Once you’ve finished editing or creating a 3D model, you need to decide how to orient it when you’re printing. There are a range of different factors here to consider, to be able to work out which direction is optimal. Some factors are more important than others but ultimately, the decision is down to which way you want to orient the print.
Good print bed adhesion is an important part of 3D printing. If your print has too small a contact area with the print bed it may pop off during the print. You can increase adhesion with aids such as glue, painter’s tape, rafts, or brims. Alternatively, you can just rotate your model, so a larger flat surface is contacting the print bed.
Minimising supports and post-processing is generally a benefit as you have to do less work later. It’s not necessarily guaranteed that the best angle for supports will be the best angle for everything else. You may also want to consider where the supports are contacting the print. If they’re in a visible location, you’ll have to perform more and more careful post-processing to get a good result. If the supports are only on the underside of an overhang, this won’t be so much of an issue.
The build volume of your printer can also be an issue. If you’ve got a wide model but a printer that only has a large vertical build dimension, you may have to print the model on its side to be able to get it to fit.
Tip: Some models may not have any large flat surfaces. If you want to avoid the use of adhesive aids and support structures you could consider cutting the model in half, printing the two parts separately, then connecting them during post-processing. This can also be helpful or even necessary to print large models if your printer can’t fit the whole thing at once.
Dimensional accuracy on a 3D printer varies across the axes. If you want details to be as accurate as possible you may have to rotate your print to achieve that. For example, if a part contains a cylinder these print best vertically. 3D printers can easily create a series of circles stacked on top of each other. If you print it horizontally, however, you’ll end up with lots of noticeable layer lines on the curves and may need to add supports. Generally, fine details can be more accurately represented in a single layer than they can across multiple layers. This is especially true for curves and angled edges where the layer lines leave a stepping effect.
3D prints react differently to stress in different dimensions. If your part is functional and is expected to receive stress, you may want to rotate your part so that the stress is applied in a direction of strength rather than weakness. Realistically, this isn’t a factor that needs considering for decorative pieces that are just going to sit on a shelf or occasionally be carefully picked up.
If you’re in a hurry to get your print or are trying to make a large batch of prints you may want to optimise your rotational angle for minimal print times. This way you can make the most of your printer. Just make sure to verify that doing so won’t compromise the quality at all.
Do you have any other tips to consider when orienting your 3D prints? Let us know down below.