• How to Choose the Right 3D Printing Material: Understanding Material Properties of Plastics

    How to Choose the Right 3D Printing Material: Understanding Material Properties of Plastics

    What do Notched IZOD of 14 J/m, post-cured, and ASTM D 256-10 actually mean? What’s the difference between strength and modulus? How do they relate to common materials that we come across every day, and why does it matter to you?

    Material properties such as chemical, optical, mechanical, thermal, or electrical characteristics reflect how a specific material will behave under certain conditions. As quantitative metrics, these attributes can help you assess the benefits of one material versus another for a specific use case.

    In the following, we’ll describe the most widely used mechanical and thermal properties, their importance for specific applications, and how 3D printed materials relate to plastics manufactured with traditional methods to help you make the right material decisions.

    The Most Common Mechanical and Thermal Properties

    Material Property Definition Why does it matter?
    Tensile Strength Resistance of a material to breaking under tension. Fundamental property that shows the ultimate strength of a part. High tensile strength is important for structural, load bearing, mechanical, or statical parts.
    Young’s Modulus Resistance of a material to stretch under tension (stiffness). Good indicator for either the stiffness (high modulus) or the flexibility (low modulus) of a material.
    Elongation Resistance of a material to breaking when stretched. Helps you compare flexible materials based on how much they can stretch. Also indicates if a material will deform first, or break suddenly.
    Flexural Strength Resistance of a material to breaking when bent. Similar to tensile strength, but shows strength in bending mode. Also a good indicator if a material is isotropic (homogeneous).
    Flexural Modulus Resistance of a material to bending under load. Good indicator for either the stiffness (high modulus) or the flexibility (low modulus) of a material.
    Impact Strength Ability of a material to absorb shock and impact energy without breaking. Indicates toughness, helps you figure out if a part will survive when dropped on the ground or crashed into another object.
    Indentation Hardness (Shore) Resistance of a material to deformation. Helps you identify the right “softness” for rubber and elastomers for certain applications.
    Compression Set Permanent deformation remaining after material has been compressed. Important for elastic applications, tells you if a material will quickly spring back into its original shape.
    Tear Strength Resistance of a material to growth of cuts under tension. Important for flexible materials, such as rubber or textiles. Shows the resistance to abrasion.
    Water Absorption Amount of water absorbed under specified conditions. Mostly important during the processing of the raw material, high water absorption or humidity can lead to poor material properties in thermoplastics.
    Heat Deflection Temperature Temperature at which a sample deforms under a specified load. Indicates if a material is suitable for high temperature applications.
    Vicat Softening Point Temperature at which the material becomes noticeably soft. Used for materials that have no definite melting point. For high temperature applications it helps determine the upper temperature limit for continuous use.
    Thermal Expansion Tendency of a material to expand (or shrink) in response to a change in temperature. Important for applications where a shape change in response to temperature is unacceptable or desirable.

    Materials properties are most reliably measured by standardized test methods. Many such methods have been documented by their respective user communities and published through ASTM International. Naturally, the exact metrics for your parts are dependent on their designs, but comparing standardized tests will give you an indication on how your part will behave when manufactured from different materials using different methods.

    You’re most likely to come across these metrics and standards on datasheets of materials. Here’s an example of a material property of Formlabs’ Standard Clear Resin:

    Metric Imperial Method
    Green Post-cured Green Post-cured
    Tensile Strength 38 MPa 65 MPa 5510 psi 9380 psi ASTM D 638-10

    Tensile Strength: Material property 38 MPa / 5510 psi: Metrics in both metric and imperial units Green / Postcured: Material property before and after curing, specific to the stereolithography (SLA) process. Learn more about curing. ASTM D 256-10: Identifier of the standardized method. In an ideal world, you’ll find similar materials tested with the same method, but there’s no good way to compare an RC plane to a Boeing 747.

    Now that we have a clear understanding of the basics, let’s look into each material property in detail and talk about benchmarks for materials made with traditional manufacturing methods, as well as common 3D printing technologies including Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and PolyJet.

