3D Printing Best Practices: Orientation and Fill

By TriMech on

From orienting your part, to selecting fill style, to sending your digital files, there are a lot of factors that go into 3D printing. And to add to that, these modes change depending on the model’s intended end use. To help you accomplish a successful print, we outline the best ways to use orientation and fill. 

Choosing Print Orientation Based on Function

Part orientation affects your 3D prints in many ways including: quality, accuracy, strength, surface finish and manufacturing time. For Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) and PolyJet technologies in particular, part orientation is very important in the 3D printing process. 

To demonstrate print orientation, we printed nine unique models (shown below):

3D Printed Parts

Each part has its own optimal build orientation based on the function of the application. We took into consideration what works best for:

  • Smooth surface finish
  • Optimal strength 
  • Fastest build time
  • And more

Part 1: Orange Impeller 

The first print was the orange impeller- a tradeshow favorite! This was built standing erect in a Dimension or Fortus FDM printer. The model snapped off the build tray, immediately ready to use and didn’t require any support material. With FDM printers, your models can be built with up to a 45 degree angle before requiring support materials. This lowers material cost for your model and optimized the build speed. 

Part 2: Enclosures

The enclosures are two-part models with each component built side-by-side, delivering a fast model with an acceptable surface finish. Printing the models vertically would give them the smoothest surface finish, but it would require more support material and take longer to complete. Printing horizontal reduces the need for support material, time and therefore money. 

Part 3: Motorcycle Shock 

The motorcycle shock is a multi-part component that was post assembled. Each piece was was built to be fully functional. The spring was built standing upright for strength. Similarly, the post inside was also built vertically for both speed as well as strength. For example, think of a hammer handle. The grain runs the length of the handle to deliver the greatest strength. The same theory applies to FDM printed parts. The end caps were built in the fastest orientation. The model’s ultimate intention was “form and fit” rather than surface finish “show and tell.”

Part 4: Chain

The white chain is also fully functional. It was built as shown. Once it was finished printing, it went into the cleaning tank, where the support material was dissolved.

Using Sparse Fill vs Solid Fill

Stratasys has different fill modes, allowing you to choose the interior consistency of your models – solid fill verses sparse fill. Sparse fill is a honeycomb effect that greatly decreases the amount of material consumed, as well as the time to print the model.

For most models, even the lightest sparse fill will provide more than the needed strength for your parts.

3d printing part orientation

With the Fortus line of printers, you will have access to the Stratasys Insight software to process the job and to manage how your part will be built. For example, this software can control and define the model interior with custom groups allowing you to mix your models build density throughout. The benefits of this would allow a model to have solid filled areas to support high stresses applications while having sparse filled areas for low stress. This also can reflect faster build times when designing.

Using Support Fill

The third 3D printing best practice that people often overlook is selecting the support fill: Surround, Basic, Smart or Sparse.

  • Basic Fill: Almost all models work great with basic support. This uses an average amount of support material.
  • Surround Fill: Unlike basic fill, surround fill is rarely used. When it is used, it’s on tall, thin models that benefit from a cocoon, almost completely surrounding the model.
  • Sparse Fill: Sparse fill minimizes the amount of support material needed. This makes models with basic geometry print faster.
  • Smart Support: Smart support is meant to minimize support material except for where it is absolutely needed.

After owning a printer, these best practices become second nature. Learn more by downloading our Entry-Level 3D Printer Buyer’s Guide.