HelpTutorialsDesign for cheaper 3D printing: scale, hollow, and carve

Design for cheaper 3D printing: scale, hollow, and carve

Shapeways only charges you for the amount of material you use. There is no penalty for complexity or the bounding box of your model. This makes some products seem surprisingly inexpensive, like spectacles and jewelry, and for some products, more expensive. Here are three tricks to optimize your design for the lowest cost 3D printing.

Material use determines the price

The price of the product is calculated by which 3D printing material chosen and how much this material used. We know how much material goes into the product by measuring its' volume (cm3).

Rule of thumb: less material = cheaper


Scale down designs

1. Scale

Scaling down the design reduces its volume throughout the product. This makes scaling a highly effective way to change the printing cost.

When you're scaling down, watch out that your details stay above the minimum tolerances required by the selected material. Another thing to keep in mind is to leave fitted parts to their original size. You wouldn't want your egg cup be good for only sparrow eggs.


Make solids hollow

2. Hollow

3D printing is great for making objects hollow. This is where the technology really shines. Not only will you be saving on printing costs, but also on the environment as less raw material is needed to make your product.

If your 3D model has thick areas, seek ways to make them hollow. For example, a character's torso could be hollow inside with escape holes through legs.

Three things to remember when making hollow objects:

  1. Follow the material guidelines for how large of an escape hole needs to be, and where they should be located.
  2. Keep the walls above minimum thickness that your intended material requires
  3. Hollow objects aren’t as strong as solid ones.

Read more: Creating hollow objects


Carve holes into designs

3. Carve

For materials other than ceramic, carving is efficient way to bring down the price (as less material is required but surface area increases). This method however greatly impacts the overall look of the product. If you can, you can turn this into an advantage by using it as a style.

Remove everything but the very essential. This golden design rule is the idea behind carving. Punch holes, turn solid surfaces into mesh, use pillars instead of walls and so on.

Carving however can sometimes make the product more fragile, so remember the forces your product has to withstand to keep structures strong enough. Check out this handy tutorial from Michael Williams.


Material portfolio has the details

Each material has its' own minimum and maximum requirements. You'll find all the details in the Shapeways Materials Portfolio.

If you have unanswered questions, please contact us. We are always happy to help.