A 3D Artist looking at doing 3D printable models


Newby here, :sweat_smile: hope you’re doing well, not sure if this is the right place to ask, if not, I do apologize. So before I do ask, want to give some background about me so it would make it easier to understand what I’m asking.

I have been a 3D artist for a long time now, but have never really gotten into making 3D printable models (though I love the prospect of printing a digital model into a physical object), I have only done 2 models for printing in all my time as being a 3D artist and it feels surreal to hold something in my hands that was ones and zeros just a few days prior. :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: A friend of mine bought herself a 3D printer a while back, and have since been printing all sorts of cool and useful things.

She recently forwarded the competition you guys have to make Octiman a 3D printable, with some creative freedom. In light of that, I have considered in taking part, however I am mostly a digital 3D artist by trade, rendering, 3D modeling etc, so I don’t really know much about how to make a 3D model as widely and universally printable as possible and generally the technical bits and bobs of making a 3D model printable.

I made a character model for shapeways back in 2014/2015, and they provided plenty of requirements to make the model printable for the set material it was being printed in such as: min and max overhang, wall thickness, print resolution etc, which did help a ton to make the model on my end. Even though the print from them came out amazingly well, they never mentioned if there was something I could have done wrong or could have done better to make it easier to print or not. So I generally don’t know if how I did it was actually right or good enough.

So I would love to ask, regarding making these models printable since you guys are way more experienced with this part of 3D than I:

  • How do you actually go about making a model as universally 3D printable as possible? General rules of thumb for making it work as best as possible. (I’m using Blender if that helps or not. :stuck_out_tongue:)

  • Are there any material specific requirements that the model should take into account for the “Octiman” model, such as, scale, wall thickness, print layer sizing, overhang maximums and minimums, print area etc?

  • I don’t own a printer myself, is there a way one could test to see if a model would be fine for printing before you actually print them?

I asked my friend about the printing and all that, though she isn’t a 3D modeler/artist, so she doesn’t know much regarding actually modelling for 3D printing. I’d be able to do high quality renders, but that is only half of the challenge for the octiman, and not the winning factor all that much, so rendering alone won’t save me here. :rofl: :stuck_out_tongue:

Excuse the wall of text. :rofl:


Hi there @XelusPrime !
Nice to see you are looking to broaden your horizons and try out modelling for 3D printing. It really is fantastic having your creation in your hands. I’m not a 3D modeller by trade or anything but recently one of my drawings was turned into a model and I can relate to that feeling of holding it in your hand. I might not be an expert or anything but I have since been exploring 3D modelling myself. I’ll tag in @thomasm to maybe give both of us more advice.

So for the competition itself, we don’t have specific requirements to give more creative freedom. But in my deep dives, I discovered some videos that might help you with your second question:

  • This video has a guy who explains how to prep your model mesh together in Blender for 3D printing. Getting the scale right, etc.

  • Blender has a 3D Print tool! (which I have yet to learn how to use… I’ll get there haha). Check out this video and skip to 8:01; he mentions using a 3D print tool that checks the model’s dimensions etc. Worth an investigation.

For your third question there: The only way I know of to somewhat test a print without a 3D Printer is to pop it into a Slicer like Cura, click slice and see if it yells at you. You could ask your friend all about that or watch videos to explain how a slicer program works. In the preview, you should be able to see how each layer will print out and hopefully spot problems.

Hope this helps you! And I can’t wait to see what you come up with xD

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So Cara provided quite a bit of useful info on the topic. We created this competition to be as accessible as possible which means there is far more creative freedom for people who want to enter.

We don’t have any specific requirements other than the model being identifiable as our Octiman mascot. The Rules and How to enter sections of the competition post have some more general guidelines so be sure to read them to properly enter the competition. :grinning:

First bullet point:
I have found the following videos which deal with a similar topic to Caras second video. Getting a Blender model ready for print.
Video 1
Video 2

Second bullet point:
As mentioned before we don’t have strict requirements for the model. You can replicate Octiman exactly as he is shown on the perspective image or you can add your own creative flair and take him to the next level. Quite a few of the settings you mentioned can actually be changed in a slicer such as Cura.

Third bullet point:
In terms of not having a printer to test your model on the options Cara mentioned are probably the best ones. Try it out in a slicer or ask a friend to test print it. As Cara said you can bring your model into a slicer that will allow you to see a digital layer by layer version of your model. Most slicers will also tell you if there are gaps or errors in your model otherwise checking the layer view will help you identify problems.

If you are not sure about how slicers work then I recommend watching these videos about Cura (the slicer that I recommend). They will help you get an understanding about the settings.
Video 1
Video 2
Video 3

I hope this helps :slight_smile:


Hey Cara,

Thank you so much for the info, super appreciated. Will take a look at those videos, don’t want to end up making a highly detailed model that can’t be printed. :rofl:

Well if you do need any modeling or blender usage help, be it anything other than just 3D printing related, I’ll be more than happy to lend a hand. Online tutorials can most of the time for blender be either confusing or vague at the best of times. :sweat_smile: Been helping a few friends of mine with getting into blender, modeling, rendering, texturing, rigging, animation, the whole nine yards. :smile:

Cura, a name I’ve seen being mentioned quite a bit, will definitely see if I can get my hands on it. Thank you so much for the help. Here is hoping I can make a model that won’t end up being just a blob of filament. :rofl: I’ll try to convince my friend if she can do a test print of the character once I’ve tested the model 100 times over to be sure it is working.

