Get Started: How to Make Designs for 3D Printer

Posted by

3D printing has revolutionized the way we create physical objects. With a 3D printer, you can bring your designs to life and create anything from toys to replacement parts. However, before you can start printing, you need to create a 3D model of your design. This can be a daunting task for beginners, but with the right tools and techniques, anyone can learn how to make designs for 3D printing.

One of the most popular tools for creating 3D models is Tinkercad. It’s a free, web-based design tool that’s perfect for beginners. With Tinkercad, you can create 3D models using simple shapes and combine them to make more complex designs. The interface is user-friendly, and there are plenty of tutorials and resources available to help you get started.

Another important aspect of creating 3D models for printing is understanding the limitations of your printer. Every printer has its own set of specifications, such as the maximum build volume and minimum feature size. It’s important to keep these limitations in mind when designing your model to ensure that it can be printed successfully. Additionally, you’ll need to choose the right material for your model, as different materials have different properties and may require different settings for printing. By taking these factors into consideration, you can create designs that are optimized for your printer and materials, and produce high-quality prints.

Choosing a 3D Design Software

When it comes to making designs for 3D printing, choosing the right software is crucial. There are many options available, ranging from free to paid and from beginner-friendly to more advanced. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a 3D design software:

Free vs Paid Software

One of the first things to consider is whether to use a free or paid software. There are many free options available, such as Tinkercad and Blender, which are great for beginners and those on a budget. Paid options, such as Fusion 360 and SolidWorks, offer more advanced features and are better suited for professional use. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of each option before making a decision.

Ease of Use

Another important factor to consider is ease of use. Some software, such as Tinkercad, are designed to be user-friendly and easy to learn, making them ideal for beginners. Other software, such as Blender, have a steeper learning curve but offer more advanced features. It’s important to choose a software that matches your skill level and comfort with technology.

Compatibility with 3D Printers

Finally, it’s important to choose a software that is compatible with your 3D printer. Some software, such as Ultimaker Cura and Simplify3D, are designed to work with specific printers. Others, such as Tinkercad and Blender, are more versatile and can be used with a variety of printers. It’s important to do your research and choose a software that is compatible with your specific printer.

In conclusion, choosing the right 3D design software is crucial for making high-quality designs for 3D printing. Factors to consider include whether to use free or paid software, ease of use, and compatibility with your 3D printer. By taking these factors into account, you can choose a software that meets your needs and helps you create amazing designs.

Creating a 3D Design

Creating a 3D design can be a fun and rewarding experience. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced designer, there are several ways to create a 3D design that can be printed on a 3D printer. In this section, we’ll explore some of the most common methods for creating a 3D design.

Sketching and Drafting

Sketching and drafting are the most traditional ways of creating a 3D design. You can use a pen and paper or a drafting software to create a 2D sketch of your design. Once you have a 2D sketch, you can convert it into a 3D model using a 3D modeling software. This method is great for creating simple designs or for beginners who are just starting out.


Modeling is a more advanced way of creating a 3D design. You can use a 3D modeling software such as Tinkercad or Fusion 360 to create a 3D model from scratch. This method is great for creating complex designs or for experienced designers who are looking for more control over their designs.


Sculpting is a unique way of creating a 3D design. You can use a sculpting software such as ZBrush or Mudbox to sculpt your design in 3D. This method is great for creating organic shapes or for artists who are looking to create a more natural look and feel to their designs.

Importing Existing Designs

Importing existing designs is another way of creating a 3D design. You can download designs from online repositories such as Thingiverse or MyMiniFactory and modify them to fit your needs. This method is great for beginners who are just starting out or for designers who are short on time.

In conclusion, there are several ways to create a 3D design that can be printed on a 3D printer. Whether you choose to sketch and draft, model, sculpt, or import existing designs, the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the process of creating something new and unique.

Preparing the Design for 3D Printing

Before printing your 3D design, you need to prepare it properly. This section will guide you through the process of exporting, checking for errors, scaling, and positioning your design.

Exporting the Design

The first step is to export your design as an STL file. An STL file is a standard format used by 3D printers. Most 3D design software has an option to export to STL. Make sure you select the correct export settings, such as the file resolution and the number of triangles. These settings can affect the quality of the final print.

Checking for Errors

Once you have exported the design, you need to check it for errors. Use a software tool or an online service that can analyze your design and detect any issues. Some common errors include non-manifold geometry, intersecting faces, and flipped normals. Fixing these errors will ensure that your design prints correctly.

Scaling and Positioning

Before printing your design, you need to scale it to the correct size and position it on the printing bed. Use your 3D printer software to adjust the size of the design. Make sure it fits within the maximum build volume of your printer. You also need to position the design on the printing bed. This can affect the quality of the print and reduce the risk of errors.

In summary, preparing a 3D design for printing involves exporting it as an STL file, checking it for errors, scaling it to the correct size, and positioning it on the printing bed. By following these steps, you can ensure that your design prints correctly and looks great.

Printing the Design

Once you have created your design and exported it as an STL file, it’s time to print it! Here are some important steps to follow to ensure a successful print.

Choosing the Right Printer

There are many different 3D printers on the market, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. When choosing a printer, consider factors such as build volume, resolution, and price. Some popular options include the Creality Ender 3, Prusa i3 MK3S, and Ultimaker S5.

Selecting the Right Material

The material you choose to print with will have a big impact on the final result. Common materials include PLA, ABS, PETG, and nylon. Consider factors such as strength, flexibility, and heat resistance when selecting a material.

Adjusting Print Settings

Before starting the print, you’ll need to adjust some settings in your slicing software. This includes things like layer height, infill percentage, and print speed. Make sure to consult your printer’s manual or online resources for recommended settings.

Starting the Print

Once you’ve selected the right printer, material, and print settings, it’s time to start the print! Load your STL file into your slicing software and generate the G-code. Then, transfer the G-code to your printer and start the print. Make sure to monitor the print closely and address any issues that arise.

By following these steps, you can create high-quality 3D prints from your designs!

Post-Printing Finishing

After printing your 3D design, you may want to consider post-printing finishing to improve the quality and appearance of your final product. In this section, we will discuss some common post-printing finishing techniques.

Removing Supports and Rafts

When printing with a 3D printer, supports and rafts are often used to provide stability to the design during printing. However, once the printing is complete, these supports and rafts can be removed to achieve a smoother finish.

To remove supports and rafts, you can use a pair of pliers or a sharp knife. Carefully remove the supports and rafts while being mindful not to damage the design itself.

Sanding and Smoothing

Sanding is a simple and effective way to finish processing a 3D print, depending on the material in question. Some printing materials respond well to sanding, while others may not. For example, PLA and ABS can respond very well to sanding. With harder materials, like Polycarbonate and PMMA, sanding is not an option.

To sand your 3D print, start with a coarse grit sandpaper and gradually move to a finer grit sandpaper. This will help to smooth out any rough edges and blemishes on the print.

Another way to smooth out your 3D print is to use a chemical smoothing agent. These agents work by melting the surface of the print, resulting in a smoother finish. However, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and use these agents in a well-ventilated area.

Painting and Coating

Once you have finished sanding and smoothing your 3D print, you may want to consider adding a coat of paint or protective coating to enhance its appearance and durability.

Before painting, be sure to clean the surface of your print thoroughly to remove any dust or debris. You can use a damp cloth or compressed air to clean the surface.

When selecting a paint or coating, consider the material of your print and the environment in which it will be used. For example, if your print will be exposed to sunlight, you may want to choose a UV-resistant coating.

In conclusion, post-printing finishing is an important step in the 3D printing process that can greatly improve the quality and appearance of your final product. By removing supports and rafts, sanding and smoothing, and painting and coating, you can achieve a professional-looking 3D print that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.