring software limitations


To this list, I’d add three other major mistakes:

6. Ignoring the manufacturing process

Image courtesy The Concrete Polishing Guide

If your object requires assembly, or further finishing after it comes off of 3D printing, you need to allow for that. Moving parts require a space between them depending on the smoothness of intended motion, fixed parts may or may not require finishing before assembly depending on the material used, and so on. If you’re not familiar with traditional manufacturing methods in your current choice of material, it’s always best to speak with someone who works in that particular manufacturing process before carrying through with a design.


7. Ignoring intended usage

Certain uses for an item may require more material strength than others to withstand stress. You have to allow for that additional thickness if you want the item to be usable or wearable for any amount of time.

As it happens, this one’s less of an issue than you might think to solve. If you have samples of the material at various thicknesses that can be very helpful for design considerations. Alternatively, adding fins and supporting struts to the inside of an item designed for rugged use can go a long way towards compensating for thin walls. And even if you haven’t ever studied basic structural engineering, it’s very hard to get it wrong with too many supporting struts. All you end up adding is cost.


8. Ignoring the human body

If you’re designing something intended to be worn, or your object must fit against the human body for any reason, getting the shape to fit comfortably is more complicated than you might first expect. It’s no accident ergonomic designers spend so much time studying the average shapes of the human body, and why we have clothing and jewellery sizes which can vary by as little as fractions of a millimetre.

Fortunately, in nearly any field of ergonomic or accessory design, there have been decades or even centuries of precedents already set on good design practice for comfortable fit. All you need to do is to do your homework. You don’t even need to go looking for books or articles on design tolerances. Many people simply measure similar existing physical objects, dress mannequins, or similar models.


Jack Meyer

Bespoke jewellery designer, and specialist in jewellery CAD/CAM and emergent technologies that affect jewellery.

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2 Comments i.materialise Article – 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Designing 3D Models for 3D Printing

  1. It is known that in 3d printing technology, no one size fits every approach, So sometimes you might feel lost and it can sometimes appear difficult to make a perfect 3D model for 3D printing. but thanks a lot for telling us which mistakes to avoid while doing it. so thank you so much. Kudos to this article.

  2. Wonderful points you have mentioned here. I am satisfied that you simply shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing:)

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