3D modelling calls for optimisation and a new way of thinking

Before a 3D printer can really be put to work, a 3D model of the component to be printed is needed. 3D modelling forms the foundation of efficient 3D printing, which is something you should really invest in.

3D modelling is the foundation of 3D printing

The operational benefits from optimising a component’s shape and the cost savings in production begin in the designing stage of the component’s 3D model. 3D printing really isn’t even worth considering if you’re not willing to spend the time and effort on 3D modelling.

What does 3D modelling actually demand from a company that is planning production? More on that next.

Don’t cling to the limitations of traditional production methods

To design a 3D model, the designer must first accustom himself or herself to the idea of 3D printing. 3D printing is not just a new kind of technology, it is something much more holistic – a complete change of mindset. In other words, components are not designed with the limitations of traditional production methods in mind; it’s the possibilities of 3D printing that are at heart.

Producing a component with machining, for example, may force you to leave parts and shapes in it, which are irrelevant to the component’s functionality, due to the method’s limitations. Consequently, the component may contain additional, unnecessary material simply because using the method in question requires it to be able to make the component at all.

3D printing, on the other hand, allows you to create completely new types of components and reproduce old components in a new way. 3D printing thus makes it possible to create shapes and surfaces that are impossible to create with traditional production methods. Intricate mesh and honeycomb structures are good examples of this. The limitations of 3D printing are primarily the component’s physical size and the printing volume of the printer being used, as well as the component’s structural strength.

Complexity is an asset in 3D printing, unlike in traditional casting-based production methods where it invariably increases costs or makes production downright impossible. It is not surprising, then, that a designer accustomed to the traditional production methods may take a while to get used to 3D modelling – it requires a completely different mindset. The principles that dictate traditional production methods are no longer valid in the new 3D era; they have to be replaced with new ones.

Optimisation is a key factor in 3D model designing

The amount of material used to make a component has the strongest impact on the costs of 3D printing. The amount of material in the components should therefore be kept at a minimum when designing a 3D model if and when the costs need to be kept at a minimum. 

The 3D model is optimised to create a component which constitutes only the material and shape necessary for its core function – everything else is removed. The final shape of the component may, along these lines, look very strange. However, strange shapes are typical in 3D printing and are evidence that the designer knows what he or she is doing. 

In addition to minimising the amount of material, optimising the component’s properties is also an important part of 3D modelling. Components can be optimised for rigidity, weight, and fluidity, among other properties. This significantly improves the component’s cost-benefit ratio. It becomes smaller, lighter, more functional – and cheaper.

How are 3D models made?

A 3D model can be created either by scanning the desired, existing component with a 3D scanner or by modelling the desired component and shapes with a CAD program, for example.

When it comes to optimising a 3D model, there are several different simulation programs on the market that can be used to improve a component’s properties. The program you use depends highly on which properties you want to improve in the component in question. Some of today’s programs will even make the desired optimisations semi-automatically. This, of course, facilitates the 3D model designing, making it more efficient and creating higher quality.

You can always ask for help if you need it! As experts in 3D printing, we at 3D Formtech are happy to help our customers with their 3D modelling. We turn an existing idea into a digital model and make 3D models of the physical components so they can be printed. We also make sure that the component is optimised using all the potential of 3D printing.

The first step for your company in taking advantage of the possibilities of 3D printing could be to contact us and ask for consultation on designing a 3D model. We will tell you how your company can get the most out of 3D printing. You will find our contact information here or, if you wish, you can submit a contact request using the form below.