How to prepare CAD projects for 3D printing

3-D printing is the essential link between the digital world of CAD software and the physical realm these creations will eventually inhabit. The technology has been labelled a revolution in many circles, especially as the devices have now reached a price point that’s affordable for consumers.

The 3-D printing industry could be worth more than US$16 billion by the end of 2018.

As more people gain access to these manufacturing methods, experts can push the technology in new directions, creating an exciting atmosphere for those new to the industry. This enthusiasm is expected to grow the market value to over US$16 billion by the end of 2018, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, a substantial increase on just $2.5 billion recorded in 2013.

Not only will aspiring manufacturers and industry experts need to learn how to make the most of this technology, they’ll need to understand how CAD software can simplify the process. Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind to ensure the procedure is as efficient and stress free as possible.

Tips for a perfect 3-D print

As amazing as 3-D printing is, not every design that’s fed into one of these machines is going to come out looking perfect every time. The nature of the materials used to construct these creations – usually, plastic filament – is just one of the variables that influence its success.

It’s important to consider the thickness or density of any walls or features of a product that contribute to its structural integrity. In cases where these elements are too thin, they may not print perfectly, or could break easily, compromising both the aesthetic and functional components of the product in question.

3D printing opens new design options. Bring your virtual designs into the physical world with 3-D printing.

Another essential consideration is the purpose of the design. If you’re only looking to produce a model or prototype, it’s often advisable to either just print the shell, or make the object hollow where possible.

The reason for this is that objects that are completely solid can take substantially longer to print because they use up much more filament than is often necessary. This can impact the efficiency of the 3-D printing process and add extra costs for little to no gain.

How else can people learn about 3-D printing?

Of course, there is also room for people to buck these trends and blaze their own trails with the technology. As 3-D printers are designed around disruption and innovation, there are plenty of opportunities for people to find their own unique techniques and solutions.

A blog from the Foundation for Young Australians discovered that experimentation is an essential part of the 3-D printing experience as it helps people get a feel for its potential.

The FYA spoke to Daniel Payne, a biomedical engineering student currently attending Melbourne University who developed a passion for 3-D printing over the course of his summer holidays. With the help of his brother, Daniel managed to design and 3-D print a plastic limb at a fraction of a cost of the other models on the market.


Daniel talked up the economic benefits of the 3-D printing process with the FYA, asserting the technology could change a number of different industries as it gains traction.

“It comes down to economics, there might be a time when 3-D printing surpasses the typical production line because it’s so cheap,” he explained.

On top of this, 3-D printing could also breed a new type of artist, replacing paint and brushes with a mouse, keyboard and plastic filament.

“3-D printing is for artists as well,” Daniel attests. “It’s one more medium where an artist can create stuff.”

Designing or manufacturing in the medical industry? Contact us at SOLIDWORKS to see how we can help inspire engineering innovation and improve every aspect of your product development.