3D Printing Guide & Help
This guide is made by Bright Mind to help our clients better understand 3D printing, and help guide them in the process of working with a 3D printing supplier. We customized this guide for Dubai & UAE related 3D printing needs.
We hope this guide will help answer some of your questions, and help guide you through your 3D printing inquiry. Use the buttons below to navigate through the guide, and dont hesitate in contacting us with any questions
Do you have a 3D model of the design that you want to 3D print?
To 3D print and prototype a design, you need first to have a 3D model of the design. The 3D model that you need to have should be a 3D CAD model (digital model) that can be created using various 3D modeling software (like Fusion 360, 3ds max, Rhino, and more). The preferred 3D model formats for 3D printing are STL, and Obj. If you don’t have a 3D model, you should ask your 3D printing supplier if they provide 3D modeling service. If your supplier does not provide 3D modeling service and you decide to hire a third party to design your model, make sure to connect the 3D modeler with your 3D printing supplier; Your 3D printing supplier know their machines and limitations, and they must educate the 3D modeler about these criteria and limitations. At Bright Mind we provide 3D modeling service, and our designers are experienced with our machines and design criteria. You can hire our designers at Bright Mind to build a 3D model for you based on your sketches.
Is your 3D model considered 3D printing compatible?
When you design a 3D model for 3D printing, there are many factors to take into consideration:
1) Walls: sometimes when designing a 3D model, the designer assigns a zero value for the wall thickness. A 3D model with a zero wall thickness is not 3D printable nor fabricatable by any method. On the computer screen a model with zero wall thickness can still look 3D as its just an image. However, In real life all objects have a wall thickness, and your 3D model must have a minimum wall thickness of 2.00mm to be 3D printable. SketchUp is a softeware the commonly produces a zero wall thickness 3D models. Sometimes designers use 3Ds Max and other softwares for creating renders of 3D models, and most of 3D designs created for the purpose of rendering usually have a zero wall thickness as the designer might not have considered the need for wall thickness (which is needed for prototyping but not for rendering). Take a look at the image below of two 3D hexagons. See this photo of a 3D model that looks fine on first sight, but is not actually fabricatable as its’ wall thickness is zero: mention sketch up and 3dsmax rendering
At first sight the two models look very similar. However, notice the how the hexagon on the right has a wall thickness (2.0mm), and the hexagon on the left has zero wall thickness. The hexagon on the left is still visible and it looks like a 3D model, but it has zero wall thickness and its not fabricatble. The next image is what a computer software displays when commanded to simulate the fabrication of these two hexagons:
Notice how the model on the right is simulated, but the model on the left is not. That's because the model on the right had a proper wall thickness, but the model on the left had zero wall thickness.
2) Mesh Density: 3D printers and CNC machines use a g-code to move the working head and fabricate the 3D model. The quality of the g-code depends on the 3D model’s mesh density among many other factors. If your 3D CAD model has high mesh density, it will 3D print with higher resolution compared to a 3D CAD model with low mesh density. You can think of the "mesh" as the information that describes how the surface of the 3D model looks like. The more details a part of your model has, the more mesh is required to describe that model, and vise versa. In the following photos an example of two cylinders with two different mesh densities. The first first cylinder is with adequate mesh density, and the second one is with low mesh density. Notice how the cylinder 3D model with adequate mesh density 3D prints properly with a smooth cylindrical shape, but the cylinder 3D model with low mesh density 3D prints with lower resolution cylindrical shape.
