When designing parts to be 3D printed, there are important factors to consider that may influence the cost of printing your design:

  1. part material,
  2. support material, and
  3. height/print time.

We make sure to orient your parts into their lowest print height position (Fig. 1). 3D printing works from the bottom up. Parts can’t be printed in thin air—they need a base. The printer deposits support material in the empty space between the build platform (where the parts are printed) and the top of your part.

We make sure to orient your parts into their lowest print height position (Fig. 1). 3D printing works from the bottom up. Parts can’t be printed in thin air—they need a base. The printer deposits support material in the empty space between the build platform (where the parts are printed) and the top of your part.

The first two parts in Fig. 1 would use the same amount of part and support material as the third, but they would take 10x and 4x as long to print, respectively. We also arrange your parts to minimize the amount of support material used. How do we do this?

In Fig. 2, there needs to be support material under the part to act as a base for the outer wall of the cylinder and on the inside to act as a base for the top of the part.

Placing the part upright (Fig. 3), decreases the amount of support material, but increases print time. It is possible to find a good middle ground between part height/build time and support material. Here is where you can make a difference in the cost of your prototype.

If the part were to be split in two and arranged flat on the build plate*, it could be printed faster and more cost effectively. In this instance, printing the part in Fig. 2 would cost 40% more than printing the optimized part in Fig. 4.

Parts should not have any enclosed or hollow features. Those hollow areas would be filled with support material and that material would not be removable during post-processing (the removal of support material). Any such features should be modified prior to prototyping to include drainage holes no smaller than 1mm in diameter (Fig. 5) on top and bottom of the hollow features. Alternatively, a hole no smaller than 5mm can be placed on the bottom of the part.

Parts that have complex internal geometries require additional post-processing and require longer turnaround times (Fig. 6).

Adding multiple copies of the same part or consolidating different builds into one can reduce the cost per part (Fig. 7).

Keeping these tips in mind while preparing designs for prototyping will help reduce the cost and overall turnaround time of your part.

*Customer is responsible for sectioning and assembly of printed parts.

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