Understanding Wall Thickness

In 3D printing, wall thickness refers to the distance between one surface of your model and its opposite sheer surface. Wall thickness is defined as the minimum thickness your model should have at any time. It’s important that every surface of your 3D model has been assigned a wall thickness.

When using your 3D modeling software it's possible to design a surface without a wall thickness. However, 3D printers need the information about how thick you intend the wall of your object to be. Many printing problems can be traced back to wall thickness issues. The minimum printable wall thickness primarily depends on the material you choose. Other factors such as the alignment, size, and overall design of your 3D model, can also influence the recommended minimum wall thickness.

Before you decide to 3D print (or even design your model), you should know the basic guidelines for your printing material of choice. You can find specific information about the required wall thickness for each material in our material design guides.


Minimum wall thickness

Minimum wall thickness can be quite thin when printing in strong materials such as High Detail Stainless Steel (0.3 mm) or Titanium (0.4 mm). However, we always recommend to be on the safe side and make the walls a bit thicker.

Minimum wall thickness can depend heavily on the structure and design of your 3D model. If you want to print in High Detail Stainless Steel, a vertical wall with a surface of 5 mm² only needs a wall thickness of 0.3 mm, whereas a vertical wall with a surface of 100 mm² needs to be at least 1 mm thick. A horizontal wall with an area of 100 mm² would need a thickness of 2 mm. In this case, the size of the surface and the alignment (vertically or horizontally) are important when defining your minimum wall thickness.

When printing in a more fragile material like Ceramics, the general rule that larger models need to be stronger holds true. While a small object of approx. 50 mm x 50 mm x 50 mm can survive with a minimum wall thickness of 3 mm, a ceramic object of 100 mm x 100 mm x 100 mm would need a thickness of 6 mm. For even bigger objects we recommend bigger than 6 mm thick walls. The same models printed in Gray Resin or Mammoth Resin would need walls with a thickness of 1 mm, 2 mm, and 3 mm.

Maximum wall thickness

Besides walls that are too thin, you might also encounter problems with walls that are too thick as well: for materials such as Ceramics and Metals, it is especially important to respect maximum wall thicknesses (i.e. 15 mm for Ceramics, 10 mm for High Detail Stainless Steel), as thicker sections will generate too much internal stress and could cause the item to crack or even break.

Too thick walls can be a reason why we can't print some of your orders. The best solution is to make your model hollow and foresee holes to let the powder flow out: Once again you need to check the individual guidelines on how big these holes need to be: While 3 mm for small models (less than 10 x 10 x 10 mm) and 5 mm for larger models in fine for High Detail Stainless Steel, the openings for a ceramics object need to be at least 10 mm in diameter.

Recommended wall thicknesses for 3D printing

Our printers can print quite thin in Multicolor, but that doesn’t mean that printing very fine walls is a good idea. During shipping and finishing, parts of your object with a thickness under 1.5 mm are likely to break. Again, we recommend that you add extra wall thickness: 5 mm will make your model more solid and safer to handle.

For some materials (such as Multicolor), long, heavy items that hang in midair might break off when they are designed too thinly. If your model includes some more fragile parts (like outstretched arms of a figurine), try to add support structures as part of the design. Don’t ignore gravity when designing your model. Instead, we recommend using bent arms or arms holding an item that touches the ground (e.g. a shovel).

Let’s take a look at one last example where maximum wall thickness plays an important role again: If you want to print a somewhat flexible object in Polyamide (like an iPhone case that needs to be clipped onto a phone), walls that are too thick might turn a flexible object into an item that is too bulky. In this case, a thickness of 1.5 to 2.5 mm would be ideal for creating a somewhat flexible product.

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