How to 3D Print Large Models Too Big for a 3D Printer


Some people want to create 3D prints but they are too big for their specific 3D printer. There are ways to 3D print larger models on smaller 3D prints, so I decided to write an article showing how it’s done.

Keep on reading for the details to get this done properly.

How to Print Large Models on Small 3D Printers

In the absence of large 3D printers, you can still print figures with your 3D printer conveniently. You can take the following steps to conveniently print your large-size figures with your small 3D printer.

Here’s how you can 3D print large models on a small 3D printer:

  1. Choose a software that can segment models like Fusion 360, Meshmixer, or Cura.
  2. Import your Model into your Software
  3. Select the Cutting tool like Plane Cut or Advanced Cuts
  4. Carefully Segment your Model into Smaller Parts
  5. Export the STL file or Place it on the Build Plate to 3D print.
  6. 3D Print the Models
  7. Bond the parts together using Glue or snap-fit/hinges
  8. Post Process the parts with sanding and fillers if needed

1. Choose a Software

You can make use of quite a variety of software to edit your model. You should make use of the software you are more comfortable with and that is readily available for use. For example, Blender, Fusion360, Meshmixer, Cura, and so on.

2. Import the Model into your Preferred Software

Once you have chosen your preferred software, you would need to import the Model into your software. You can find ready-made models from the web, or you can import the model from your files if you already created one.

3. Select the Cutting Tool

If you choose a 3D modeling software, there are usually two types of cutting tools. You can either make use of Plane cuts or Advanced cuts.

When you utilize Plane cuts, it allows you to split your models across the X,Y, and Z planes of your models. This is the easiest means for you to split your model.

Advanced cuts give you the freedom to cut your models from any point you desire on the model. They are more refined than Plane cuts. It gives you the freedom to select specific points around your model.

This, in turn, helps you mask your cut since you can select specific areas that would hide the cut trace.

Also, advanced cut helps you to maneuver certain features on the model, that would originally be affected if you make use of a plane cut.

4. Carefully Segment the Model into Smaller Parts

Before you begin splitting your model, you would have to consider the implications of cutting the model in certain areas.

For example, you would not want to cut the model where it would be easily noticeable. Also, you would want to ensure that the area you want to cut from, would not be under mechanical stress once it’s bonded together.

Some software has fewer steps than others to split your models. The video below by Frankly Built explains how to fit any model on your 3D printer using Meshmixer.

The steps below show how to make advanced cuts on models using the Netfabb Software:

  • Import the STL file for the model
  • Select Polygon Cut from the Menu Bar
  • Select the next point you want the outline to follow
  • Continue adding new points until you get to the end of the shape.
  • Then add tolerance to the model and round the corners.
  • Separate the models and align them to the base of the virtual container in the software.

You can check out the video below for more information on advanced cuts.

5. Export the Segmented Parts as STL files

Once you are done segmenting the original model into smaller pieces, you can now export the models to prepare them for printing.

6. 3D Print the Model

After you have exported the split files into the software, you can now decide if you want to print them individually or together. If there is enough space on the build plate, you can decide to print them together, as this would save more time than printing individually.

7. Bond the Components

Before you begin printing the parts, you need to have decided the type of bonding technique that would suit the model. There are two major methods to bond your components together. They include:

  • Glue
  • Combine models with snap-fit or hinges

Glue

Glue is a popular adhesive to bond 3D printed components, especially for plane cut models. You can make use of epoxy, resin, or superglue. Epoxy is best suited for bonding models with large surface areas, while Resins and Superglue are for smaller surface areas.

You can get yourself some Gorilla Superglue from Amazon for a competitive price.

Epoxy has a faster bond time than Resins and Superglue. It is also suited for components that would undergo high-impact stress.

Combine Models with Snap-Fit or Hinges

It’s possible to create hinges or a snap-fit design within your 3D prints if you know how to design models. The video below takes you through the steps to do this.

You can also design hinges into your model to bond them together, as well as other joining techniques like laps, grooves, dovetails and more.

Maker’s Muse made a video about this that you can also check out.

8. Post-Process the Parts

After you have bonded the components together, you may want to apply some finishing touches to the completed model. This is to ensure the model has an even surface all around.

At this point, you would need to sand the sharp edges and other misalignment caused when assembling the parts. You can even add filler and sand it to even out any dents or bumps that may be there. A simple Sandpaper Grit Assortment should do be enough.

Bondo All-Purpose Filler from Amazon should work well for this.

How to 3D Print Large Flat Objects & Surfaces

Here are some of the tips to put into consideration when you want to print large flat surfaces.

  • Ensure you level the Bed
  • Increase the temperature of the heat bed
  • Make use of adhesives
  • Reduce print speed
  • Use rafts and brims

Ensure You Level the Bed

Leveling the bed is important when it comes to 3D printing, especially when you are printing large flat objects. I’d recommend doing some accurate leveling on your 3D printer to make sure your nozzle is extruding on the print bed at a good height all the way around.

