Here you will find plenty of information, tricks, know-how and, advice to help you with 3D printing your project in plastic material. You will learn:
- General information about our plastic material and technology we use to 3D print it,
- Finishes and colors available,
- Tips and design guides,
- Technical specifications.
The plastic objects printed through Sculpteo are created from a fine polyamide powder, more commonly known as nylon. The material is both solid and flexible, unlike some of the other materials offered by Sculpteo. The plastic is great for both experienced professionals and design beginners because of the high precision and low cost of the material. Unpolished, the material is white, granular, and somewhat porous - these options can be further refined with Sculpteo’s in house polishing and dying processes. It is also completely possible to arrive at finer levels of polishing and coloring at your house with various techniques. To learn more, you can refer to our paragraph about finishes and colors for polyamide models.
Processing times and pricing
The printing price of your design is calculated automatically the moment it is placed online. As you modify your object (changing size, using batch control or hollowing feature, etc.) you will note that the price changes automatically. The pricing is based on a serie of factors, including: volume of plastic used, size of object, and multiple other factors.
White, unpolished plastic has the quickest turn around time of our materials - two to three business days. That delay can be extended by another 1 - 2 business days, depending on the polishing and painting options chosen and the size of the piece. The estimated shipping time is also calculated automatically as the object is uploaded.
Delivery time should be added to processing time and depends on the delivery option you choose.
Sculpteo uses a process called Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) for all polyamide plastic prints. After your design is uploaded to the Sculpteo website, it undergoes a couple steps before it is physically created:
- Model transferred to 3D printer
- Object is 3D printed
- Object is removed from batch
- Brushing and Sandblasting
- Polishing and Dying
Once you transfer your 3D model and submit your order on our website, it is received by a Sculpteo team member, who expertly places the model into the next available batch. The specific printer from which it will be printed is determined mainly by the dimensions of your object or batch, the larger prints reserved for the larger printers. We have multiple printers available including: the EOS Formiga P100, P110, P395, and P730
SLS uses a highly specific laser that sinters thin layers of polyamide powder together one layer at a time. After each round of lasering, the printing bed is lowered and another layer of powder is evenly swept across the top for another round of sintering. This process is repeated at a layer height of either 100 µm or 60 µm (available through batch control) until the object is completed.
After the printer cools, the block of sintered powder is removed from printer and the printed objects are removed by hand. A part of the powder that was not sintered is recycled back into the printer for a future print.
The object is then brushed, which removing a large portion of the powder, and sandblasted, which removes the fine powder that the brush may have missed.
From there the object can be polished and/or died depending on the finishing and color you chose. Our polishing technique involves small stones in a rotating/vibrating cauldron - as the stones brush up against the object, small imperfections in the surface are smoothed. We also dye objects by plunging the entire object into the desired tint. To learn more, you can refer to our paragraph about finishes and colors for polyamide models.
Uses and maintenance
Polyamide offers great flexibility for a 3D print, especially complex models, as it is flexible, durable, and food safe. As a result, the objects in this material have a wide range of uses from mechanical (prototypes, geared systems, articulated objects, etc.), ornamental, or even educational (bone structures, etc.).
Technical properties of polyamide change depending on the thickness of your model. With a 0,8 mm wall thickness, your model will be flexible. With a 2 mm wall thickness, it will be rigid.
With regards to water qualities, polyamide is water-resistant but not waterproof. Thus the 3D object must not rest in contact with water for extended periods of time. In terms of temperature, if the plastic is subjected to heat above 120°C (248°F), it is possible that the physical form of the object can significantly altered.
As a result of their rough surface, objects in polyamide quickly become dirtied. This can often be remedied with soapy water and a cloth, letting it dry thoroughly. However, we strongly recommend avoiding strong friction with your colored objects to prevent surface degradation.
Finishes and colorings
Sculpteo’s finishes and colorings
There are multiple coloring and finishing options available through Sculpteo.
- Raw: sandblasted but unpolished, surface remains somewhat rough, most economical.
- Polished: polished through tribofinition, smoother to touch, layers still somewhat visible on rounded objects.
- Double Polished: polished through tribofinition, smoothest to touch, minimal layer visibility, only available with batch control (available on orders of 20+ objects). This option is not recommended for all models, as the tribofinition process removes a fine layer of plastic to smooth the surface. Thus fine design aspects may be damaged in the process.
The objects printed in a white color, though they can be monocolored in a large bath. The colors available include: white, black, blue, yellow, red, green, beige, brown, pink, and orange.
The piece is colored in multiple steps:
- The color’s pigments are mixed in a lukewarm water bath
- The object is completely submerged within the color mixture
- Final cleaning and shipment
The dye bath and tribofinition machine introduce a size restriction on your object, as the object need to be completely submerged in the tint and/or abrasives. To know more please check out size restrictions.
Paint and glue your polyamide parts
It is also completely possible to arrive at finer levels of finishing at your house with various DIY techniques. To learn more, you can refer to our tutorial about gluing and painting polyamide models.
|Standard layer thickness||100 - 150µm|
|High Definition layer thickness||60µm|
Sculpteo has two layer definitions available. A standard definition of between 100 - 150 µm and a high definition of 60 µm. High definition prints are only available when using batch control (orders in a series above 20 items).
Enabling batch control also opens the ability to orient your objects within the printer bed. This allows for precise control over the direction of the layers as the object is printed, which is important when considering the aesthetic and functional aspects of your object.
|Maximum size white/unpolished||677 x 368 x 565 mm|
|Maximum size colored||180 x 220 x 220 mm|
|Maximum size polished||170 x 160 x 150 mm
x+y+z ≤ 390 mm
The maximum size of your models are limited by the physical size of our 3D printers - nothing can be printed larger than the printer bed. The same goes for our polishing and painting tanks - if it doesn’t fit, it can’t be used.