    Tensile Strength

    Tensile Strength

    One of the most fundamental material properties is tensile strength, a material’s resistance to breaking under tension. It’s one of the first material properties engineers look for and is found at the very top of most material datasheets. In conjunction with a sufficient ductility, tensile strength also indicates a material’s toughness. Some materials break very sharply in a brittle failure, whereas more ductile ones, such as most plastics and metals, experience some deformation. To clearly understand this behavior, tensile strength data is commonly supplemented with a stress/strain curve.

    Materials of high tensile strength are typically found in structural, mechanical, or static components where a breakage is unacceptable, such as construction, automotive, aviation, as well as wires, ropes, bullet proof vests, and more. Today, 3D printing has progressed to the extent where it is able to deliver the same, or even higher tensile strength than traditional injection-molded plastics, such as polypropylene and ABS.

    Manufactured with Traditional Methods 3D Printed
    ABS [MPa] Nylon [MPa] Polypropylene [MPa] Pine wood (along grain) [MPa] Stainless Steel 17-4 PH [MPa] ABS (FDM) [MPa] Formlabs Tough Resin (SLA) [MPa] Nylon (SLS) [MPa]
    40 70 40 40 1,090 30-33 55.7 48

    Young's Modulus

    Young's Modulus

    The Young’s Modulus, or elastic modulus, is a measure of a material’s stiffness under tensile load. The higher the Young’s Modulus, the stiffer the material. On the upper end of the scale, Young’s modulus quantifies a material’s shape fidelity under load, making it one of the first properties you should examine when selecting materials for any load bearing mechanical and structural parts that are expected to remain inside their geometric specifications under load.

    A low Young’s Modulus, on the other hand, indicates an elastic material. Hence, on the lower end of the scale, the Young’s Modulus allows you to get an insight into the elasticity of a soft and flexible material.

    Manufactured with Traditional Methods 3D Printed
    ABS [GPa] Nylon [GPa] Polypropylene [GPa] Pine wood (along grain) [GPa] Stainless Steel 17-4 PH [GPa] ABS (FDM) [GPa] Formlabs Tough Resin (SLA) [GPa] Nylon (SLS) [GPa]
    2.3 1.8 1.9 11 280 1.65-2.1* 2.7 1.65

    *Depending on the axis



    The extent to which a material stretches just at the moment of breaking is called elongation. Defined as the ratio of the extension over the initial, unloaded length, it expresses the capability of a material to resist changes of shape without crack formation. Stiff materials, such as brittle-hard plastics, typically feature a low elongation at break, while some soft, elastic materials can stretch several times their own length before breaking.

    When choosing a flexible material for a specific application, elongation tells you how much it can stretch. Elongation is also important in construction and architecture, where structures should deform noticeably instead of collapsing immediately. If given, the elongation can be deduced from a material’s tensile strength and tensile modulus, it is therefore a partly redundant measure.

    Manufactured with Traditional Methods 3D Printed
    ABS [%] Nylon [%] Polypropylene [%] Pine wood (along grain) [%] Stainless Steel 17-4 PH [%] ABS (FDM) [%] Formlabs Tough Resin (SLA) [%] Nylon (SLS) [%]
    30 90 100 9 5 6 24 18

    Flexural Strength

    Flexural Strength

    Similar to tensile strength, flexural strength describes a material’s resistance to breaking under load. The difference lies in the type of the load, which for flexural strength is in bending mode, therefore reflecting both a material’s compressive and tensile strength.

    For most plastics flexural and tensile strength align closely together as well, in fact, if a material is isotropic (homogeneous), its flexural strength would be the same as its tensile strength. Due the strong chemical bonds across the 3D prints, SLA parts are isotropic. This represents a major advantage compared to other 3D printing technologies, as parts have comparable strength regardless of the orientation.

    Manufactured with Traditional Methods 3D Printed
    ABS [MPa] Nylon [MPa] Polypropylene [MPa] Pine wood (along grain) [MPa] Stainless Steel 17-4 PH [MPa] ABS (FDM) [MPa] Formlabs Tough Resin (SLA) [MPa] Nylon (SLS) [MPa]
    63 117 40 60 1,100 35-38* 60.6 48

    *Depending on the axis

    Flexural Modulus

    Flexural Modulus

    The flexural modulus is a measure for a material’s stiffness in bending direction. A high flexural modulus indicates a stiffer material, while elastic materials will have a lower flexural modulus. Just like tensile and flexural strength, tensile and flexural modulus are close related and typically don’t differ largely.

