For a lot of cases, it’s a good idea to put together a 3D print for your prototype as a quick way to validate how it looks. After putting together enough failed prints and wasted enough plastic with reattempts, I want to give some of the hard lessons I’ve learnt.

Follow the Y H T rule


When designing your print you can speed up the results and make your print look better by following the Y H T rule. When designing your print, you can reduce the amount of supports you need in your model by putting your overhangs in a Y shape. The smaller the angle the better, but 45 degrees is a good rule of thumb.

If that isn’t possible, making a H where the inside is hollow can minimise the amount of support needed depending on the material in use. Keeping the bridge between the two pillars to less then 30mm should be safe enough to bridge the connection and shouldn’t disrupt the print too much if you remove supports all together.

However a T shape will almost certainly require a lot of support or fail completely. If your design has this shape to it, you might want to consider the next rule…

Orient your model correctly


When your getting your print ready, think about the orientation it will have when you print it. Putting the majority of the printing surface on the bed is a quick and easy way to reduce the printing time. If you’re not sure, experiment with the printing angles and see the results from your cutting software.

Keep the quality low

At some point I want to put together a full blog post on this, but almost every time you’re better off with a fast, low quality print rather then a slower, higher quality one.

Like it or not, there’s normally something wrong with either your prototype or your design requiring a reprint. You’re better off learning that sooner rather then later. If nothing else, unless its an elaborate design there isn’t enough of a difference in how it looks to justify the effort.

When you’re finally sure of the design and that it all works as it should, then you can turn the quality up.

And finally, cheat!

A quick and easy way to find and fix issues is to have something else do it. By using MakePrintable you can upload your model and get free feedback showing any obvious issues.

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