Additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing) predominantly consists of build techniques that use a layer by layer approach. A number of factors are important to make the most out of designing for this technology. Here are six to consider.
1. Part orientation
The X, Y and Z planes will affect the strength of the built part. In addition, some materials should be oriented along a specific plane for strength. For example, composite 3D printed parts are stronger on planes parallel to the print bed. If the composite material is reinforced with continuous fiber, this arrangement is especially true.
While this recommendation is generally true, there are exceptions. Some designs, for example, will need to be printed in pieces to obtain the most strength.
2. Part orientation and dimensional accuracy
The dimensions of a part can be affected by the build orientation. For most builds, you will find more dimensional accuracy when orienting parts in plane with the print bed.
3. Build bed contact
Unless the needs for strength or geometry indicate otherwise, be sure to consider which part-face will contact the build bed. In general, the largest face should lie on the bed for best overall surface results.
4. Supports and overhangs
Some designs require supports while printing, but if you can minimize the number needed, you will reduce the print time and the finish processing time. If you do use supports, it is better if they are accessible for easier removal. Sometimes, angled overhangs can help support a design.
5. Fillet or chamfer edges
Rounding corners or curving adjacent surfaces creates smooth edges and can reduce structural stresses in a design. Fillets and chamfer edges can reduce warping and even make it easier to remove surfaces that are flush with a build plate.
6. Printer capacity
Every 3D printer works at a different build rate. For efficiency, and to ensure material is supplied to the printer in a timely manner, consider how long it will take to build the designed part. In some cases, you may want to start early in the day for a final part eight hours later. For longer builds, you may need to start in the middle of the day. For builds that might take a couple of days, beginning the project early in the week, or late on a Friday will make efficient use of time and material.