Tips & Tricks for working with Polyamide

Polyamide is one of the most popular materials amongst our designers due to its creative flexibility. It gives them the creative freedom they often seek at an affordable price. We already provide basic information about this material on our website but because we love our designers, we decided to share the four most useful tips from our past experiences.

Tip 1: How to hollow out your designs

Even though it isn’t a requirement to hollow out your 3D prints, it is often advised in many cases. This can be useful to avoid deformations and discolorations during the printing process. There are two options you can follow… You can either keep the polyamide powder inside the hollow structure or you can design a strategically placed hole (two is even better) for the powder to escape once your work is 3D printed.

Left: Solid Object, Middle: Hollow object with polyamide powder inside, Right: Hollow object with holes at the bottom

Also don’t forget that Polyamide isn’t really made for designing big flat plains the size of an A4 page because the chance of deformation is quite big. Even if you hollow out your big plain, it doesn”t mean that it won”t deform so it”s best to avoid this in your designs. One would think that creating support ribs under your plain would solve the problem, but in fact it increases the chance of deformation even more.

An example of such deformation can be seen below.

The large sized flat plain has a high risk of deforming (especially with support ribs)

Tip 2: The right space between your structures

It often happens that a designer wants to create something flexible like a necklace or a design with a chain structure in it. In this case, the spacing between your surfaces is crucial because it will determine the flexibility of your design. We often advise our designers to keep a minimum space of 0.4mm between their designed surfaces but the more space you can afford, the better of course.

Also when creating very complex designs, it is very important to keep an eye on your spaces. The more complex your design is, the more complicated it becomes for the powder to exit the empty spaces. Always try to think of how the powder will flow through the spaces of your design once it’s 3D printed.

You can use the following examples below as a reference.

Sufficient space was created in order to allow the remaining polyamide powder to exit

The result is a flexible and elegant necklace

Notice how the rings do not touch each other when uploaded in our printing software

The exact same thing can be said when creating a chain of rings. It is crucial to provide enough space between the rings when designing this in your 3D software package. It allows the polyamide powder between the ring surfaces to flow away when your design is taken out of the 3D printer.

In this case you should also keep at least 0.4mm of space between your rings, but of course once again it can be more. The space that you create between your rings will purely depend on their size. For big rings you can create lots of space so that you can print more of them in a confined space and for small rings you”ll have to limit your space as you also want to keep a distance between the opposite horizontal or vertical ring in the chain.

Examples of this can be found below.

An example of a polyamide 3D printed chain

An example of many rings chained together in both directions

Tip 3: Dare to play with the thickness of your model’s walls

Another great tip is to dare to play with the thickness of your model’s walls. The wall thickness can provide you with either a strong solid surface, or a flexible and expandable surface. A good example of creating thin surface walls is when designing a spiral that needs some suspension properties. This makes your design light and flexible. The opposite effect can be achieved when making your surface walls thicker. This would be ideal for a more solid spiral inspired flower vase.

The vase on the left will be less flexible than the one of the right due to its thicker walls

Tip 4: Using surface texture to hide the layers

As a final great tip on this blog post, we decided to share a little trick with you in order to get your surfaces looking nice and professional. Due to the building process of layered manufacturing, it often creates a visible layer-based surface on your designs. Because of this, a flat surface never really looks that polished unless you do some post-production work on it. To play with this, you can design some surface texture in your creations. This will take advantage of the unsmooth surfaces and get rid of the building layers on your surfaces.

Some examples of this can be seen below.

No texture on the left to heavy texture on the right

From far you can not see the building layers...

...but from close by, it becomes quite visible.

The presence of building layers in your design is a personal choice. It can be very elegant and perfect for your creations, but if it is a perfectly flat and smooth surface that you are looking for, polyamide is not the ideal material to use. Some of our designers have used this layered surface texture as part of their creations and the results have indeed been wonderful. Again, it”s simply a choice that you make as a designer and the best results are often obtained by thinking about your design before actually designing it.

This might sound very obvious, but when getting your designs 3D printed it is very important to know what the properties of your designs are. These properties will almost with a 100% certainty determine which material to use. This is especially the case when you have a particular material in mind before you even start the design process. Knowing the properties of your chosen material in combination with some good tips and tricks will aid you in making the right design choices and will give you the exact results that you were hoping to get in the first place.