The Future of 3D Printing: Designing for Additive Manufacturing

When additive manufacturing (AM) first started becoming more popular, some manufacturers worried that their very livelihoods were at stake. Others thought that 3D printing was a gimmick and could only be used for prototypes or expensive one-offs.

Still, others believed that literally everyone would have a 3D printer, and consumers would simply download a file and print what they needed right in the comfort of their homes. And the media onslaught in those early days made it sound like anyone could make anything—no design, engineering, or manufacturing expertise required.

Some even worried that patents would become worthless. Intellectual property, a thing of the past.

The good news is that most additive manufacturing fears were unfounded. If you’d like to learn more, download The Future of 3D Printing: Designing for Additive Manufacturing feature article.

Additive Manufacturing is Here to Stay

The actual reality of AM is that many companies have embraced 3D printing as an important part of their product development process. According to Business Wire, additive manufacturing generated $12 billion in revenue in 2020 and is forecast to reach $78 billion by 2028.

The key to understanding the value of 3D printing is to think of it as just another manufacturing tool and a way to bring greater value to an entire business. As industries continue to adopt AM, it is essential to keep in mind that key elements of traditional manufacturing no longer apply to additive manufacturing, beginning with the basics of how parts are designed.

Avoiding Design Issues

In most cases, design rules for traditional manufacturing techniques are consistent. However, design for additive manufacturing requires a new approach to achieve optimized parts ready for 3D printing. Mistakes in the design process can quickly put an end to any 3D-printed part. Some builds can take hours or even days for large parts to be printed, so you want to ensure that time is not wasted.

Optimizing part designs for 3D printing production relies heavily on using the right tools. For example, Print3D is an easy-to-use SOLIDWORKS feature that helps you properly prepare your model for additive manufacturing. SOLIDWORKS has taken the initiative to create an intuitive 3D design software environment that aids manufacturers in designing 3D-printed parts.

You can avoid additive manufacturing problems by leveraging SOLIDWORKS 3D design tools to help you manage, identify and correct 3D-printing issues before building the part. Here are just a few ways to avoid 3D printing problems:

Remember That Size Matters

Partnering with Wohlers Associates, SOLIDWORKS provides a library of thousands of 3D printers with the corresponding build chamber dimensions. If your model is too big, red highlights show where it is outside the build envelope. Print3D also enables you to scale your model up or down to fit inside the chosen printer and even orient it to fit so you can maximize the size of the model without upgrading your printer.

Detect Issues Before Build

Small gaps and thin walls may cause a design to print thicker than expected, not print properly, or not print at all. SOLIDWORKS Print3D automatically helps you spot and avoid such issues before you send the job to print. You can also visualize the layers to see any potential “stair-stepping” that can occur with shallow gradients.

Carefully Consider Support Structures

Support structures can harm the aesthetics or function of the areas they are connected to while adding material costs and slowing the build. The Print3D feature indicates which faces of a design may require support structures, thereby providing you the flexibility to tweak the design as needed to reduce them.

Properly Designed for AM

Fast and seamless 3D printing begins with parts properly designed for additive manufacturing, making it quick and easy to prepare designs for the final build. If you’d like to learn more, download The Future of 3D Printing Designing for Additive Manufacturing feature article.

If you are ready to take the next step, contact your local reseller to learn more about best practices for optimizing your designs for 3D Printing and how you can avoid additive manufacturing problems at your company.


Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. offers complete 3D software tools that let you create, simulate, publish, and manage your data. SolidWorks products are easy to learn and use, and work together to help you design products better, faster, and more cost-effectively. The SolidWorks focus on ease-of-use allows more engineers, designers and other technology professionals than ever before to take advantage of 3D in bringing their designs to life.