    Flexural modulus is an important metric for applications such as steel springs–in particular leaf springs, as well as support beams, or structural parts.

    Manufactured with Traditional Methods 3D Printed
    ABS [GPa] Nylon [GPa] Polypropylene [GPa] Pine wood (along grain) [GPa] Stainless Steel 17-4 PH [GPa] ABS (FDM) [GPa] Formlabs Tough Resin (SLA) [GPa] Nylon (SLS) [GPa]
    2.5 1.8 1.5 8 210 1.65-2.1* 1.6 1.5

    *Depending on the axis

    Impact Strength (IZOD)

    Impact Strength (IZOD)

    Materials can respond differently to static loads than to sudden impacts. The ability to absorb this sudden energy during plastic deformation is the toughness of material. Defined as the amount of energy a material is able to absorb from a sudden impact or shock without breaking, impact tests are a great indicator of toughness. Brittle materials have low toughness as a result of the small amount of plastic deformation that they can endure. Generally, at lower temperatures the impact energy a material can absorb also decreases.

    Impact strength is an important factor in many applications from enclosures to shields and safety goggles. The IZOD impact test and the Charpy impact test are two common tests for impact strength that differ only in the way they are being measured, with the former being the ASTM standard.

    Manufactured with Traditional Methods 3D Printed
    ABS [J/m] Nylon [J/m] Polypropylene [J/m] Pine wood (along grain) [J/m] ABS (FDM) [J/m] Formlabs Tough Resin (SLA) [J/m] Nylon (SLS) [J/m]
    400 64 64 19 106 38 32

    Indentation Hardness (Shore)

    Indentation Hardness (Shore)

    Hardness is defined as a material's resistance to permanent shape change when a compressive force is applied. In practice, hardness is synonymous to scratch resistance as well as resistance to indentation and elastic deformation. Counterintuitively, hardness and toughness are mutually exclusive. Hard materials are naturally brittle, whereas toughness requires a material to feature certain ductility.

    While a low hardness generally indicates a soft material, the above hardness definition becomes increasingly impractical the softer the material is under test. This is where the Shore durometer (or Shore hardness) comes in–a testing method and definition dedicated to measuring the hardness (or softness) of soft, flexible, and elastic materials such as rubber, elastomers, and some polymers.

    In practice, the Shore durometer is often used to identify suitable materials for soft touch surfaces, such as a grip handle, or the right rubber for a specific gasket. The durometer is also an important measure for rollers and solid tires. A high Shore hardness indicates a harder and less flexible material, while a lower value indicates a softer material.

    If a datasheet does not mention a value for the hardness, a low tensile modulus can also be a good indicator for an elastic and soft material. The ASTM testing standard calls for a total of 12 scales, with the A scale being the most common for softer plastics, and the D scale for harder ones.

    Manufactured with Traditional Methods 3D Printed
    Rubber band [Shore A] Door seal [Shore A] Automotive tire thread [Shore A] Hydraulic O-ring [Shore A] Hard wheel of roller skate [Shore A] NinjaFlex (FDM) [Shore A] Formlabs Flexible Resin (SLA) [Shore A] Tango (PolyJet) [Shore A]
    25 55 70 70-90 98 85 70-85* 27-95**

    *Depending on curing

    **Depending on raw material composition

    Compression Set

    Compression Set

    Compression set is commonly used to describe the permanent deformation remaining in a soft material, such as an elastomer, after a compressive force is removed.

    Materials with a high compression set are unsuitable for applications where a part is expected to quickly jump back into its original shape after a compressive force is removed, such as springs. For dampeners or gaskets a high compression set may be acceptable or desired.

