Top 11 3D Printing Design Tips

As someone who loves creating 3D-printed designs, I understand it can be frustrating to design something only to fail during printing. The disappointment makes you feel like you could have spent more time, money, and materials.

Designing for 3D printing is different from traditional 2D design. The process involves considering layer height, infill density, and support structures. By properly considering these factors, your 3D prints may succeed, saving time and materials.

In this article, I will discuss the design rules of 3D printing, physical vs. digital, and the top 11 3D printing design tips. These tips include optimizing your design for specific materials, detail levels, strength and resolution, warping, and bed contact. The guide will help you understand how to design a 3D print and the rules for creating 3D-printed designs. So, let’s get started on 3D printing design.

Design rules for 3D printing

When it comes to designing for 3D printing, there are specific design rules that we need to follow. It’s not just about using the top 3D printing design tips when we model and print objects, but it’s about adhering to the design rules. These are the same rules used by 3D printing services to ensure that the design they create matches the actual product they print.

Some of the top rules include the following:

  • The minimum pin diameter that can be printed at a fused deposition modeling is 3mm, for stereolithography is 0.5 mm, and for binder jetting is 2mm.
  • The span that technology can print without support is 10mm for fused deposition modeling and 2mm for direct metal laser sintering. However, other design methods can only be printed with support.
  • The minimum diameter for the escape hole to remove built materials should be 4mm for stereo-lithography and 5mm for selective laser sintering, binder jetting, and direct metal laser sintering.

Several other rules exist on the diameter or holes when designing: the maximum angle at which to print and the recommended clearance between two moving or connecting parts.

Physical vs. Digital

Physical and digital designs are two distinct creations that offer different advantages and limitations. Physical objects are tangible and have weight, shape, and texture. The laws of physics and environmental factors such as gravity, friction, and temperature can affect the physical printed object and, in turn, its durability, stability, and 3D print quality.

Digital designs aren’t affected by laws of physics and environmental factors. The design exists in a digital realm and can be tweaked and manipulated easily before printing. As such, it’s essential to focus on the rules of designing for 3D printing to ensure that the 3D print quality meets the required standard.

11 Tips to Consider

As a 3D printing enthusiast, I know the design process can be exciting and challenging. From ideation to final print, each stage demands attention to detail and precision. Let’s go through the 11 tips to use in printing design.

Consider the material to be used

First, we consider the material to be used. Different materials have varying melting points, shrinkage rates, and adhesion properties. For example, ABS plastic easily warps; therefore, when designing, you should factor in a large base to attach to the built plate.

Understanding these characteristics is crucial in designing parts that will print correctly. Additionally, consider the manufacture of each material. When working on 3D printing, I have encountered different materials from different manufacturers with different strengths and flexibility.

Factor in warping

The next tip we should factor in when designing is warping. The materials we use in printing are melted and sintered during the process. The heating and cooling processes cause materials to expand and contract. If a material is not isotropic the rate of expansion and contraction can vary in different parts of the model leading to warping and splitting layers. Warp may cause parts to pull away from the build plate during printing this can lead to complete print failure.

To avoid this, we can add a brim or raft to increase bed adhesion. Adjusting the bed and nozzle temperature may also help prevent warping. Additionally, we can reduce warping if we use the correct machine calibration and create adequate adhesion between the print bed and the parts. The use of heated chambers for FDM machines also helps by preventing parts cooling to rapidly and improving layer/build plate adhesion.

Reduce support

Another tip is to reduce support structures. While supports are sometimes necessary, they can be time-consuming to remove and may leave marks. These marks can be challenging to remove or even cause surface imperfections, reducing the overall quality of the final print. Therefore, we should design to minimize the need for support structures.

Consider overhangs

We should also consider overhangs when designing our model. Typically, when we build 3D designs, we build the object ground up. This means that the top parts of the object risk falling off or being separated from the main object.

The best solution is to add support if the overhangs are extreme. Overhangs can cause issues during printing, so avoid short overhangs and consider adding support structures where necessary. The best way to avoid extreme overhangs is not to exceed a 45-degree angle. 45 degree chafers are easier to print than round fillets particularly on the underside of parts.

Consider the level of detail

Higher levels of detail will require smaller nozzle sizes and slower print speeds. On the other hand, lower levels of detail will require fewer layers and faster print speeds. It’s essential to balance the level of detail needed with the practicality of printing the part.

Consider bridges and the concept of droop

Bridges occur when a part of the design extends between two support structures. They can result in drooping or sagging in the final print. Consider adding support structures or designing the object to minimize bridges.

Consider strength and resolution

The orientation of the design on the print bed can impact the strength and resolution of your print. Consider the strength required for your object and adjust the orientation accordingly. Also, consider the resolution of your printer and adjust the design accordingly to avoid issues with thin walls or other small details.

Consider your clearances

When designing an object assembled with other parts, it’s essential to consider the clearances between the parts. Different materials and printers have different tolerances, so it’s vital to design your parts with the appropriate clearances to ensure proper fit.

Consider printer bandwidth and nozzle sizes

The bandwidth of your printer and the size of your nozzle can impact the speed and quality of your print. Consider the limitations of your printer when designing your object and adjust the design accordingly.

Maximise bed contact

Maximizing the contact between your object and the print bed is vital to ensure a successful print. Bed adhesion is the ability of the plastic-printed objects to stick to the base surface during 3D printing.

If the bed contact between the 3D printed objects and the build surface isn’t in place, it could be distorted or destroyed. The best way to achieve maximum bed contact is by designing your object with a flat base or adding a brim or raft.

Consider your STL export settings

When exporting your design to an STL file, check the printing machines’ settings and 3D tolerances. The resolution of your STL file can impact the final print, so choosing the appropriate resolution and unit of measurement is important.


3D printing is an exciting and rapidly growing field with many applications. These top 11 3D printing design tips provide a comprehensive guide to help ensure that your 3D prints come out as intended.

If you’re interested in 3D printing and want to try designing your own 3D prints, we recommend you familiarize yourself with these tips. Once you know how to maximize bed contact or check for strength and resolution, among other things, you can use them in your design process.

7th April 2023