Five 3D Printing Tips to Save You Time

3D printing is known to be a fast alternative to most traditional manufacturing processes, and you can harness the possibilities of this groundbreaking industry by taking some easy steps. Get to market quickly with these five 3D printing tips to save you time when ordering parts.
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1. Export Your CAD file as a STL

In order for a 3D printer to build a part, the CAD file has to be exported into a STL file. A STL file is made up of triangles forming the surface of the part, causing faceting of the 3D model. Depending on the parameters set up, the faceting of the 3D model will differ. Common parameters that affect faceting of STL files include chord height, deviation, angle tolerance and poly count. It’s imperative to prepare your files for the export with this in mind to ensure quality expectations and design intentions are maintained from CAD to final part production.

There are a number of ways to optimize and prepare your CAD data to guarantee ­files are ready for processing and production. There are adjustments you can make to complex geometry data, such as wall thicknesses, or even small changes to ­file size and features that will help create a pristine STL fi­le and accelerate processing.

You can learn more about the details of how to prepare STL files in our tutorial.

2. Look at Design Guidelines

A common misconception about 3D printing is that the process is similar or the same across different machines and technologies. The reality is that 3D printing involves a variety of technologies with unique design considerations. Stratasys Direct Manufacturing offers a suite of 3D printing services including PolyJet, Stereolithography (SL), Laser Sintering (LS), Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS).

If you’re looking to utilize a specific technology, you can speed up your production process significantly by considering the limitations or unique requirements of that technology and how to adapt your file or design accordingly.

For example, most 3D printing processes require the design of supports for any overhangs in a 3D model, but Laser Sintering does not because of the nature of its build style. Other factors that may change from technology to technology include resolution, build orientation, wall thickness and part size.

StratasysDirect.com has detailed design guidelines and other helpful information regarding design considerations:

3. Know Your Post-Processing Options

When you think about your piece, what do you envision? Does the piece have a smooth surface? Will the size of your part require multiple builds and assembly? If the component is a prototype, does it need cosmetic finishing or can it retain its natural finish? Will the layer lines of the 3D printing process affect the function of your final part?

Our expert finishing department can produce beautiful cosmetic and functional finishes with a variety of options. Some functional finishes include media blasting, tumbling, bonding, sealing and sanding; some cosmetic finishes include painting, clear coating, dying, vapor polishing, electroplating and texturizing.

Oftentimes desired cosmetics can be accomplished more quickly and cheaply by choosing an alternative than the obvious. For example, if you need a part to be blue, you could have the part dyed instead of painted to save on time and money.

By understanding the options available and the time involved in fulfilling the desired finishing, you can significantly speed up the post-build process and get your product to market faster.

Learn more about available finishing options here.

4. Consider Your Material Needs

It’s typically a swift decision when choosing the category of material you’re considering for your product (plastic or metal, opaque or transparent, flexible or rigid), but many can be bogged down by the complexity of considerations when choosing specific materials based on benefits and the specific data related to it. We’ve broken down all of our materials in easy to understand tables on our website with detailed data sheets for each offered material.

For example, you may be considering a production-grade thermoplastic, but need the material to withstand high-temperatures with the ability to be sterilized for medical applications. You start with the technology on the material’s page, and then choose which 3D printing process you are utilizing. That page organizes each available material with a description and the relevant data. Each material’s detailed datasheet is also linked under each offering.

If you’re not sure which technology would be best for your application, you can start in our quoting portal with our Material Wizard. By clicking the Material Wizard tab on the right side of the screen, you’ll be able to filter materials based on a variety of key characteristics, including mechanical or thermal requirements. By clicking the three processes at the top of the selections, you’ll see which materials are available with each technology. Then, you can click through results to see detailed information about each material.

5. Talk to an Expert

The best way to speed up the 3D printing process, especially if you have no experience with the technology, is to speak with the experts at Stratasys Direct Manufacturing. With more than 30 years in the industry, we are well equipped and knowledgeable about the 3D printing solutions that can help bring your envisioned product to life.

You can speak with our highly-qualified Project Engineers as you uncover the right technology for your product, or do some research on your own by visiting our website. General and nuanced information about the world of 3D printing can be found in our whitepapers, case studies, infographics, blog and other resources.

If you’re interested in learning about how 3D printing can be better incorporated into your business, our Professional Services offer in-person evaluations and recommendations. Professional Services looks at your entire operation and pinpoints opportunities to integrate 3D printing and provides all of the resources necessary to do so. Starting with expert onsite services, Professional Services prepares a comprehensive operations analysis after observing current operations and speaking with individuals from c-suite executives to manufacturing floor workers.

Don’t let the complexity of this revolutionary industry slow down your project goals. By following these five simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to rapid, quality 3D printed parts.

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