    Manufactured with Traditional Methods 3D Printed
    Soft silicone [%] Hard silicone [%] Silicon sponge [%] Urethane [%] Formlabs Flexible Resin (SLA) [%] Tango (PolyJet) [%]
    1 <1 5 5 0.4 0.5-5*

    *Depending on raw material composition

    Tear Strength

    Tear Strength

    Tear strength describes a material’s resistance to tearing, more specifically to the growth of cuts and their propagation through the material under load. Materials with a low tear resistance tend to have poor resistance to abrasion and will quickly fail when damaged.

    Tear strength is an important factor when selecting flexible materials such as rubber or textiles for highly tensile applications. Materials used for tensioned membranes, drums or sailcloth, elastics, and bungees need to resist tearing even after initial damage, and therefore require a high tear strength.

    Manufactured with Traditional Methods 3D Printed
    Soft silicone [kN/M] Hard silicone [kN/M] Urethane [kN/M] Formlabs Flexible Resin (SLA) [kN/M] Tango (PolyJet) [kN/M]
    9.8 49 12-26 9.5-14.1* 3.3-10**

    *Depending on curing

    **Depending on raw material composition

    Water Absorption

    Water Absorption

    Plastics absorb a certain amount of water from humid air or when immersed in water. Although some plastics are more hygroscopic than others, for the final plastic products, this minuscule water absorption is rarely of relevance. However, it does play an important role in the processing of the raw materials and in the heat resistance of plastic parts.

    When heated above a certain temperature threshold-typically around 150 - 160°C, in the presence of humidity many thermoplastics undergo a chemical reaction called hydrolysis, which cracks long molecule chains into shorter ones and weakens the material. If a thermoplastic raw material with a high water absorption is exposed to humidity prior to 3D printing or injection molding, hydrolysis occurs during the process and results in poor material properties of the final part. Therefore, thermoplastic raw materials with high water absorption require being stored in a dry environment.

    While injection molded plastics (ABS, nylon, polypropylene) are thermoplastics, SLA photopolymers resins are thermoset materials–they’re cured with a light source instead of melted into shape, and remain in a permanent solid state after curing. As a result, they’re not susceptible to the negative effects of hydrolysis.

    Manufactured with Traditional Methods 3D Printed
    ABS [%] Nylon [%] Polypropylene [%] ABS (FDM) [%] Formlabs High Temp Resin (SLA) [%] Nylon (SLS) [%]
    0.05-1.8 0.7-1.6 0.01-0.1 0.14 0.21 0.2

    Heat Deflection Temperature (HDT)

    Heat Deflection Temperature (HDT)

    Material properties, especially tensile and flexural moduli, are bound to the standardized environmental conditions under which their test results have been recorded. Different environmental conditions, such as a different ambient temperatures, can result in a drastic change of a material’s performance under load. The heat deflection temperature (HDT) captures the temperature at which a material starts deforming under a specific load.

    A high HDT is desirable for high temperature applications such as enclosures and mounts for heating elements, and components which come in contact with hot liquids or gasses such as tooling for injection molds, fluidic connectors, valves, and nozzles.

    Manufactured with Traditional Methods 3D Printed
    ABS [°C @ 0.45 MPa] Nylon [°C @ 0.45 MPa] Polypropylene [°C @ 0.45 MPa] ABS (FDM) [°C @ 0.45 MPa] ULTEM (FDM) [°C @ 0.45 MPa] Formlabs Clear Resin (SLA) [°C @ 0.45 MPa] Formlabs High Temp Resin (SLA) [°C @ 0.45 MPa] Digital ABS (PolyJet) [°C @ 0.45 MPa] Nylon (SLS) [°C @ 0.45 MPa]
    200 160 210 96 216 73 289 92 177

    Vicat Softening Point

    Vicat Softening Point

    Unlike other materials, plastics do not feature a sharp melting point. The Vicat softening point acts as an alternative definition of the point at which a material starts to flow and fills this gap for plastics and thermoplastics. Just like the HDT, the Vicat softening point captures the change of a material’s mechanical properties under influence of heat. It marks a temperature point where a standardized needle indents a test specimen a given length, with a given load applied.

