How to Design Flatpack Ornaments in SOLIDWORKS

By Jacob Ifft on

TriMech wishes everyone a happy holiday season! For the winter holidays this year I designed a flatpack 3D printable snowman and would like to explain the design process for modeling and printing enthusiasts. Let’s review how to design flatpacks in SOLIDWORKS. Using top-down assembly techniques as well as the ability to configure files makes the design process for something like this relatively easy. For example, this process of creating the two designs shown below was completed in one workday period and a printed version of the snowman was tested out that evening. This blog article will take you through the modeling process used to minimize the amount of work required for this type of task.

3D Printed Snowman Ornament Planes

Initial Assembly File

The heart of this model is an assembly file containing all the different components used for the flat pack file parts. I initially designed the main body part with a face by sketching a snowman shape and extruding the shapes needed. That became the base component of an assembly file that the rest of the components were modeled inside of from a top-down perspective. After modeling the remaining shapes necessary for the snowman with boots from within the assembly, color appearances were added to features to make the parts colorized. Then configurations of the “with boots” body shapes were made and an assembly feature was used to cut the bottom parts off. The assembly feature allowed for a 3-piece version that could sit flat on its base once assembled. Configurations were also made in the assembly showing both the “with boots” and “flat bottom” versions assembled. After that two more configurations were added in which copies of the in-context parts were made and the initial ones were suppressed to keep the references happy. I mated the copies to all be coincident with the back surface of the original body part and moved them into “flat pack” configurations. See all the screenshots below for more information about the process:

Saving As Part Files and Editing

After making these “flat pack” configurations the save as command was used to save each configuration out as SOLIDWORKS part files. Make sure to have the “all components” option selected so that resulting part files have solid bodies for each of the assembly pieces. Solid bodies are much easier to edit than other types of imported bodies. In each of these part files the TriMech logo would fit better if the bodies were scaled up, so each file was scaled up by the same amount and TriMech logos were added in similar positions. Then a thin feature extrude was added around each set of bodies to connect all the pieces on the build plate of the printer for easier removal as well as keeping the components together to give as gifts. A simple sketch of a bunch of connector lines was used and another thin extrude feature to connect all the pieces to one another and to the outer frame features. After these features were completed, the files were “save as” saved again as .stl files for 3D printing.

snowmen cards using thin extrude

Snowman Solidworks Save As

Saving the STL files and Printing

The “with boots” and “flat bottom” files were each saved out as .stl files using the save as command. An important thing to note here is if you open an .stl file in a slicer software and circular faces look faceted, the options button in the save as box opens a menu where you can increase the file quality (also file size and number of triangles in the file) by adjusting the sliders further to the right.

Snowman Solidworks Save As STL

SOLIDWORKS save as settings to reduce triangulation faceting on STL files

Snowman in GrabCAD Print

The files were then each loaded into the slicer software and printed. The 3-piece snowman takes approximately 56 minutes to print and the “with boots” takes approximately 1 hour 10 minutes on our Stratasys J750 PolyJet printer.

Snowman Tray Build Time Estimation
Snowman Build Time Estimation
Snowman Tray Build Time Estimation with Boots
Snowman Build Time Estimation with Boots
TriMech Snowman Ornament Part Cards
3D Printed on the Stratasys J750

Check out our article that covers how to design flatpack ornaments specifically for FDM 3D printing of our TriMech Snowflake Ornaments on the Stratasys F370CR.