The Definitive Guide to Prepare Files for 3D Printing 

Prepare files for 3D printing - closeup of print

If you’re new to the world of 3D printing, it may seem intimidating. Rest assured, there are plenty of resources for beginners that will make the 3D printing process go as smoothly as possible. 

In this article, we’ll cover the basics on how to prepare your files for 3D printing as best as possible. Whatever your experience level with 3D printing, by the time you finish this article, you’ll be an expert! 

How To Prepare Files for 3D Printing

When preparing your files for 3D printing, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Firstly, make sure that the 3D model is completely watertight.

Watertight or manifold 3D models consist of a closed mesh that creates a solid model, so that if the model is filled with water, it will not overflow. Make sure that there are no gaps or holes that water could flow through, unless of course your model is not intended to be watertight. 

Prepare files for 3D printing - rubber duck

Make sure that there are no overlapping surfaces.

Overlapping surfaces, or self-intersecting surfaces, can confuse your 3D printer as to what you’re trying to print, and cause it to print it incorrectly. Think of your 3D model in a 2D capacity first, and go from there. 

Make sure that everything is facing in the right direction.

‘Inverted normals’ are when your inside-facing surfaces are facing towards the outside, or vice versa. Make sure that you’ve set everything to face the right way before starting your 3D print.

Assign the wall thickness.

If you neglect to assign a wall thickness or volume to your 3D printing files, the printer will think it’s meant to print something without any volume. This will result in faulty prints (or parts that are not printed at all), so be sure not to skip this step! 

Check your file size and resolution.

3D modeling software typically asks you to define the tolerance when exporting a file. Tolerance refers to the maximum distance between the original shape and STL mesh. It is recommended to choose a thickness of 0.01 mm for good exports.

Choose between a hollow or a solid model. 

If you need your 3D print to be extra sturdy, then we recommend you set the file to print as a solid model. If you don’t want to overuse your materials or you don’t want a solid model, a hollow model will save a lot of money in the long run but not be as sturdy. 

Prepare files for 3D printing - bucket on beach

Keep your materials in mind.

Design your 3D print for the materials you intend on using for it. If the characteristics of your chosen material does not complement your intended use for your print, then perhaps you should reconsider. For example, if you’re printing a model with interlocking parts, you’ll require a strong nylon material. 

Think about weight distribution.

Remember to take weight distribution into account when preparing your 3D printing files. Make sure that it’s relatively even, so that one heavier side doesn’t cause the model to fall over. 

Choose the correct format.

When exporting your 3D printing files, remember to check whether the file format is correct. 

The most common file type is the 3MF format.

Thicken delicate areas.

Identify places in your model that are especially delicate, and make sure to thicken them in order to stabilize your print.

There are many things to keep in mind when preparing your 3D printing files for export. The above list covers the most common aspects to consider before finalizing your designs, in order to achieve the best possible 3D printed model. 

Prepare files for 3D printing

As a safety measure, be sure to have some tools on hand for when your prints are ready. That way, any minor faults or inconsistencies can be quickly rectified after your models have finished being printed. 

Final Thoughts

Our above article discussed some important things to double and triple check before finalizing your 3D printing files. As a newcomer to 3D printing, these might not seem obvious to you at first, but they are important to remember. Thankfully, you can bookmark this article to come back to any time you might need some guidance! 

We really hope that this guide helped you in your journey to becoming a 3D printing master! If you need any more tips and tricks to go from newbie to expert, check out our 8 Killer Tips for 3D Printing Beginners.