How to make your 3D print cheaper

Save money: don’t use material where you don’t need it!

The pricing for most 3D printing materials is volume-based. The less material you use, the less it will cost you. This means a hollow model will be cheaper than a solid one. For some materials, hollowing your object will also avoid deformations. However, creating a 3D model with an empty interior can be a bit tricky: you need to know how to hollow your model in the 3D modeling software you’re using, you need to define a wall thickness that is strong enough for your model not to break, and it probably makes sense to add so-called ‘escape holes’ to your model. So let’s take a look at these things a step at a time.

Reduce costs: create a hollow 3D model & 3D print.

A hollow model means that the interior of your object will not be solid. Solid designs are not necessarily a problem – they will be stronger and harder to break (depending on the material), but they will also be more expensive as more 3D printing material will be used. With a hollow model the interior of your print will be empty (in theory). However, since our printers print layer by layer, 3D printing material can get trapped in the interior of your model (see the image in the middle below). If you would like to avoid this, you can add ‘escape holes’ to your design. Material that is not used for building your 3D print can then be removed.

Are the walls thick enough for a hollow model?

Creating a hollow model means that you need to design your object with ‘walls’. A printer needs to know how thick the walls of your objects (the ‘outer shell’ if you will) are supposed to be. We don’t have a single, ‘one-size-fits-all’ wall thickness to recommend for each and every 3D printing material, but most of our materials range somewhere in between 1 and 3 mm.

I know that many of you want to save some money by pushing the wall thickness to the minimum. That’s only logical since this means that less material will be used and the print will be cheaper. However, think about the fact that making walls too thin can make your model too fragile and might cause parts of it to break off.

How do I create a hollow model without making mistakes?

See here common errors when you designing a 3d file, and find some easy solutions for that. 

Why do I need escape holes?

As already pointed out, our 3D prints are created layer by layer. With a hollow interior, this means that 3D printing materials can get trapped inside the object. A hollow model full of trapped powder is in danger of deforming. Escape holes are recommended for getting ‘trapped’ 3D printing material (in most cases this is plastic, metal, ceramic or wood powder) out of your 3D print. We typically use pressurized air for cleaning the excess powder off.

Now the questions remain how many escape holes a print needs and how big they need to be. And once again there is no universal answer to this: it all depends on the 3D printing material and the size of your print.

How do I design escape holes?

Again, the exact procedure depends on your software but the idea is often the same: create a cylinder at the bottom of your model and extrude or subtract from its wall (see image below).

Now that you know how to create hollow models and cut 3D printing costs, what’s holding you back from uploading your 3D file here and ordering it as a 3D print.  
  • Rapidsol
  • 25/11/2015

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