    It is commonly used to determine the upper temperature limit for continuous use of a material in an application at an elevated operating temperature, which, as a rule of thumb, should lie 15 °C below the Vicat softening point.

    Manufactured with Traditional Methods 3D Printed
    ABS [°C] Nylon [°C] Polypropylene [°C] ABS (FDM)[°C] Formlabs High Temp Resin (SLA) [°C] Nylon (SLS) [°C]
    100 125-165 143-152 99 230 163

    Thermal Expansion Coefficient

    Thermal Expansion Coefficient

    Materials tend to shrink, expand, or otherwise change shape depending on their temperature. This phenomenon is utilized in thermal actuators, thermal sensors, and even artificial muscles– but in most cases it is an undesirable side effect and needs to be effortfully mitigated. The thermal expansion coefficient is a helpful indicator to predict and quantify how a material changes its shape in response to temperature changes. A positive thermal expansion coefficient indicates that the material expands with increasing temperature, while a negative metric indicates a shrinkage.

    When working with thermoplastics, be it through injection molding or 3D printing, the thermal expansion of the material must be taken into account to obtain the desired shape after the part has cooled down. To prevent thermal phenomena such as hoop shrinkage, curling, and warping, which are major limitation in achieving geometric precision through 3D printing technologies such as SLS and FDM, it is advisable to take the thermal expansion coefficient into account when choosing the material.

    Thermoset 3D printing technologies, such as SLA, generally don’t suffer from thermal distortions, which makes them an excellent choice for parts where highest accuracy and shape fidelity is required.

    Manufactured with Traditional Methods 3D Printed
    ABS [µm/m/°C] Nylon [µm/m/°C]] Polypropylene [µm/m/°C] ABS (FDM) [µm/m/°C] Formlabs High Temp Resin (SLA) [µm/m/°C] Nylon (SLS) [µm/m/°C]
    63 90 80-100 88.2 87.2 82.6-179.2

    Material Properties in Stereolithography (SLA) 3D Printing

    To understand material properties, we need to start with the stereolithography process and its raw material, the resin. Plastics are made out of long carbon chains, whereas resin is a plastic composed of short(er) carbon chains. It has all of the components of the final plastic, but hasn’t been fully polymerized yet. When the resin is exposed to UV light, the chains are joined together by photoinitiators to create much longer and stiffer chains, and thereby solid objects.

    This technology provides a unique freedom to create various formulations. Different resins consist of different backbones and side groups–different combinations of long and short monomers as well as additives. The results are plastics with a wide range of characteristics, from clear to opaque and colored, flexible to rigid, tough to heat resistant.

    Isotropy vs. Anisotropy

    Due to the layer-by-layer nature of 3D printing technologies, in many cases materials properties vary to some degree according to the direction in the material in which they are measured, a condition referred to as anisotropy. For example, a 3D printed object may have different elongations at break or stiffness in the X, Y, and Z directions.

    During the SLA 3D printing process, the components of the resin form covalent bonds providing high degree of lateral strength, but the polymerization reaction is not driven to completion; rather, the print process is modulated in a way that keeps the layer in a semi-reacted state called the “green state.” This green state differs from the completely cured state in one very important way: there are still polymerizable groups on the surface that subsequent layers can covalently bond to.

    As the next layer is cured, the polymerization reaction will also include the groups on the previous layer, thus forming covalent bonds not just laterally, but also with the previous layer. This means that on a molecular level, there is little to no difference between the Z-axis and the XY plane in terms of chemical bonds; each continuous part printed on an SLA machine is isotropic.

    Learn more about isotropy and see test results of SLA 3D printed parts.


    Once the stereolithography process is completed, the printed parts remain on the build platform in the aforementioned green state. While they have reached their final shape and form, the polymerization reaction is not yet completed and therefore mechanical and thermal properties are not set.

    Adding a UV post-cure chamber to the printing process finalizes the polymerization process and stabilizes the mechanical properties. This enables parts to reach the highest possible strength and become more stable, which is particularly important for functional resins for such Castable, Dental SG, High Temp, Flexible, and Tough. For example, post-curing is required for a successful burnout with Castable prints, and Flexible resin doubles its strength with post-curing.

