Joining and Nesting 3D Printed Parts

The math is simple — wasted space in a 3D printer’s chamber equals wasted money. Joining and nesting 3D printed parts can help you produce more parts at a lower cost, and get the most out of your printing platform. …

Ile Kauppila

September 27, 2021

The math is simple — wasted space in a 3D printer’s chamber equals wasted money. Joining and nesting 3D printed parts can help you produce more parts at a lower cost, and get the most out of your printing platform.

We’ve noticed that there’s a certain issue that keeps popping up among additive manufacturers. This issue comes up when the 3D printing operator realizes that the parts they want to print don’t fit properly in the print chamber or their part output is too low.

Their first reaction, it seems, is to purchase a larger 3D printer. But a 3D printer’s cost increases nearly exponentially with its size, and it’s sad to see operators blow their money on new printers when they could solve the issue practically cost-free.

Instead of buying a humongous printer, you may be able to use a print preparation software — like Materialise Magics — to align your parts better. Here we’ll explore how to join or nest 3D printed parts, and why you should do it.

Think Before You Buy

Let us begin by saying that we understand the impulse to just buy a bigger printer. After all, a larger print chamber can produce both larger parts and greater quantities of smaller parts.

Unfortunately, this approach is kind of like breaking an egg with a hammer. Sure, it gets the job done, but you could’ve gotten the same or better results with a subtler method.

Like we said, big 3D printers have equally big price tags. Just a few more cubic centimetres of build volume can easily double or even triple a printer’s price.

Depending on your application, you may have to manufacture and sell an unreasonably high number of parts to get a return on the investment. And for smaller operations, such large printers can be entirely outside their budgets.

In some situations, better print preparation through joining or nesting can help you produce both larger parts and bigger part batches with your current 3D printer. At the same time, you’ll be able to produce parts more economically, and may even be able to increase their durability.

Join Two or More 3D Printed Parts

Let’s consider a situation where you’re planning to produce several 3D printed parts and later combine them in to one component. Only, once you start preparing your print job, the parts won’t fit into your printer’s chamber.

The answer here is to put your final component together digitally before 3D printing. As long as you don’t need moving parts, your completed component just might fit into your printer’s chamber in one piece.

Your part can also come out stronger if you print it as a single object. Gluing or fusing parts practically always results in seams, which may compromise your part’s mechanical strength. Printing the component as a single part will result in a solid surface without any such weak points.

Any good 3D print preparation software should let you combine 3D printed parts. Materialise Magics, for example, lets you achieve this with its orientation tools and Unite function.

The method of how to put together 3D parts in Magics is easy and straightforward. After you’ve opened both (or more) of your parts in one scene, use the orientation tools, like Rotate, to align them at the desired connection points.

Once your parts are in place, mark the surfaces to be joined, if necessary. Finally, bring the parts together with the Unite tool.

The Unite tool lets you merge part files into a single printable part file. Its automated process also trims all the part surfaces to create a single cohesive shell. Additionally, there’s no limit on the number of parts you can join.

Of course, joining parts could introduce irregularities or suboptimal surfaces to the combined file. Luckily, you can easily get rid of these problems with Magics’ comprehensive, automated repair tools.

Joining 3D printed parts in this manner eliminates the need to spread them out across the print bed. You’ll be able to produce one solid part, and make better use of limited printing volume.

Materialise Magics nesting

Nest Your Parts for Maximum Volume

We said it right in the beginning that wasted printing volume equals wasted money. To get the most out of your printer, you should print as many parts as possible with every single print run.

Full print volumes mean that your printer is running at maximum efficiency. You’ll produce more parts, which cuts lead times, reduces cost per part, saves money in energy costs, and increases your profitability.

If you run an SLS printer or another sintering-based printer, like Formlabs Fuse 1, nesting your parts helps you cram as many as possible of them into your print chamber without affecting print quality. Nesting means optimising your part orientation to minimise their combined volume expenditure.

You can nest your parts manually in a print preparation software, but that’s far from the ideal solution. Manual nesting is incredibly time-consuming, and unless you’re some kind of a geometrical genius, you won’t get the best possible results.

It’s better to use an automated nesting software to do your nesting for you. Materialise Magic, combined with the Sinter Module, nests large numbers of parts in a matter of minutes — at most.

Magics gives a wide array of options to fine-tune your nesting even further. You can easily assign each parts rotation and translation freedom, optimise slice distribution, and protect fragile parts.

After nesting, the simulated print chamber on your screen might look like hopeless mess, but don’t worry. Once you’ll start pulling the parts out of the chamber, they’ll be perfectly fine — only, there’ll be more of them.

Optimised nesting with Materialise Magics.

Get More Out of Your Available Printer Volume

As you can see, your 3D printer’s chamber probably isn’t as small as you think. With the right tools, you can easily squeeze the most out of every last millimetre of your build volume and print bigger or more parts than you ever thought possible.

But the best thing is that joining and nesting 3D printed parts are just two approaches, related to rather specific situations. A good 3D print preparation software, like Materialise Magics, lets you use many other methods to maximise your print volume and quality, such as advanced part orientation, automated support generation, and part editing.

What we’re saying is, don’t waste money on a new printer just because a couple of print jobs couldn’t fit in your chamber. Try these methods first, and only invest in a new printer if you know it’s what you absolutely need.

Want to learn more about joining or nesting 3D printer parts? Contact the 3D printing experts at SolidPrint3D. Call us on 01926 333 777 or email us at info@solidprint3d.co.uk.

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