Case Study: 3D Printed Trade Show Model On A Tight Deadline

What do you do when you need to fabricate a detailed three foot-long model for a trade show and you only have two weeks to get it done?

Problem

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Our client needed to create a large display model for a trade show in two weeks. Because a 3D model file was available, 3D printing seemed like an ideal option to rapidly produce a model so it could be painted and assembled in time for the show. However, there were a few issues. For one, the 3D model wasn’t suitable for standard FDM 3D printing due to extreme overhangs in the design. More importantly, the entire model was three feet long, meaning it would take many days of printing on a standard 3D printer.

These factors, combined with the tight deadline, made it unrealistic for our client to 3D print the model in-house, so they decided to bring us on to help with the project.

Solution

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We immediately got to work, starting by figuring out how to turn the complex 3D model of the trade show display into something that could be 3D printed. In order to make the deadline, we would need to split the model into many smaller pieces which we could spread across multiple 3D printers in parallel.  We utilized the Meshmixer 3D modeling software to split the model into smaller parts that could be 3D printed, which also helped avoid the extreme overhangs present in the full model. We then used other tools including Netfabb to fix mesh defects in the 3D model that would have caused failures in the printing process. This helped us ensure successful prints, which was critical for a project with such a tight deadline. 

When we had the model split up and ready to print, we spread the entire set of parts across seven of our 3D printers to ensure that we would meet the customer’s deadline. Because high detail was also a requirement for the trade show model, we used a 100-micron layer height for maximum print quality. Although using such a small layer height results in longer prints, splitting the order across more than half a dozen printers allowed us to complete the prints in a short period of time.

Result

We were able to deliver the parts to our client days before his deadline. They needed to paint and assemble the parts, but the additional time allowed them to complete the model ahead of schedule. We’ll let him tell it in his own words:

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“3DPros was responsive, professional and turned a very complex project in record time. My prints turned out better than expected and they were able to get the parts to me days ahead of my deadline, which means I get to spend the weekend with my daughter instead of at work.”

We’d call this one a success--not only did the quality of the parts impress the client, but our rapid turnaround allowed him to complete his project without working overtime. 

This project presented a few challenges, with a 3D model that initially didn’t seem printable and a massive amount of parts that would be insurmountable to print with a single 3D printer on time. By applying our experience with 3D modeling and a large number of printers, we were able to get everything done quickly and effectively. 

If you have a trade show model or other display model that you’d like printed, get in touch with us--we’d love to help out.

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Daniel English