When you're designing a 3D model for a render or animation, you don't have to think too hard about how that model would work in reality as long as you focus on manifold 3D printing; however, 3D modeling and digital sculpting for print comes with a number of things to keep in mind. You can find the most common challenges below:
Making your mesh watertight:
A watertight mesh is achieved by having closed edges, creating a solid volume, so that if you filled your geometry with water it wouldn't leak. This creates a manifold 3D model. One of the best ways to do this is to check your ‘normals’ and ensure they're all outward-facing. If any are flipped, the 3D printer will recognize them as holes instead. Be sure to check your internal geometry for any that could have been mistakenly left behind due to booleans.
Here's what a model with normals facing out looks like:
No internal geometry has been left behind due to booleans:
Removing non-manifold geometry to ensure you have a manifold 3D model:
Non-manifold geometry is defined as any edge shared by more than two faces. This can occur when a face or edge is extruded but not moved, which results in two identical edges directly on top of one another.
In the example below, two cubes have one edge in common. Non-manifold geometry exists because one edge is shared by four faces:
When non-manifold geometry is present in your model, our printers will have trouble reading the file. You can typically repair this in your modeling program to ensure you end up with manifold 3D printing.
Review the Material Guidelines to ensure a successful printing of your manifold 3D model.
Each material (and in many cases, each finish) has a unique production process and set of physical traits. To help you navigate the needs of each one, check out our Material Guidelines. This is meant to be a hub of information to help you successfully model for each and every material we offer.
Some of the key guidelines included in each material's dedicated page are bounding boxes, required thicknesses, and escape hole requirements.
Here are the individual sets of guidelines for each material: