These Design Rules Will Help You Produce Kickass 3D Models

Over the past decade, there has been a convenient and constant surge in digital media consumption, and we all know it.

We also see a humongous rise in the convertible technologies, such as 3D modeling. To those who have barely known what 3D printing technology is, it’s the process of converting a digital design into an actual physical model.

According to Wikipedia, 

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), refers to processes used to create a three-dimensional object in which layers of material are formed under computer control to create an object.

Well, there are a variety of tools and 3D printing techniques and technologies one can use to create 3D models.

Some of the predictably prevalent technologies that are used within the 3D printing industry are:

Vat Polymerisation

  • Stereolithography
  • Direct Light Processing (DLP)
  • Continuous Direct Light Processing (CDLP)

Power Bed Fusion

  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
  • Selective Laser Melting and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (SLM & DMLS)
  • Electron Beam Melting (EBM)
  • Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)

Material Extrusion

  • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

Material Jetting

  • Material Jetting
  • Drop-On-Demand (DOD)
  • Nano Particle Jetting

Binder Jetting

Direct Energy Deposition

  • Laser Engineered Net Shape (LENS)
  • Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM)

Here is an all-embracing list of 3D model producersOfficial Manufacturer Of 3D Models.

But to begin with, and to create ultimate error-free 3D models, there are a few design rules every designer must adhere to. Without a proper guideline, it’s impossible to build a successful design or even a working model.

This article will simply speak of the design rules an early or even an established 3D modeling brand must consider looking into.

A compilation of 26 best 3D modeling tools on the web.

Also, there are a variety of videos online to help you kick-start your 3D modeling business. This one is from CNN, pretty comprehensive video, take a look – CNN Explains: 3-D printing.

Zero Complexity

Design flow for 3D printing doesn’t have to be as complex as Da Vinci’s Vitruvian model. In the simplest form, 3D modeling is to reciprocate a digital design into a physical model.

45^ FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) Rule

We are aware that some filaments are naturally stronger compared to the others. Filaments like ABS (Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) are stiffer than PLA (Polylactic acid). But these stiffer elements when exposed to heat become extremely softer than their natural form.

Image Souce: Flickr

Image Souce: Flickr

But Solidoodle figured out a way to create such filament which is highly resistant to heat and that it supports 45 degrees of overhang while some of the potential designers have figured out ways to stretch it more than this, with better positive upshot.

There is another way to deal with overhangs, which is, changing the orientation of the model when in doubt. Perhaps, 3D models can be of any form, and it’s probably not required that every model is correctly oriented or must face upwards all the time like in real life. For example, in general, bookshelves come with plenty of overhangs, printing them from the back will exclude all of those complicated overhangs.

Print Bridges Instead Of Overhangs

Image Source: CGTrader

Image Source: CGTrader

Mainly because of the reason why printers can easily anchor the edges of strings of the filaments. This way, when edges of the strings of filaments are tightly anchored, the bridges become less prone to falling off. Although there are possibilities. The utmost thing to remember is, bridges to be printed need to be entirely leveled to the sliced layers.

There is one better way you can calibrate the bridges to be printed very well without any expected fault, by performing Bridge Torture Test.

Thickness Of The Wall

The next design rule one must strictly consider is, the wall thickness of the 3D model. What we know is, depending on the 3D printing technology we use, we need to be aware of how much wall thickness a model is supposed to have. The 3D models are generally printed layer upon layer. Hence it is essential to make sure we have enough wall thickness which will help us pull out a better 3D model.

Battle against warping and curling

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Apart from the aforementioned design hacks, warping and curling can be entirely avoided by using appropriate calibration method and by having adequate adhesion to the print bed.

Though PLA and SLS have the least shrinkage factor, both at some extreme level, can warp and curl and eventually ruin the print. Preferably, there are a few ways we can handle this warping and curling wreckage, by using a heated build platform. Potentially, this keeps the lower levels of the prints warm while the upper the levels are getting printed.

The other way is to print with a raft. Which means, placing a large lattice work underneath the lowermost part of the printed object. This eradicates the curling and warping of the 3D models by letting the printed object strongly adhere to the solid lattice surface.

Tip: Long and any flat surface can be highly prone to warping and curling.

Detailing of 3D model

Image Source: Wikipedia

Image Source: Wikipedia

The first thing to make sure is whether or not the details you include in the digital design will appear in the final print. In general, FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling) will struggle to print features that are lesser than 0.8mm. But with SLS and Polyjet, the smaller,  important features like this will get printed with ample detail. Polyjets can print down to 0.2mm.

But this eventually will have an impact on the cost of your print also on the speed at which the 3D models are printed.

These are some of the design rules to follow while printing 3D models from digital designs/patterns. Just to re-iterate, 3D printing is different from the subtractive process which is removing or hollowing out the parts of plastic or metal using a milling machine or similar.

Well, leave your thoughts underneath about the 3D brands you’ve purchased from or the things that entice you the most regarding 3D printing technology and what you see in its proximal future.


Manuj Aggarwal is an entrepreneur, investor and a technology enthusiast who likes startups, business ideas, and high-tech anything. He enjoys working on hard problems and getting his hands dirty with cutting-edge technologies. In a career spanning two decades, he has been a business owner, technical architect, CTO, coder, startup consultant, and more. Learn more about Manuj’s consulting services and courses at

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