In many cases when you want to produce prototypes or parts in low quantities, 3D printing is the fastest and most economical production method.
The price of each such part is largely determined by the amount of material used and the amount of time it takes for the printer to manufacture it.
Here are some tips and tricks to help you make the most of your 3D printing process.
1. Minimize the printed model size to reduce the 3D printing volume
If the physical size of the part is not critical (for example, producing a part for a visual display), the model can be minimized in size and thus significantly reduce production costs.
This is because of the three-dimensional volume, for example, a cube with a dimension of 12X12X12 mm has a volume almost double a cube with a dimension of 10X10X10 mm. From this, it can be concluded that the reduction of the model, even by a few millimeters, can reduce the cost of production significantly.
It can be seen that reducing the wigs from 12 mm to 10 mm reduces the volume by about 42%
2. Emptying internal cavities in the model could reduce 3D printing costs
If you don’t need your part to be filled from the inside, emptying the interior spaces and turning it into a hollow model is a great way to reduce 3D printing costs.
3D printers that work with FDM technology usually perform a default setting that tells them to print internal cavities in a semi-hollow manner by printing internal structures.
In contrast, various printing technologies (such as SLA and SLS) do not print the part hollow by default but only as full and rigid bodies. Therefore it should be noted that the original model sent for printing is hollow in the relevant places if possible.
The amount of material that can be saved varies greatly from part to part depending on the purpose of the part and its structure, however, in many cases, a few more minutes of design and planning can have significant consequences in lowering printing costs.
Emptying the interior spaces and turning them into hollow spaces allows for great savings in the raw material and as a result, savings in the cost of printing.
3. Proper design that eliminates the need to 3D print supports
There are cases where it is possible to lower the printing costs with FDM technology even further, this can be done by properly designing the part in such a way that eliminates the need to print supports while producing the part in 3D printing.
In many cases where the 3D printed part has geometries that “hang” in the air, the printer will also print supports for those geometries so that it can print them without them collapsing while the raw material cools.
These supports increase the cost of production, as more raw material is used and further processing is required after printing in order to remove these supports.
There are two main methods that can be applied so you don’t need the supports:
-Designing the angle of the “hanging” structure
The first option is to design the part so that the angle of the “hanging” structure is greater than 45 degrees.
This is because in FDM 3D printing each layer of printed material sticks to the layer of raw material printed before it.
This way you can print each new layer with a slight shift outwards the material until you get a 45-degree angle between the edge of the material and the top base, a layer with a larger angle may be unstable enough and collapse.
Proper design of the “hanging” angle can save the use of supports.
Splitting the whole part into two separate parts
Another option through which you can save on supports is to split the part into two separate parts that will be 3d printed separately and then connected to each other until a complete printed part is created.
4. Avoid further processing after 3D printing
As we have seen further processing after printing raises production costs, so we would like to avoid it as much as possible.
For example, most plastic parts manufactured with SLS technology do not require the use of supports and therefore the additional processing we will need to do after 3D printing is limited.
Therefore, where possible, it is advisable to design the parts accordingly and 3D print them in the appropriate orientation so that no further processing will be required beyond printing.
You can see how a slight change in the part orientation leads to big savings, if we were printing in the right orientation we would need a lot of supports
5. Adherence to tolerances
It is recommended for engineers and designers to avoid unnecessary tight tolerances while designing the part, because in order to achieve a very high level of accuracy it is necessary to build very thin layers of material, which in turn result in longer printing times or further processing after printing. These in turn will increase the cost of production.
3D printing not only creates opportunities to reduce and consolidate the assembly of several parts into one single part – it can also reduce the need for high accuracy levels.
6. Think outside the box
One of the biggest benefits of 3D printing is the ability to produce “organic” shapes from nature like a honey bee or other complex geometries.
There is therefore no need to be afraid or apprehensive about using the same shapes and patterns from nature, assuming that using them will allow us to create a lighter and stronger part.
In addition, there should be no fear of drilling holes in the part while designing the part. While in conventional manufacturing methods like CNC machining, drills and holes in the part mean longer production time and material is thrown away – in 3D printing the situation is different: drills and holes mean less material to be used and therefore there are savings in labor time and raw material.