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Resources3D Printing DesignThree Important CAD Design Principles for 3D Printing
3D printed metal lattice structures in DMLS stainless steel

Three Important CAD Design Principles for 3D Printing

Three main design principles work well with 3D printing: topology optimization, generative design, and latticed interiors

Xomety X
By Team Xometry
June 29, 2021
 2 min read
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Design for 3D Printing

3D printing is best for parts that either cannot be manufactured with traditional subtractive techniques or are too expensive to manufacture that way. Parts that have complex internal geometries or have organic and latticed features are simply not possible with traditional techniques. Three main design principles work well with 3D printing, and are listed below. To learn more about general best design for additive manufacturing (DFAM) practices, refer to the Xometry 3D printing guide.

Topology Optimization

This refers to the process of optimizing an existing model by removing any material that does not directly contribute to its structural integrity. It is important to note that the expected loads must be accurate and properly applied to the design or else the printed part may fail. 

It is also important to specify the material correctly. Some 3D printing technologies create parts with a certain level of anisotropy and this needs to be accounted for. After you optimize the part, it can be verified via an FEA simulation program. They typically have more analysis features that can model non-linear anisotropic materials.

Generative Design

This refers to the process of automatically generating 3D models based on some basic parameters such as mounting points and expected loads. The algorithm generates multiple different design configurations based on the provided parameters. Most generative design processes allow the user to select the manufacturing technology as one of the parameters. If you select 3D printing, the computer will often design parts with more organic shapes.

Latticed Interiors

3D printers are capable of manufacturing solid-shell parts with latticed interiors. These can range from simple cross-hatch patterns such as those produced by FDM machines to complex lattices that are optimized to maintain overall strength while also minimizing mass. These complex types of lattices are typically only possible with powder-based printing technologies like selective laser sintering and direct metal laser sintering.

Bringing Design Principles Together

To pair these design principles—using popular CAD modeling programs—with instant manufacturing quotes within your design workspace, check out the Xometry add-ins for Fusion 360, Inventor, and SOLIDWORKS.

Xomety X
Team Xometry
This article was written by various Xometry contributors. Xometry is a leading resource on manufacturing with CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, 3D printing, injection molding, urethane casting, and more.