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Grouped Models

Grouped models are two or more models that are saved within one 3D file. Although there is nothing wrong with having more than one model in a file while designing, the difficulty starts when you want to 3D print the models. When we establish that grouped models have been ordered, the order is canceled and you are then contacted. However, for Polyamide and Alumide we have created specific design rules making it possible to have several individual shells within a single 3D file.

First of all, our online prices are only valid for single model files. The reason is that in addition to the printing cost, each model has its own handling cost, and this cost depends on the model as well as the material you choose. Some people see this as a chance to cheat the system since the handling cost will only be charged once and will include all the models in the 3D file. However, although it may seem like a good way to save a little money, there are some risks involved.

For example, because our system will only register 1 model, our guys on the production floor will only expect 1 model, This means there is a chance that not all of your models will be shipped at the same time (when we discover your other models, we will, of course, ship them, but there is no guarantee that they will arrive as fast as you would like). Below you find some issues related to uploading grouped models.

Ordering Copies of a Model

If you’d like to order several copies of a model it is in your own interest not to group them into one 3D file. It’s better to upload one model as a single file and set the desired quantity. The big benefit for you is that for most of the materials the unit price goes down as the quantity goes up.

Ordering Copies of a Model

Intersecting Grouped Models

When the models are located too close to each other or are intersecting, they will be printed as one piece if we don’t notice it on time. Not the best result if you plan on using those models separately.

Intersecting Grouped Models

Grouped Models Positioned Far Away

When models are located far away from each other, you risk being overcharged for some of the materials (such as Polyamide) since the price is mainly based on the imaginary box around the model. In cases where the models are positioned so far away from each other that the system can’t fit it on our printing platform, it will be impossible to provide you with a price quote.

Grouped Models Positioned Far Away

Connected Grouped Models

There are some experienced users who know how to avoid the risks above, but who still attempt to avoid an extra handling cost per model. They do so by placing the models at an appropriate distance from each other and then connect them with a small connection piece. If this connection is thin, there is a risk that it will break during the printing or finishing process. In this case, we have to reprint it or try to fix it. This means extra care when handling the model, extra time spent trying to get an unbroken part to you and a very unhappy i.materialise team because while your costs are not affected, we will definitely have to invest more into delivering you a part that meets our standards of quality.

Connected Grouped Models

Grouped Models for Polyamide and Alumide

O Part, Where Art Thou?

Grouped Models for Polyamide and Alumide

If a single file contains several shells that are not connected or interlocking, this can cause considerable challenges for our production team. First, identification of all your parts or shells may be challenging. When producing your design, your parts are combined with parts from other orders in the 3D printer. Most printers have a fixed printing volume. To save time and costs, we fill up the machine with as many ordered parts as the build will allow. This virtual 3D layout is then used for printing. Once the printing process is finished, we end up with a block of powder with all the different parts inside. If you have uploaded multiple small, unconnected shells, you can see how it could be very difficult to go back and recognize all the different shells contained within the powder block. Therefore, to solve this issue, we only accept models that are either connected or that can be enclosed in a container or box. Continue reading below for more details and some important consequences of these options.

Connecting Parts

Connecting Parts

One way of making sure all the shells in your design stay together and can be processed as one part is to connect the different shells with support beams. It is important that the parts are well connected and that the connection beams are strong enough. Use a minimum wall thickness of 3 mm as anything thinner will not be strong enough to support the different parts of your design. The heavier/bulkier your individual parts are, the thicker you need to design the connecting beams. If the connections between the parts are too weak, there is a risk that your parts might get lost.

Combining Parts on a Ring

Combining Parts on a Ring

If your parts have holes through them, another way to keep them connected is by combining them on a ring. Putting your parts on a key-chain style loop ensures that we can process your designs as one part. However, when grouping your parts with this method, we can no longer orient them individually or define the correct space between them. So to avoid any problems during the build, prepare your design with a minimum of 1 mm spacing between each part. The minimum thickness of the connecting loop should be 2 mm. Make sure to limit the number of parts on the loop as too many items or large and heavy parts will have a greater chance of causing the loop to break. Designs, where the chance of breakage is too high, will not be allowed.

Grid Container

Grid Container

Another option that will allow you to have multiple shells printed in one go is to place all of your parts into a container. This means that you will need to design a container around you parts. Here are some basic things to take into account when designing that container. Always engrave your container with a unique label identical to the filename of your design so we can easily identify your box as we won’t be able to check the contents of your container. Use a clearly readable font such as Arial Black for the engraved text. We recommend using letters with a minimum line thickness of 1 mm, a depth of 0.8 mm, and an overall height of at least 3 mm.

It is advised to use a perforated container because that will allow us to remove most of the excessive powder from your parts. We recommend the following minimum feature sizes for your container: at least a 1.2 mm thickness for the grid lines; and a minimum of a 4 x 4 mm square up to a maximum of 15 x 15 mm. Make sure the parts on the inside of your container cannot pass through the perforations of the container to ensure that all your parts stay together. Parts that pass though the holes might get lost.

In addition to your container features, you also need to keep a minimum spacing distance of 3 mm between each individual part and between the sides of the container and the parts. If the distance is smaller than this, parts might get sintered together.

If the overall volume of your container is larger than 1700 cm³, you should limit the density in the container because parts that are too dense can cause an irregular cooling down process. This may cause yellowing and deformation of your parts. Limit the total volume of the model to 10% of the overall volume of the container.