3D model with adequate mesh density produces higher quality 3D print
3D model with low mesh density produces lower quality 3D print
That does not mean mesh density should be always as high as possible; a 3D model with a very high mesh density might have a very large file size causing it to be laggy and tough to handle. A better way to go handle mesh density is to assign high mesh density to the parts of the 3D model that shows details, and lower mesh density to the parts of the model that are less detailed. For example, take a look at the following 3D model:
The best way to mesh this 3D model is to give the flat surfaces a low mesh density, and the curved surfaces a high mesh density. The reason we would do that is that a flat surface is not as detailed as a curved surface; in a curved surface you need more information to describe the nature and the size of the curve. Therefor, a good mesh would look something like this:
This type of mesh is dense only where it needs to be dense, and that give us a proper compromise between the file size of the 3D model, and the quality of the 3D model
3) Mesh Health: It’s not enough for your 3D model to have an adequate mesh density, but it also needs the mesh to be healthy. The number one mesh problem that we see from our clients is intersecting mesh structure; Mesh structure must be continuous. If the triangles of your mesh intersect, the 3D printing software will create gaps in the place of intersection as that intersection are is considered mixed and undefined information. Take a look at the following 3D model in the photo on the left, and the zoomed in photo on the right:
Note how the mesh is not continuous where the hand connects to the body in the model. This discontinuity cause an uncertainty in the information regarding that area. Why is this bad? Any 3D printing or CNC software will translate this uncertainty of the shape of that area as absence of information in that area, and will generate orders to fabricate that area as a "void" in the physical model. Look at the simulation of 3D printing the 3D model in the photo:
Walls, mesh density, and mesh health are all important factors to consider when you are evaluating you 3D model compatibility for 3D printing. Feel free to share this article with your supplier to insure they are creating a proper 3D model for you.
Send us your 3D file, and we will diagnose your file’s 3D printing compatibility for free!
If you don’t have a digital 3D model, our designers can design a 3D printing compatible 3D model for you. If you wish to work with our team or with any other designers to create your 3D model, you need to be able to clearly communicate your design with them. Try having sketches that demonstrate the design you wish to 3D print. Also, try finding photos on the web that you can refer to them to communicate your desired design theme, texture, and colors.
Is 3D printing the best method to fabricate your product?
There are so many different methods to fabricate and prototype a design. The reason 3D printing became so popular as a method for creating prototypes is its speed and flexibility in creating physical models. Some experts would argue that 3D printing is good just for creating basic prototypes, but not for creating final functional products. We at Bright Mind always try to challenge that concept, and we always work on taking 3D printing capabilities to the next level. We use special methods of treatment and post processing that enable us to
Create superb 3D printed products that are functional and look professional
Create re-enforced 3D prints that can function under high loads
See this example of a drone cargo box used by Dubai’s TRA . It was 3D printed with plastic, reinforced with metal, and contained stainless steel hinges and carbon fiber hangers. We used 3D printing as the main method for creating this cargo box, and integrated other methods with 3D printing to fabricate and install the parts that couldn’t have been 3D printed. 3D printing is just one among many fabrication methods, and it can not replace all methods. Your product might need metal parts in it that can handle more weight, or maybe it’s more cost efficient to fabricate your product it with foam CNC. The list goes on and on.
At Bright Mind we can provide you with full prototyping solutions, and we can integrate 3D printing with many other prototyping methods to fabricate your product in the best possible way. The best way to figure out how to prototype your product is to ask the experts, and we will provide you with consultation for free! Contact us with your inquiry, and we will give you our best advice.
Do you have to visit our office in Dubai to initiate your project? Or do you want to 3D print your design, but you are not based in Dubai?
We provide our service to clients not only in Dubai, but in all over the UAE. We also have had clients in Europe and in the USA. We understand the importance of our client’s time, and we try our best to have meetings only when meetings are necessary. We use Email, and WhatsApp groups to communicate with our clients, and to keep them in the picture as their design, and 3D printing project progresses. If you decide to work with your supplier remotely, make sure to get photos and updates after each design/prototyping stage.
What are the size limitations for 3D printing? What is too large, and what is too small?
3D printers themselves have different build volumes depending on the printer’s size and capabilities. However, at Bright Mind we always try taking 3D printing to the next level by integrating it with many other technologies and post processing techniques. This enables us to produce large and small 3D prints with much fewer limitations compared to traditional 3D printing. We can make 3D prints that stretch two meters or more, and we can make 3D prints that are as small as 5 millimeters in length. Take a look at our portfolio to see some of our work.
What surface finish and color you can 3D print with?
There are different 3D printing technologies, and they produce slightly different surface finishes. 3D printers on their own usually produce raw 3D prints that has printing lines shown in the print surface, and even lower quality surface finish where the supports were attached to the 3D printed parts. However, 3D prints post processing can change the whole story, and can take your product’s surface finish to the next level. With professional post processing you can get a smooth surface finish like this f117 art piece we made, you can get a colored 3D print like this small fish model, or you can even get a stone finish like this Moai head. Metals like gold are not out the options list! You can either 3D print castable molds and cast real gold, or you can plate the 3D printed part with gold like this Inception spinner! Also, we can integrate 3D printing with other casting methods to get chrome, clear, and even cement surface finish! Contact us for more information about the available materials and surface finishes.