There is no minimum size for polyamide prints, keeping in mind minimum thickness for walls and structural aspects, to ensure the object will not break is 0.8 mm.
Minimum thickness and geometry of your 3D model
|Minimum wall thickness (flexible)||0.8mm|
|Minimum wall thickness(rigid)||2mm|
|Minimum wall thickness stemmed elements||0.8mm with support
1mm without support
|Minimum wall thickness particular design aspects||1-2mm|
The walls of your design must adhere to a minimum thickness of 0.8 mm in order to guarantee the structure will not break. If the walls of your model are less than 0.8 mm, it is possible to add a support structure to maintain stability.
A stemmed element is a design aspect which is at least twice as long as it is thick. For unsupported and stemmed elements or parts of the design with a particular design constraint, it is also important to respect a minimum thickness of 1 mm in order to guarantee the object will not break.
It is possible to add a support structure to maintain stability. For example, if you are modelling a bust of a person, you can attach thin aspects of the design like the ears in more places around the model’s head. Doing that will avoid cantilevered and easily breakable elements in the final print.
With a 0.8 wall thichness, your design will be slightly flexible. To obtain more rigidity, we advice a 2mm wall thickness.
Large polyamide models with thin walls may warp sometimes : this is bending phenomenon.
Sculpteo offers an online solidity check tool which highlights parts of the print that may be too thin for a print. From there you are able to tweak your design in order to create an object that is an appropriate thickness. To use it, you just need to upload your 3D file, select your material and clic on “Verification” tab.
It is also important to keep in mind that the object is to be printed in a physical form. Thus if a thin aspect is supporting something that is too heavy for it, it may break - even though it is possible with the physics provided within the 3D printing program. We recommend adding a bit of thickness to the places that will get a lot of handling, or that support the most weight.
Keep in mind that our solidity check tool does not detect physical aberrations such as floating parts, unstable position, part supporting too much weight relative to its thickness, etc. Particular care must be given to the geometry of your design and the most stressed parts must be thicken.
Etching and embossing
|Minimum size of details||0.3 mm|
|Minimum height and width details||Embossed : 0.4 mm
Engraved : 0.5 mm
|Minimum height and width for a readable text||0.5mm|
A detail’s minimum precision is mainly determined by the resolution of our 3D printers. However, during the cleaning process, a fine layer of detail can also be lost. In order for a detail and text to be visible we recommend following our recommended sizes at the very least.
It’s possible that particularly fine embossings and engravings will not be visible, as the carving could get filled with excess powder that is later unable to be cleaned out. If an embossing or engraving is an essential part of your design we recommend making them as deep as possible. To ensure a better powder removal (thus a better detail visibility), the width of your details must be at least as big as depth.
Enclosed and interlocked volumes
|Enclosed parts ?||Yes|
|Interlocking parts ?||Yes|
Our plastic material has the ability to print the most complex designs of our materials. An example of a complex design is a volume enclosed within another volume, like a chain or maraca. Our printers have the ability to print a fully interlocked chain our of the printer, with no support structures to remove.
Minimum spacing and clearance
|Minimum spacing between fixed walls||0.5 mm|
|Minimum clearance between parts||0.5 mm|
For a successful 3D print a minimum clearance between objects is required to allow excess material to be sand blown out. If this space is not left within the design, the object will be a solid. This is particularly important for articulated objects - as the space left between the walls will define the object’s ability to move.
Clearance should be at least 0.5 mm and depends on your objects size. For big sizes, the clearance should be greater. The heated zone of your object depends on the size, the larger the object the more time it will be exposed to high temperature : if the space left between the walls is too small, it will be weld because of heat spreading. In some cases, holes should be added to allow us to drain for the excess powder material within the clearance.
Keep in mind that clearance should be at least 0.5 mm but depends on your objects size. For big sizes, the clearance should be greater. Indeed, the heated zone of your object depends on the size, the larger the object the more time it will be exposed to high temperature : if the space left between the walls is too small, it will be weld because of heat spreading. In some cases, holes should be added to allow us to drain for the excess powder material within the clearance.
|Minimum space||0.5 mm|
Objects printed in polyamide can be printed to be assembled. As long as a width of at least 0.5 mm is left between the different parts of the object.
Our online hollowing optimization tool has the ability to greatly reduce the price of a print by reducing the amount of material used.
Using the tool requires adding two holes to your model, which will serve as the drain for the excess powder material within the object. The minimum size of these holes is determined by our website. Otherwise it is possible to hollow your object manually in your 3D modeling software.
Files with multiple objects
|Files with multiple objects ?||Yes|
This is possible to 3D print a 3D file containing several objects with some of our 3D printers. This option is available if all the models in your 3D files can fit in a 300 x 180 x 180 mm bounding box. The process we use to print 3D file with several objects inside limits available finishes : sometimes it won’t be possible to polished your models.
If you want to 3D print bigger models in the same file, we recommend you group them together using thin connections you will be able to break then.
|Density of laser-sintered part||EOS-Method||g/cm3||min. 0.90 / max. 0.95|
|Tensile Modulus||DIN EN ISO 527||N/mm2||1700 ± 150|
|Tensile strength||DIN EN ISO 527||N/mm2||45 ± 3|
|Elongation at break||DIN EN ISO 527||%||20 ± 5|
|Melting point||DIN 53736||°C||min. 172 / max. 180|
To learn more about polyamide technical specifications, refer to the following documents: