You Might Be Wasting Your Time 3D Printing

You’re working on a project for class or designing a “doohickey” for fun when suddenly it comes time for you to actually bring the design to life and you have to decide how to create it – what’s the first thought that comes to mind?

I bet that you’ll consider 3D printing your design (provided it’s feasible), which is understandable given the allure of additive manufacturing. One of the main attractive features of 3D printing is the time that you could save by avoiding other prototyping methods, but these time savings can only be accomplished if the right steps are taken.

One of the first applications of 3D printers when they were introduced was rapid prototyping. It made sense, you could develop a CAD model on a computer, upload it to the 3D printer software, then hit print and sit back as your prototype came to life – layer by layer.

Well it’s not that simple.

3D printing goes beyond uploading an STL file to the printer. It involves a lot of planning with respect to the constraints of the printer being utilized. The last thing you want to happen is to realize there was a design error in your 3D model 6 hours into a 15 hour print.

“3D Printer Hangover” by Fred Kahl

Another common issue that ends up consuming time is defective 3D prints that result from user error, printer error, or a combination of both. Some common 3D printing problems are warping, elephant foot (yes, that’s what it’s actually called), skewed prints, and pillowing. These problems all have different causes, but one must keep in mind that longer 3D printing sessions will probably result in more of these deformities. Therefore, longer prints are more likely to result in you having to reprint your prototype – and that can get frustrating pretty quickly.

I encourage everyone interested in 3D printing to learn a little more about the mishaps mentioned in this article, along with any other challenges that could end up slowing you you down. Also, check out “” – a website that will perform preliminary checks to help you determine if your 3D model is ready for printing.

Finally, don’t hesitate to swing by The Garage to get more experience with 3D printing. Keep an eye out for our 3D printer training sessions!

What 3D Printing mishaps have you had? Let us know on Twitter @NCStateEI!

*Photo Courtesy Advanced Plasma Solutions

About the Author

Moaad Benkaraache is an EI marketing assistant and NC State industrial engineering student. He enjoys prototyping, eating protein-packed meals and prototyping while eating protein-packed meals.

0 responses on “You Might Be Wasting Your Time 3D Printing

  1. Macy Thomas says:

    Great article, Moaad!

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