    Find tests results and read more about how post-curing influences mechanical properties in our white paper.

    Thermosetting vs Thermoplastics

    Photopolymer resins are thermosetting plastics, as opposed to thermoplastics. Though they sound similar, their properties and applications can be quite different. The primary physical difference is that thermoplastics can be melted into a liquid state and cooled multiple times to form various shapes, whereas thermoset plastics remain in a permanent solid state after curing.

    Comparing Formlabs Resins

    Comparing Formlabs Resins

    Comparison of common material properties of Formlabs resins. See the interactive version.

    Formlabs resins were designed to simulate a range of injection-molded plastics, covering the full spectrum of properties required to conceptualize, prototype, test, and manufacture successful final products.

    Standard Resin provides high resolution and fine features right out of the printer, making it ideal for rapid prototyping and product development. It has the highest tensile strength of our some of highest tensile and flexural moduli.

    Tough was designed to simulate ABS plastic, with comparable tensile strength and modulus that is ideal for prototyping functional parts, such as enclosures, snap-fit joints, and assemblies. With a high elongation and impact strength, it’s the resin with the highest toughness.

    Durable simulates polypropylene (PP) plastic, with comparable low modulus and high-impact strength for prototyping consumer products, packaging, or living hinges.

    High Temp has an HDT of 289 °C @ 0.45 MPa—the highest on the 3D printing materials market. It is ideal for static applications that will undergo higher temperatures, such as injection molding and thermoforming.

    Flexible simulates an 80A durometer rubber for simulating soft-touch materials and adding ergonomic features to multi-material assemblies.

    Comparison of Formlabs SLA materials

    Comparison of Formlabs resins along common characteristics

  • 10 steps to getting started with Meshmixer for 3D Printing

    10 steps to getting started with Meshmixer for 3D Printing

    Your model must be watertight for 3D printing, however occasionally you may encounter a hole or gap in your 3D model. Luckily, meshmixer can help

    Autodesk meshmixer is a fantastic free software for creating and manipulating 3D files for 3D printing. Whether you need to clean up a 3D scan, do some 3D printing or design an object, meshmixer can help. Today, we take you through 10 valuable steps to get you up and running and taking your 3D file preparation to the next level.

    Step 1: Importing a model and basic controls

    This is a great place to start and you’ll be pleased to know that a range of 3D file types can be loaded in to Meshmixer including STL, OBJ, PLY and AMF. Importing a model is very simple, simply open the software, click Import and select the file you wish to load. To zoom in and out of a model you can use the scroll button on your mouse and to move around the model use the right click. Finally, Ctrl+Z is to undo and Ctrl+Y is redo

    Step 2: Transforming your model

    Once you load your 3D model, the next step is manipulating the model so that you can either continue to work on it effectively and make it 3D print ready or if minimal editing is required then you can simply rotate to optimise for 3D printing and export (Step 10).

    Remember when 3D printing, not crucially but ideally you want two things: Firstly, you want the object to sit flat on the build plate if possible, secondly you want minimum overhangs. An overhang is an area of a model where there is limited support underneath. Anything up to and including a 45 degree angled overhang is printable, however the more you increase this angle, the poorer the finish. You want to orientate the model in a way that overhangs are minimised. Select Edit and Transform. For rotation, simply pick one of the coloured curves (blue, green and red) to transform around that particular axis. Using transform, you can also translate along an axis and thus increase the size in one particular direction. This is done by clicking and dragging the squares at the end of each coloured arrow. Once you are happy with your transformation, click accept to save the changes.

    10 steps to getting started with Meshmixer for 3D Printing

    10 steps to getting started with Meshmixer for 3D Printing

    Step 3: Scaling your model

    Resizing or scaling your model is usually necessary and if not it is always good to at least confirm your model size before 3D printing. This is easily achieved by selecting Analysis on the left toolbar and then selecting Units/Dimensions. You can alter the dimension along any axis and this will automatically scale your model accordingly. Once you are happy with the dimensions click Done.