A user once had a situation whereby his first few layers were always uneven whenever they print models. He leveled his bed and his print came out fine.

I having this problem, whenever I print large flat surface, the first few layers always very uneven, smaller one seems to okay. How to fix this? Thank you so much. from 3Dprinting

Check out the video below to see how to level your 3D printer’s bed.

Increase the Temperature of the Heat Bed

Having the optimal build plate temperature for larger objects is very important for good bed adhesion. That higher heat keeps your extruded material bonded to the build plate better, allowing it to adhere the whole way through.

If your build plate temperature isn’t optimal, it could lead to warping or worse, a print failure. The optimal bed temperature does depend on the filament you are using, as well as the temperature of the environment you are in.

  • For PLA models, the bed temperature usually falls between 40-60°C.
  • For ABS models, the bed temperature usually falls between 90-110°C
  • For PETG models, the bed temperature usually falls between 70-90°C

Many users have seen better results after optimizing their bed temperature with 3D prints, especially larger ones.

Make Use of Adhesives

Even after leveling and cleaning the bed surface, the filament roll you have might not adhere to the bed adequately in some cases.

When your model does not stick to the bed, you can use adhesives to help keep the model in place and prevent warping.

You can utilize a variety of adhesives for 3D printing in this situation, including Elmer’s Glue Sticks, Blue Painter’s Tape, and hair spray. Personally, I use the glue sticks and they work really well for 3D prints and larger models.

Reduce the Print Speed

Most slicers should have a default Initial Print Speed of around 20mm/s, but if yours is higher, you might want to reduce it. The first layer is the most important, so you want it to be accurately for the best adhesion and to reduce the chances of warping.

Reducing your main Print Speed setting can be helpful as well if it’s too high. 50mm/s is usually a good value to start with.

Make Use of Rafts and Brims

You can also make use of brims and rafts to ensure your flat surfaces are printed well. They are very useful for improving bed adhesion and stability for larger 3D prints. For materials that are known to warp like ABS or Nylon, it’s always a good idea to incorporate a brim or raft.

Brims are thin layers added to the border of the model, while rafts are more of a plate added to the base of the model. Rafts and brims act as a foundational support that connect the model to the build plate for better adhesion.

You can check out the video below for more information.

How to Resin Print Large Models

Here’s how to successfully 3D print large resin models:

  • Orient the model at an angle
  • Use Rafts for Better Bed Adhesion
  • Use Supports for a stronger foundation
  • Increase bottom exposure time
  • Make the model hollow

Orient the Model at an Angle

This is the most important aspect of resin printing. When you reorient your model, you significantly reduce its cross-sectional area, especially for flat models.

The standard tilt angle for resin printing is between 30° and 45°. You can also make use of the formula below to calculate the tilt angle for your model.

Tilt angle = arc tan(layer height/pixel width)

The Pixel width is the XY resolution of your model and the layer height is the thickness of each strand of resin deposition.

You can check out this video on why and how resin models are orientated, as well as other tips on resin 3D printing.

When you reorient your large models, it’s a good idea to ensure that the important details of the model are far away from the build plate of the model. This would help hide support marks created after printing.

Use Rafts for Better Bed Adhesion

You can also add rafts to the base of the model for additional support in resin prints. When you add rafts to the model, you can give the model a little clearance from the base for better printing quality.

Make sure your raft actually extends beyond the surface area of the model to improve overall bed adhesion and stability. The default rafts in slicer software usually work well for me, even with larger models.

Make sure your raft isn’t too thick so it’s easier to separate it from the model.

Use Supports for a Stronger Foundation

A key reason why large resin 3D prints fail is because of a lack of supports on the model, especially with heavier parts. It’s important to learn how to support resin models, mainly because you don’t want parts trying to print in midair.

Many slicers are getting better at adding automatic supports, but you also want to manually add supports in places that might have been missed. Each model should be carefully inspected for the best results.

Check out the video below for a useful tutorial to support resin models.

Increase the Bottom Exposure Time

Having strong adhesion is important for larger models, so increasing your Bottom Exposure Time can be a good idea to increase success. I’d recommend increasing your Bottom Exposure Time by around 10-30%.

Doing your own testing is important, so I’d try out some different values to see what works best for you. Try not to raise it too high because models can become hard to remove from the build plate.

Make the Model Hollow

Hollow resin models are much lighter than solid models. Hence, hollow models will exert lower peel force than solid models. Since the main problem with resin printing is adhesion, hollow models help to counteract this.

Also, the resin is quite expensive, hollowing your model will help save resin and also reduce print time. Do keep in mind that if you want a stronger part, you can increase the Wall Thickness of your hollowed model.

Remember to add multiple holes to your hollowed model so the resin can get out of it.

Here’s a video on how to hollow your model on ChiTuBox.

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