How to perfectly print a thin-walled product?

With FDM printing, a model is constructed by printing layers of filament (plastic). This filament is heated until it melts and is then guided through the nozzle of the printer. The width of the layer that is printed onto the print bed is partly determined by the size of the nozzle. Several sizes are available, to enable printing different wall thicknesses (extrusion widths). When printing thin-walled models, it’s good to know how this exactly works. When the wrong settings are used, it could happen that a wall isn’t constructed correctly or not even printed at all. This often happens when models are scaled down.

Different nozzle sizes
The various nozzle sizes can be used for different purposes. Do you want a model to be printed quickly, without paying too much attention to the details? Then choose a big nozzle size like 1.0mm. This nozzle prints a wide and high layer, resulting in less required layers and therefore a quicker result. However, if you want to print a detailed or thin-walled model, you should choose a smaller nozzle, like 0.2 or 0.4mm.

Too thin walls
Sometimes, models need to be scaled to a different size. This can be done in the CAD program, but also in slicing software like Simplify3D (which is software that converts a 3D model into a printable file). To acquire the best result, it’s advisable to always scale a product in the CAD program. When scaling down a model, it could happen that walls become too thin to be printed. Most 3D printers have a set nozzle size with a diameter of 0.4mm or 0.5mm. Although this works for most models, problems could arise when layers smaller than this nozzle size need to be printed. When for instance a 0.2mm thick wall has to be printed with a 0.4mm nozzle, this wall will not be shown in the Simplify3D preview and not be printed. There are two possible ways to ensure these walls will be printed (correctly).

Change the design
Firstly, the model can be changed in the original CAD program. Make sure the walls are at least as big as the nozzle size. The walls can also be a bit bigger than the nozzle, 20% at the most. When all walls have been adjusted, the model can be imported into the slicer software again.

Change the nozzle
The second solution is to install a smaller nozzle. The dddrop 3D printers have been built in such a way that it’s easy to change the nozzle. You can choose from nozzles in the sizes 0.2, 0.4, 0.6, 0.8 or 1.0mm. This enables you to print with a high speed as well as detailed thin-walled products.