Laser Sintering Design Tips: Incorporating Text

Laser Sintering Design Tips is a blog series covering a study performed by Stratasys Direct Manufacturing and the University of Texas, Austin. Read part one on wall thickness, part two on holes, or download the full white paper.

Text is often incorporated into 3D printed parts for aesthetic, inventory, and tracking purposes. Text identification is especially important when it comes to making design updates while functional prototyping and for traceability in end-use production applications. Embedding text right onto the part ensures a part’s serial number isn’t lost, rubbed or sanded off or covered with paint. To discover the optimal text size and font and better understand how text resolves for Laser Sintering 3D printing, the University of Texas at Austin and Stratasys Direct Manufacturing designed font plates with a range of font sizes and both serif and sans-serif fonts which were tested both above the part’s surface and embedded, vertically and horizontally oriented. This test proved that directly 3D printing serial numbers or labels into a part for tracking or branding purposes is feasible and can be preferable depending on the applications or project timeline.
laser sintering design tips

Raised or Recessed: Designing Text for LS Parts

The graphic below incorporates a plate with font sizes ranging from 36-1 (defined by font point sizes within typical word processors). In addition to the font size itself, the fonts were raised and recessed from the plate by 0.25 mm to 2 mm, with height gradations occurring at 0.24 mm increments.

The serif fonts plate (left) and sans-serif font plate (right) incorporate font sizes beginning at 0.25 mm and ending at 2 mm in depth / height. The fonts are extruded from the plate or de-bossed into the plate as well as located on upward (upskin) and downward (downskin) facing surfaces. To learn more about the plate designs, download the full white paper on Laser Sintering.

Two separate parts were tested against the following parameters:

  • Font height above the surface of the part and recession cut into the part’s surface
  • Font size
  • Lettering facing downward or upward in the build envelope
  • Font type

The test results are shown below. Passing means the font is clearly legible to the naked eye and doesn’t contain defects, whereas a fail is illegible due to major gaps and incomplete font structures.

laser sintering

laser sintering text

Based on these results, we recommend the following guidelines when designing text features for parts being built with Laser Sintering:

FONTS

  • Serif fonts should be recessed with an upskin orientation (or facing the laser) for best results
  • Both serif and sans-serif fonts should be formatted vertically
  • Both serif and sans-serif fonts produced better resolution when recessed as opposed to raised

FONT SIZES

Sans-Serif

  • Optimum quality is lost around size 14 font built in vertical orientations and size 24 font built in the horizontal build orientation
  • Fonts degrade in quality around size 20 or lower for letters built above the surface of the part
  • Vertically orientated recessed text becomes illegible at roughly size 14 or lower while vertically orientated raised text becomes illegible at a size 20 font or lower. Quality remains similar for features built horizontally with a minimum font size of 24.
  • Sans-serif fonts are recommended for raised lettering due to higher success rate of feature resolvability.

Serif

  • Optimum quality is lost around size 12-14 for parts built in a vertical orientation in the build envelope and size 28 or lower for parts built in the horizontal orientation.
  • Raised serif fonts are not recommended due to high levels of failure to resolve during testing
  • Recessed serif fonts are noted to have better resolution at a font size of 14 or higher with a depth of 12 or higher.

Ready to become a Laser Sintering pro? Download the full white paper, An Insider’s Guide to Laser Sintering.

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