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Hi thomas,

Thank you so much for the help, appreciate it a lot! Good to know the slicer would be able to point out if a model isn’t correct, will help a ton to troubleshoot and fix any issues before printing.

Something that I’m a bit worried about is the level of detail that could be added to a model. Ideally, keep it as simple as possible, or is detail not too much of a concern? Don’t want to add details that may not be able to print, or cause issues if it needs to be printed.

Thanks so much for all the info, this will be really helpful in getting hopefully the character to a printable state. :sweat_smile:

I’ll start by saying I have 0 experience in Blender. I do have reasonable experience in other, more product and engineering-oriented software. I have also worked with a lot of artists that are good at sculpting and other forms of making things 3d trying to transition into 3d printing so can give some advice with regard to what to avoid if you come from such a background. As you (the OP) come from an artistic background I will tailor my advice specifically to this. For anybody else reading this, my advice and suggestions would be slightly different if you were purely interested in just making functional prototypes etc.

With that out of the way, This is the best advice I can offer:

  1. Start by knowing what kind and what size of printer you are working with. Resin printers have comparatively small build volumes. FDM printers have specific design limitations with regards to detail they can reliably reproduce and at which angle they can reproduce them easily. Design with a specific manufacturing technique in mind and know the limitations of those techniques.
  2. Scale, Scale, scale!!!. Start with a specific final size in mind, and stick to it. Often people design minuscule or GIANT objects without realising it. Start small, 80-100mm max, probably smaller. That way you can print a prototype quickly to see if things work. if you design too big, you have to print for 40 hours to see if you screwed up. Lots of wasted time.
  3. Don’t do tiny details. I find visual artists are reliant on texture and fine details to convey creative intent. These are not possible via 3d printing the way they are in clay or other hands-on mediums. You have to tweak your approach a little. Once you have decided on your final scale ( see above) design parts that can reliably be produced on your chosen printer. Resin printers can produce detail down to 0.5mm. I would avoid anything smaller than 1.5mm on FDM. they won’t print well, or just snap. These sizes refer to independent free-standing parts. You can reliably do textures smaller than this on the surface of a larger object, but I suggest adjusting your sculpting or modelling to convey the same intent with larger details than spending hours adding tiny details. Points 2 and 3 go hand in hand. I often see people design something, realise they made it too big, scale it down, and now 70% of their detail is lost due to it being too small. Rather focus on your design aesthetic and larger design choices conveying your intent than accomplishing it with texture and small detail. Think Macro, not micro.
  4. for FDM: Give our designs a solid base. If your designs don’t have a solid foundation, your prints are almost certainly going to fail. Other forms of printing like resin or selective laser sintering are much more forgiving. When starting, Aim for a base that has at least 25% of the surface area of your models’ total circumference and height. This will ensure sufficient bed adhesion and limit things from getting knocked over. Once you get more experienced, you can start gambling with this. I routinely print things 120mm tall with only a 15mm diameter contact patch to the bed, but this is always risky, and I make design compromises to be able to do so.

The above are the primary mistakes I see often when people start designing. I am sure there are many more. You have mentioned the important bits about overhangs. Always keep that in the back of your mind. The best way to learn though is to do. I generally believe in the “learn to fail fast” philosophy. We don’t learn by doing things right. we learn from our failures. So, fail often, fail hard, learn from those failures, improve and overcome. Don’t get discouraged by failures. They are opportunities to improve.

I think a mentor with real experience, or a community like this one where you can share your designs and get feedback is also critical. Depends on your personality. If you can handle criticism: Share your designs here and see if you get constructive feedback. It could make a big difference in how quickly you develop. Just remember, good feedback always does 3 things: It tells you what you did right, it tells you what you did wrong, and it tells you how to fix what you did wrong. If the feedback you get does not do all 3 it’s just noise. Ignore it.

Hope that helps.

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OH! I forgot! one of the things I put off too long and ended up withing I did way sooner:

JUST BUY YOUR OWN PRINTER! Rip off the band-aid and just do it! This way you get to practice more, and more often, improve faster and procrastinate less. It is totally worth it. trust me. The added bonus is you can now produce 101 other things you always wanted right in your own home.

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Hey Lurk,

Thank you so much for this info, this is super helpful. From the start I did decide to leave tiny details out of printable models, and focus more just on large details, trying to be mindful of what the printer can print at what scale. One of the first things I noticed, and which also made sense was, seeing a proper base for a 3D print.

Since I don’t have a lot of models for 3D printing (yet), I don’t have much in the way of sharing, but that would hopefully change soon. Will definitely be sharing and askin for feedback and critique on it.

In the case of the octiman competition, for the renders I go totally overboard with details, but for the 3D print, I want to keep it to a minimum for practicality sake and ease of printing. Either way, even if this doesn’t go well, I still learn something out of it, which is a plus.

I wholeheartedly appreciate all of the feedback, helps loads, thank you so much!

Greatest of pleasure, dude.

Just a brief side-note note regarding your last statement on details in the render and details in the model. I apply the following principle when I work with clients. Remember, your render is making a promise of what is reasonably possible in the final print. Your render should not make promises it can’t, or has no intention of keeping. By all means, make what is there look as sexy as humanly possible, but don’t render/illustrate things/colours/details/textures that won’t be in the final model or aren’t really possible. It is neither accurate nor ethical to do so. If you do, you will always end up creating disappointment. Never a good thing when dealing with clients (or in this case judges)

In the immortal words of Fred Durst in the song Full Nelson: “Cause your mouth’s writing checks that your @ss can’t cash”

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