ZPC blog

3D Printing Design


3D printing, or additive manufacturing, encompasses many areas.

What many users — both new and prospective — don’t understand about 3D printing is that the process goes one step further than the design of the discrete object. Oftentimes, how the object will be supported takes some careful design — and creative problem-solving — as well.

Design for 3D printing has to be two-pronged — the part not only has to be planned for its function, but also designed for 3D printing itself. The latter type of design involves supports, material thickness and part positioning.

It’s important to be aware of how the object you’re growing will be positioned on the build platform. Frequently parts come out better if they are grown upside down. Most importantly, the part needs to be supported properly. Sometimes a design may be partially or fully self-supporting.

Most pieces, however, will need supports added to the design, and the correct supported positioning may not be apparent right away.  If the part is heavy, it will bend and break, or will be built with visible warping or sliding dimensions.

Most CAD programs will add supports for you — all of EnvisionTEC printers (excepting the Micro EDU) come with Magics software. Magics auto-generates most supports, however, Jon our ULTRA technician recommends checking every support on the build job.  With the setting s set up properly, Magics will generate most supports properly.  The machine file needs to be adjusted to change the build style — adapt the support settings under the machine properties tab.

In general, the physical design will be subjected to limitations that the digital rendering is not. The material properties and build plate dimensions will have to be taken into consideration, as well as the final weight of the part which could need extra support. If the part has hollow areas, the negative space will necessitate lattice support structure, or else the rest of the part will collapse.


Finally, it’s important to consider the scale of your piece — the smaller the scale, the more you will need to correct for wall thickness. This integer will have to be enough to support the rest of the design. In the case of the Miller 91 designed by Tom Castermans, the 1/43rd size vehicle had to have special modifications completed on the chassis design.

Often, even if your design is complete, you may need to perform several iterations depending on the complexity of supports required for your build.