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Wall thickness: everything you need to know

Why Does Wall Thickness Matter In 3D Printing?

For a model to 3D print successfully, each part of your model should have the minimum wall thickness required for the material, printing process and scale of that model. Certain 3D Printing technologies can make 0.4mm walls for instance. Any thinner walls in your model will cause the print to fail. If you switch material or sometimes even another 3D Printer using the same 3D Printing process a 0.4mm wall that used to print will now fail. If you make a thin figurine measuring 5 CM then a 0.4mm wall could keep that figurine upright. Meanwhile if you now want to 3D Print the same model at 30 CM it might become too fragile or fail. In each of these cases you will want to adjust and increase the wall thickness. In some other cases you may want to reduce wall thickness to save on material cost or make an item more elegant. Or you may want to make a clear material more transparent by reducing the wall thickness. Our intelligent wall thickness adjustment tools will let you change wall thicknesses at will automatically to suit different 3D Printing processes or scales.

a picture of model with a shell inside

Recommended Wall thickness for 3D printing varies between different prints and material and generally is in the range of 0.5mm to 1mm for FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling also known as FFF Fast Filament Fabrication or Material Extrusion printers). Selective Laser Sintering (SLS, Laser Sintering, Powder Bed Fusion) systems typically can produce walls of around 0.4mm. For Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS, Powder Bed Fusion for Metals, Selective Laser Melting etc.) walls of around 0.3mm are the minimum. Stereolithography (SLA, SL) and Polyjet typically have as a minimum 0.5mm. Please note that these are the minimums it is best to build in some margin for error for yourself and stay well above these. Depending on the size of your object and what it is supposed to do much thicker wall thicknesses may be needed.

What is the problem with bad wall thickness?

What's cumbersome is that not all 3D models were designed for 3D printing, and could have areas that are thinner than what your 3D printer and material can actually print. If you attempt to print a 3D model with thin areas, it could be problematic as it could lead to unprinted areas of your model or your model falling apart due to gravity or other forces. This could disfigure your model causing an unsuccessful result with your print.

Another problem with thin areas is if you order a print through a print shop or service bureau, they usually have the tendency to over thicken your model to ensure print succes.. This is done to reduce their print failure rates and to minimize the chance of the model breaking while being shipped. This may needlessly increase your costs or may not be the aesthetic result that you want.

a picture of model with a shell inside
A before and after comparison of a 3D model that has thin areas that need thickening before printing.
a picture of model with a shell inside
MakePrintable minimum wall thickness adjustment slider.

To avoid wall thickness problems with your 3D model. Upload it to MakePrintable and let our algorithms automatically thicken your model's walls for printability. Reduce or increase the wall thickness depending on your need automatically.

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Premium feature: Manual wall thickness adjustment slider.

Another problem with thin area is if you order a print through a print or service bureau, they usually have the tendency to over thicken your model to ensure print succes. This is done to reduce their print failure rates and to minimize the chance of the model breaking while being shipped. This may needlessly increase your costs or may not the aesthetic result that you want.

a picture of model with a shell inside
Before and after using MakePrintable's wall thickness adjustment tool maximum wall thickness 10/10 on the slider

If you don’t have a model that has thin walls and would like to try our MakePrintable’s wall thickness feature download the model in the picture. Click here

What are the most common parts that need thickening?

Wall thickness can apply to areas in models that are very thin. These include hair, fingers, capes, clothes, nose, ears, weapons, gears, and other thin areas.

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