    10 steps to getting started with Meshmixer for 3D Printing

    Step 4: Reducing file size

    The ability to reduce the file size of your 3D model is extremely useful, particularly if your model is a high quality scan as these can often be over 100MB. A 3D file is generally made up of a series of triangles. The greater this number of triangles the more detailed the model and this means a larger file size. In the case of a high quality 3D scan, reducing the number of triangles fairly substantially will not have a huge effect on the overall quality of your 3D print. To reduce, choose Select and then click on the area of the model you wish to reduce. If you wish to reduce the whole model then double click on the model and this will select the entirety. Once selected, choose Edit and Reduce and use the percentage slider. As an example. If a model is made up of 10,000 triangles and you slide to 80% then you will be left with a 2,000 triangle model.

    10 steps to getting started with Meshmixer for 3D Printing

    Step 5: Plane Cut

    This is a useful tool for trimming parts of your model in any direction you wish. Perhaps there is an area of the model that you want to be completely level or just certain parts that you want to get rid of completely. Select Edit and Plane Cut. You can change the angle of the cut using the coloured curves and the positioning using the arrows. The large blue arrow allows you to select which area either side of the cut you wish to remove. Once you are happy with the positioning of the cut simply click accept.

    10 steps to getting started with Meshmixer for 3D Printing

    Step 6: Mesh Repair

    Your model must be watertight for 3D printing, however occasionally you may encounter a hole or gap in your 3D model. Luckily, meshmixer can help. Select Analysis>Inspector to investigate if your model has any holes. You will be presented with spheres that indicate where the holes are located. There are 3 modes for filling holes: minimal (minimal number of polygons), flat (self-explanatory) or smooth fill (uses surrounding surfaces to create a smooth appearance). You can select different fills for different holes by selecting your preferred fill method and then clicking the sphere you wish to fill using this method, before moving on to another area of the model. If you wish to repair all the holes with the same method then pick a fill type and select Auto Repair All. The Small Thresh parameter specifies the threshold for what is detected as a ‘small component’. These areas are deleted by auto repair. This can be problematic if your 3D model contains small parts. By reducing the Small Thresh slider, these small component areas will be preserved. Keep in mind, any change you make is easy to undo (Ctrl+Z).

    10 steps to getting started with Meshmixer for 3D Printing

    Step 7: Measure

    The ability to accurately measure every aspect of your 3D model can be very useful. For example, you may wish to understand how changing the overall scale of the model has an effect on various individual aspects. For producing prototypes and mechanical parts this tool is essential. Select Analysis>Measure and by varying the type and direction you are able to accurately measure any part of the outer shell of your model.

    10 steps to getting started with Meshmixer for 3D Printing

    Step 8: Split your model

    In Meshmixer you are able to split up a 3D model in to multiple slices. This can be very useful if you have a large model that requires 3D printing as separate components. Alternatively you may simply wish to split your model up so that you can better analyse or study distinct separate areas of your 3D model. Start by selecting Edit>Make Slices. There are two methods you can pick: Stacked or Stacked3D. Stacked 3D incorporates the overall form of your model and is generally the preferred choice. You can choose the direction you wish to create slices in i.e. X, Y or Z and finally select the thickness of each slice. Select compute and you will be shown how your model will be sliced up. Once happy, choose accept and your model will be successfully split into separate STL files.

    10 steps to getting started with Meshmixer for 3D Printing

    Step 9: Produce Support

    If your model has overhangs then it may struggle to 3D print effectively, especially for those areas with a greater overhang angle of 45 degrees. One of Meshmixer’s most powerful tools is its support generation as it is simple and highly effective. Select Analysis>Overhangs to get started. You will be prompted with a number of options such as angle thresh, advanced support etc. Feel free to play around and produce your own custom support settings, however when starting out I’d advise using the drop down (top left) and selecting one of the pre-determined setting options which is available for a number of listed 3D printer types e.g. Ultimaker 2. This will load up all the recommended settings for your printer and then you can easily tweak individual settings if you wish. For example, if you wish to provide your model with thicker supports you can click Support Generator and increase the post diameter. Some tweaking may be necessary however this tool is very user friendly. To preview your settings select Generate Support and if you wish to revert to tweak something else simply select Remove Support. Once you are happy click Done.

