The ultimate guide to 3D printing small objects: master your 3D model
Creating small objects can be tedious, arduous and time-consuming. Why bother when you can 3D print them? Additive Manufacturing has numerous appliances and is not limited only to large scale. With our best tips for 3D printing small objects, you will successfully improve your 3D model and get your parts 3D printed without any issues.
With our ultimate guide, you will learn about the most important factors influencing the 3D printing process. We won’t focus only on the manufacturing of your product, but also on the correct preparation of the STL files, which is essential for your 3D design to be printed correctly. We will go over the crucial elements of both 3D modeling and 3D printing. Follow the guide.
Is 3D printing beneficial for manufacturing small parts?
There are several reasons to choose 3D printing over traditional manufacturing methods. First of all, 3D printing gives you absolutely new design freedom. Thanks to Additive Manufacturing you can reach a level of complexity that was not possible before. Also, your 3D printed parts can be edited on the inside, giving you lightweight but durable structures.
3D printing also operates on layers and the thickness of those depends on the technology you use. This factor gives you more flexibility and helps you to find the most suitable 3D method for your needs. You might need your parts to be stronger, with better mechanical properties, or you might be looking for more subtle and decorative characteristics. Whatever your choice is, keep on reading to learn all the necessary requirements for the perfect 3D print.
Our top 5 Tips for 3D printing small objects
In this chapter, we will go over our best tips and tricks to achieve the perfect 3D print. Starting with the correct STL files preparation, we will move on to the accuracy of your 3D models, then we will go over design guidelines and finally, we will talk about the layer height. We will also advise you on the best 3D printing technology for each type of materials. Let’s get started!
Realistic and functional model is the key
Even before we talk about the properties of 3D printers which are one of the most important factors, we need to start with how to 3D model your objects. First of all, you need to make sure your 3D model is precise. You can’t have polygons, walls or faces missing as that will create a hole in your 3D model and we will not be able to print it.
It’s essential to understand that the 3D model has to be realistic after all the 3D design on your computer will become an actual object and it has to meet all the requirements that any object produced with other technologies. Your part has to actually be functional and in that case, 3D printing is no different from CNC or traditional foundry. 3D printing won’t break the laws of gravity, however, it will definitely be able to manufacture your models with high precision and level of detail.
Respecting the guidelines
To give you the best 3D printing experience, you can find the most important information on each page of our 3D printing materials. The characteristics of materials are different and that’s due to the technology as each 3D printer has its own properties. Remember to always check the design guidelines to assure your 3D models are well prepared for printing. It is crucial for the guidelines to be respected in order for the 3D prints to be accurate and precise. Yes, Additive Manufacturing gives you a new possibility regarding the level of details, but we also have to be able to print your 3D design.
Essential things to keep in mind are minimum wall thickness, which assures your model won’t break, minimum detail and clearance, to make sure your object will be as accurate as the 3D design on your computer. For other measurements, the maximum/ minimum size is also worth mentioning. It depends on the size of the bed of the 3D printer and, depending on the 3D printing method, either the sintering laser beam or the nozzle size. Keeping those factors in mind will help you to achieve the best results.
Think about the supports
As the aim is to print a small object as accurately as possible, some parts of it might be thin and will require supports on some technologies. Supports are additional parts to keep your model stable and printable, they are later removed from your object. And that’s exactly what you need to think about: the removal of the support. We print objects with support, but the models have to be thick enough either for you or for our 3D printing experts to gently take out the supporting system. If your 3D design is too thin, it will simply break during the support removal.
Accurate print: the layer thickness
Layer thickness: explained in micrometers (µm), it is one-millionth of a meter, so 100µm equals 0.1 mm. Thickness can also be called layer height. Each 3D printing technology works with layers and without knowledge about this particular element, the 3D models might not meet your expectations as the layers of material will be visible. Let’s see some real-life examples.
Plastic and Resin 3D printing
As mentioned above, each Additive Manufacturing method has certain characteristics. For instance, if you would like to print objects in resin, PolyJet technology will provide you with some pretty impressive results at 28µm layer height with VeroWhite or VeroClear. Despite the names Clear and White, those 3D printing materials come in different colors! However, if you need your parts stronger, we would recommend going for Nylon PA12 for SLS, which still gives amazing results with the high definition option and some very good finishes.
Another plastic worth mentioning is MultiJet Fusion PA12 with a layer thickness of 80µm. What differs from Nylon PA12 is smaller minimum wall thickness (0.8 mm vs 0.6 mm), which might be important for your project. Additionally to that, MultiJet Fusion PA12 has also excellent resistance to chemicals. Remember to make sure that your 3D models have the right thickness for the exact technology for us to be able to print them.
Nylon PA12 layer thickness high definition 60 µm (left) and standard 100- 150 µm
Nylon PA11/12 Polished and Raw
Nylon PA12 with different finishes at the same layer height
MultiJet Fusion PA12 at 80 µm layer height
Metal 3D printing
As for Metal 3D printing, you have plenty of options with Sculpteo. We offer 4 3D technologies: SLM, DMLS, Binder Jetting, and Casting. The technologies differ in print time, temperatures of binding the metal, and the time to cool your 3D design. However, your projects will be robust and stiff with other methods, we highly recommend Casting for the small object. With a layer thickness of 25 µm, the object comes out precise and accurate, especially for little parts. Make the right choice of metal to print objects perfectly.
Silver 3D prints: layer thickness 25 µm
Brass 3D prints: 25 µm layer height
Get your small object 3D printed right now
Most important points of our blog post are for you to remember about the proper preparation of your 3D models, such as checking if you’re not missing any structures of your model, keeping in mind the printability of your project and support removal, followed by checking which technology has the most suitable layer thickness.
Do you have a project in mind? Print objects with us! We are here to help you all the way through, from the 3D design with our Design Studio, through the prototyping stage to production, simply contact us. Don’t wait any longer and upload your 3D models right now!