Why Do You Need Wall Thickness?
Fun fact: 1 in 5 orders received in 3D printing bureaus have to be cancelled due to incorrect wall thickness. It’s exceedingly common, and it’s a very important part of your design that you need to get right. When using 3D modeling software, it is possible to design a surface without implementing wall thickness. However, the 3D printer will need information about how thick you intend the wall of your object to be. That’s where the Wall Thickness Analyzer tool steps in, to make sure thin walls are a thing of the past!
The Right Thickness
It’s a bit of a balancing act: the proper wall thickness means that you need surfaces which are thick enough to be 3D printed successfully and contribute to a strong, printed part on the one hand, and on the other hand thin enough to save as much material as possible.
Not too thin
It’s tempting to make the walls of your model thinner to reduce material costs, but this can lead to a very fragile model. If it doesn’t break during the 3D printing process, it might break when the support material gets removed (for instance with FDM technology), when the model gets shipped to a customer, or during its intended use. That’s why we recommend saving material costs in other ways, for example, by hollowing your model and in the case of laser sintering, designing some drainage holes that allow you to remove the powder from the model.
The model on the left on the image below wasn’t sliced properly by the printer, and by extension wasn’t fully printed due to its insufficient wall thickness. The model on the right, however, was checked by the Materialise Cloud Wall Thickness Analyzer and fortified where needed with the Model Repair tool. As a result it was printed correctly.
Not too thick
If cost is no issue, don’t be lured into thinking you should create very thick walls either. Thick walls can have disadvantages too, such as when you print a model in materials like ceramics and metal. Walls that are too thick end up generating too much internal stress and will cause your model to crack or even break. It also influences the flexibility of your part. For instance, if you want to print a Polyamide iPhone case that needs to be flexible enough to clip onto a phone, keeping wall thickness in mind is essential.
Take the material into account
What the right thickness is depends on the 3D printing material, the design of your part, and the minimum resolution of the 3D printer. This table gives you an overview of the recommended minimum wall thickness for each material by i.materialise.
Materialise Cloud Wall Thickness Analyzer tool asks the user to input the value of the intended minimum wall thickness of your model, before automatically analyzing your model. A color map highlights the specific problem areas that need modifying or rescaling so your model can be successfully 3D printed.