What is the right material to 3D print with in Dubai and in the UAE?
This might sound as a weird topic; what does being in the UAE has to do with your 3D printing material choice? Well the truth is, it has a lot to do with it! Let’s take a look at these factors: Heat, Sun UV Rays, and Humidity. Let’s understand their effect on 3D printed parts.
1) Heat: One of the most popular material in FDM 3D printing is PLA (polylactic acid). PLA is easy to 3D print, it does not warp, and it produces highly detailed 3D prints. However, try placing a PLA 3D printed part outdoors or next to a sunny window in the UAE. The part will deform:
Model 3D printed with PLA in FDM technology preserved at room temperature.
The same model made with PLA after it was kept outside in Dubai. Note the effect of the temperature on the 3D printed model .
Initially, 3D printing gained popularity in the US and Europe, where the temperatures are moderate to cold. Therefor, people there rarely faced an issue with PLA and environment heat. In the UAE however, you should use PLA only if you are sure your 3D print is not going to be placed outdoors, or next to a sunny window for a long period of time to avoid deformation in your 3D printed part. One of the solutions for this problem is to 3D print with a different material (like PETG or ABS), or to spray your 3D printed part with heat insulator before you post process it.
2) Sun UV Rays: Another popular material in FDM 3D printing is PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol). The advantage of PETG is that its stronger than PLA, and its more heat resistant (you can leave it outside in hot summery day in Dubai without it deforming!). On the other hand, PETG reacts to UV rays, and that reaction is maximized when you are creating models that are to be subjected to the sun of Dubai, and UAE.
We understand the region’s needs, so we post process our PETG 3D prints to make sure they will never react with UV rays from the sun.
PETG is not the only material that reacts to UV rays, take resin 3D printers for example:Resin based materials are used in laser 3D printers.This method of 3D printing is used when a detailed thin structure is needed, and when using tradition FDM 3D printing doesn’t work in achieving the desired result.The way SLA printers work is by UV curing the selected parts of the liquid resin in the printer to create the desired 3D printed shape.Usually in the US and in Europe 3D printing companies roughly UV cures resin 3D prints before delivering them. The issue in Dubai, and in the UAE is that the density of UV radiations is much stronger compared to US and Europe.This might cause resin 3D prints to continue curing when placed outside or next to a window facing the sun in UAE.This becomes an issue as a resin 3D print curing after it’s support material has been removed might cause uneven and unplanned deformations in the structure of the print.At Bright Mind, we make sure to use two stage UV curing, and we conduct manual check on the curing process to make sure that the parts that we produce are fully cured so they are not affected by harsh UV rays in the UAE.
3) Humidity: Most countries don’t have to worry much about humidity when it comes to 3D printing. However, in the UAE humidity reaches very high levels that cannot be ignored. 3D printing materials (especially FDM materials) absorb water from air. The higher the air humidity is, the more water will penetrate the 3D printing material. When the material is stored in a normal storage in the UAE, it might absorb water from the air at night when the air conditioning is off. The 3D printing filament does not print well when it has water moisture in it; a moist filament has bad interlayer adhesion, and the moisture might generate small water bubble in the 3D printed part. Add to that, a 3D printed part placed out doors in UAE’s environment might continue absorbing moisture for months after it has been 3D printed. This might lead to deformation in the model, and to bubbles generating in the surface due to water vapor trapped in the 3D printed part trying to evaporate. Add to that, water moisture trapped inside the 3D printed part might lead to cracking in the part because water and plastic has different expansion and contraction rates. At Bright Mind we solve this problem by:
Curing our filament with vacuum and heat before we 3D print it.
Post processing our prints with sealants that prevents it from absorbing water from the air.
When you contact your 3D printing supplier in the UAE make sure that they understand the environmental challenges of the region, and that they take practical steps to make sure their 3D printed products won’t be badly affected with the environment of the UAE.