If you have fragile parts in the container, we recommend connecting the individual parts to the container. This will prevent fragile parts from hitting each other during shipment. Otherwise, your parts will be loose in the closed container and may damage each other by moving around during the shipping process.

Upload grid container

Fully Closed Container

grouped-models_fully-closed-container-title

The final option is to design a closed container around your parts. As there will be no holes in the container, all powder will stay inside the container. Always engrave your container with a unique label identical to the filename of your design so we can easily identify your box as we won’t be able to check the contents of your container.  Use a clearly readable font such as Arial Black for the engraved text. We recommend using letters with a minimum line thickness of 1 mm, a depth of 0.8 mm, and an overall height of at least 3 mm.

For the container walls, use a minimum wall thickness of 1.2 mm. Please be aware that in order to remove your parts, you will have to cut the container. This will be more difficult the thicker the wall.

In addition to your container features, you also need to keep a minimum spacing distance of 3 mm between each individual part and between the sides of the container and the parts. If the distance is smaller than this, parts might get sintered together.

If the overall volume of your container is larger than 1700 cm³, you should limit the density in the container because objects that are too dense can cause an irregular cooling down process. This may cause yellowing and deformation of your parts. Limit the total volume of the model to 10% of the overall volume of the container.

Please be aware that you will have to remove all excess powder by yourself. Be prepared and arrange a workspace that can bear some powder dust. Otherwise, choose one of the other options above.

We also advise designing an area into the box where it can be opened, which will allow for easier opening. This can be by achieved by adding perforations, for example a small rectangle of 0.8 x 2 mm.

Outcomes

Outcomes

Once printed, each model will need to be cleaned with a brush and sandblasted to remove the excess powder stuck to your model. This is the same for grouped models but in these cases access to all of the parts is more difficult. Because parts will be connected to each other as well as a container, this may prevent every edge and corner from getting sandblasted. Please be aware that some residual powder might be present when receiving your parts. To clean your parts further, the residual powder can be removed with a brush or compressed air.

Please be aware that grouped models are only offered in natural finish. Because of the limitations stated above for these types of files, a good result cannot be guaranteed. Other finishes can be achieved through various post-processing techniques but will require perfectly cleaned and fully accessible parts, which is not possible for grouped models enclosed in a container immediately upon printing.

DISCLAIMER

DISCLAIMER

The techniques for combining multiple parts into one file that are described above will not allow us to make accurate quality inspections, to provide optimal cleaning of each part by our production team nor to pack and protect each individual part in the best way for shipment. Choosing these options implies that you accept these conditions and don’t mind getting your hands dirty to do some extra cleaning of your parts.

Grouped Models for Mammoth Resin, Transparent Resin and Gray Resin

O Part, Where Art Thou?

If a single file contains several shells that are not connected, this can cause considerable challenges for our production team. First, identification of all your parts or shells may be difficult. When producing your design, your parts are combined with parts from other orders in the 3D printer. Most printers have a fixed printing volume. To save time and cost, we fill up the machine with as many ordered parts as the build will allow. This virtual 3D layout is then used for printing. Once the printing process is finished, we end up with a lot of different parts. If you have uploaded multiple small, unconnected shells, you can see how it could be very difficult to go back and recognize all the different shells. Therefore, to solve this issue, we only accept models that are well connected. Continue reading below for more details and some important consequences of this option. 

Connecting Parts

Grouped Models for Mammoth Resin, Transparent Resin and Gray Resin

The only way to make sure all the shells in your design stay together and can be processed as one part is to connect the different shells with support beams. It’s important that the parts are well connected and that the connection beams are strong enough. Use a minimum wall thickness of 3 mm, because anything thinner will not be strong enough to support the different parts of your design. 

The heavier/bulkier your individual parts are, the thicker the connecting beams should be. If the connections between the parts are too weak, there is a risk that your parts might get lost. You can prevent bulkier shells by hollowing them out. Just don’t forget to provide several large drainage holes so that the liquid resin on the inside can be removed – otherwise, your part will not become lighter. The part’s wall should be less than 5 mm thick. 

It’s also advisable to have 4 firm connections per shell. The larger the shells, the more difficult they are to connect properly. Parts that are not well connected might get lost during the production process.

Grouped Models for Mammoth Resin, Transparent Resin and Gray Resin

Since the printing process uses a supporting structure, we cannot allow nested shells as the outer shell(s) will be filled with the supporting structure on the inside and therefore nearly impossible to remove. 

Outcomes

Once printed, each model will need to be cleaned with a brush and sandblasted to remove the excess powder stuck to your model. This is the same for grouped models but in these cases access to all of the parts is more difficult. Because parts will be connected to each other as well as a container, this may prevent every edge and corner from getting sandblasted. Please be aware that some residual powder might be present when receiving your parts. To clean your parts further, the residual powder can be removed with a brush or compressed air.

Please be aware that grouped models are only offered in natural finish. Because of the limitations stated above for these types of files, a good result cannot be guaranteed. Other finishes can be achieved through various post-processing techniques but will require perfectly cleaned and fully accessible parts, which is not possible for grouped models enclosed in a container immediately upon printing.

DISCLAIMER

The techniques for combining multiple parts into one file as described above will not allow us to orientate the part in the best possible direction for optimal surface quality, to make accurate quality inspections, to provide optimal cleaning of each part by our production team nor to pack and protect each individual part in the best way for shipment. Be aware that poorly connected parts may get lost. Choosing this option implies that you accept these conditions and risks. 

DISCLAIMER