Forums/Tutorials/3D Printing Tutorials & Tips

Things you must know for 3D printing with Ponoko

Rich Borrett
posted this on March 15, 2012 01:34

1. Getting things right the first time will prevent order delays

When you send us your file we check it manually. If it’s good to go we send it on through into the queue, but it there are issues such as those mentioned in this post then the process won’t start up until the issues are resolved. It's always worth self-checking your files before your upload!

2. Wall thicknesses are super duper important

For many of our materials the wall thickness requirement is only 1mm, much thinner than that and it’s practically an egg shell. Before designing for any specific material check out our material page.

Each material has it’s own minimum wall thicknesses, any thinner and you’re taking a risk.

Durable Plastic - 1mm / 0.04"
Durable Fine Plastic - 1mm / 0.04"
Superfine Plastic - 1mm / 0.04"
Durable Gloss Plastic - 1.5mm / 0.06"
Rainbow ceramic - 2mm / 0.08"
Stainless Steel and Gold Plate - 3mm / 0.12"
Glazed Ceramic - 3mm / 0.12"

Wall thicknesses apply differently to long thin geometry, to prevent breaking the height of a rod-like piece should be no greater than 2 times the width.

Check out Dan’s detailed post regarding wall thicknesses

Wall thicknesses and material constraints are also a factor in why wall thickness requirements are what they are. Some 3D materials have unique properties that you need to consider when you're designing, such as the cumbly "green state" of Stainless Steel, or the extrusion process of FDM (aka Durable Gloss Plastic).

3. Hollowing out geometry will reduce your costs dramatically in most materials

3D printing in general is charged by volume (except for Glazed Ceramic).

For example you have a bulky solid object in Durable Plastic that doesn’t need to be solid, you can save a lot on costs if you just create a void that creates a wall thickness of 1mm or more.

Don’t forget to relieve that void! (and by that I mean add drain holes). The only other thing to consider when creating voids is that support material will be within this void, and must be removed. An opening at least 5mm in diameter will do the trick. The opening doesn’t have to be round or square, it can be an addition to the design.

See Rich’s illustrated post on this for a more detailed explanation with visuals!

4. Super small features may not turn out, look at the material page first to see how low you can go

One of our most popular materials is Durable Plastic and has a decent amount of detail. It will generally get detail as small as 0.5mm / 0.02."

Just grab a caliper or ruler if you can’t visualize this,and note that you really won’t see detail much smaller than that unless you’re looking really close.

If you do want more detail than that Superfine Plastic or Durable Fine Plastic are great choices.

5. Prototyping can save you from a bit of unhappiness

Instead of ordering 10 of a design that you’re kinda sure will work out, it’s usually better to make just one, and then see what you might want to redesign or reinforce. This is especially important if you have specific material requirements, like flexibility, strength or surface finish.

That’s much better than the alternative of getting multiple pieces that aren’t quite right.

Each design is different, so you won’t know for sure if it will work until you try it out.

6. Choose a material before you start designing

It's much better to design for 3D printing with a specific material in mind - that way you can make sure you'll meet all the wall thickness & size requirements from the start.

Trying to make changes to an existing model to make it fit the material requirements often gets ugly!

Instead of getting frustrated you can ask our advice before you make the order

We’re here to help! Just click the “Ask Us” tab on the left of your Ponoko page to get guidance.


Thanks and Happy Making!

The 3D Service Team