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How to Design

How to Design for 3D Printing?

In this section, you will know about the best design practices, get recommendations on what software to use and learn tips for preparing those perfect design files.

The first step in 3D printing designs in the correct preparations of your digital files. If you are already familiar (or willing to get your hands dirty) with 3D design, just create a 3D printable model using your favorite CAD software and simply save your models in the STL file format (all modern CAD software packages can do this).

The STL Format (STL = stereolithography) An STL file is an industry standard file format used by all 3D printers. It uses triangles to represent the outer and inner surfaces of a solid 3D object and describes a raw, unstructured triangulated surface by the unit normal and vertices (ordered by the right-hand rule) of the triangles using a three-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system.



Although 3D printing offers great design freedom, we need to remember that anything can be "drawn" in 3D on a digital canvas, but not everything can be 3D printed.

Top 3 things to look out for:


Overhangs & support:
3D printers cannot deposit material on thin air. Walls at an angle greater than 45° will require support, affecting the surface quality.

Level of detail:
The smallest feature a printer can create depends on the size of the end effector (nozzle or laser) it uses

Layer Height:
The layer height affects the vertical resolution of a part. It's effects are visible are areas with greater curvature (it appears as stair-stepping).


Find a design online

If you are new to design (or if you are simply looking for something to print fast), then one of the many online repositories might already have what you are looking for.

If 3D modeling sounds tough (or if you are simply short of time), explore the best online model repositories, and find what you are looking for amongst the existing designs.


  • Thingiverse: The largest online repository with thousands of free 3D printable files for desktop 3D printing.

  • MyMiniFactory: A popular online repository with free 3D models that are tested for quality and are guaranteed to be 3D printable.

  • Cults: An online marketplace with high quality 3D printable models by professional designers, and curated collections connected to big-name brands.

  • Pinshape: An online marketplace with both free and premium 3D printable files, focusing mainly on hobbyists.

  • GrabCAD: An online repository of many 3D models that also includes some 3D printable files, focusing mainly on engineering professionals.