    10 steps to getting started with Meshmixer for 3D Printing

    Step 10: Exporting your 3D Model

    Once you done editing your 3D file simply select Export and choose the file type you want to save as. Generally this will be STL ASCII Format however other options include OBJ, COLLADA, PLY, AMF and VRML. Then the fun part - 3D printing your model!

    We hope the above steps prove useful in your 3D printing venture.  These steps are just a small sample of what meshmixer is capable of and in actual fact there is a vast assortment of extremely useful tools, not only for simple editing but also for sculpting and producing your very own unique 3D designs. If you are interested in learning each and every tool and becoming a master then you may be interested in our HoneyPoint3D online video course for Meshmixer which can be found here.

  • Introducing 3D printing to the classroom: 5 steps for teachers

    Introducing 3D printing to the classroom: 5 steps for teachers

    Our primary goal is to support and educate teachers and make the introduction of 3D printing in to the classroom a simple process

    3D Printing is continuing to make its way in to schools, colleges and universities in every corner of the globe. It’s not rocket science, however there a number of things to consider before starting. At PrintLab, our primary goal is to support and educate teachers and make the introduction of 3D printing in to the classroom a simple process. The possibilities for young people are greater than ever and we believe that 3D printing will play a key part in the careers of the next generation. From engineering and architecture to fashion and art, 3D printing promotes problem solving, creative thinking and 3D design. We hope these 5 steps serve as a useful introduction.

    1. Make a plan of action

    The first step is to really consider your objectives. This will enable you to plan your 3D printing Lab accordingly. It is a good idea to ask yourself a number of questions. What learning outcomes are you trying to convey to your students? 3D design, physics and engineering principles are all fantastic examples and there are many more you may wish to consider. How many students will require the use of a 3D printer? What curriculum needs do you have? There are many things to consider but if you require any guidance, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

    2. Understand the basics

    There are a number of avenues to go down if you want to learn the basics of 3D printing. YouTube and Google are a great place to start. Alternatively, we have a comprehensive guide to 3D printing for teachers available for free here, all that’s required is a simple, secure sign up. Another fantastic resource is our ‘Introduction to 3D printing’ online course from HoneyPoint3D which gives a full breakdown of everything you need to know. The course is self-paced and lasts a few hours. Once acquired, it is available for a year so you can refer back whenever you need. You can check that out on our build section.

    3. Check out the ecosystem

    Now that you have a good grasp of what is involved in 3D printing, take a look at our ecosystem. We have a number of fantastic components, which when combined with lifetime service and support from your local PrintLab partner give a complete solution for the classroom. From printers to curriculum, installation and training, we have everything covered.

    4. Get your first 3D printer

    If you decide to get a 3D printer then your mission is starting to take course. Once it arrives get comfortable with it and take your time. It is important to feel at home with this new classroom tool so that you can manage it and teach your students effectively. Don’t be put off if things are not perfect right away. New technology can often be intimidating but these machines are generally quite pliable, get hands-on and learn through making mistakes. Consider starting out by printing pre-made 3D models to get familiar with the machine and its capabilities. There are literally thousands available to download for free and we also have some great classroom objects available as part of our free resources. After that, why not try a simple free CAD software such as Autodesk 123D and create your very own unique 3D model.

    5. Inspire a generation

    You are now in a position to teach your first lesson. Have fun with it and encourage students to do the same. We have a number of incredible curriculum options available that are being used all around the world as we speak. 3D printing as an extremely powerful tool to convey theory from a multitude of core subjects, inspire creativity and even spark a debate amongst students on best 3D printing practises. If you see yourself as more of a trailblazer then why not design your own lesson? Come up with a basic learning outcome and work backwards to a model that can help convey this. Even better, give the students free reign to design their own 3D model. Again Autodesk 123D is a good place to start and for the more advanced we recommend Autodesk Fusion 360. We have an online course available for that too on our build section which provides 15 hours of content and gives the user a thorough understanding of this incredible software.

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