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Detailed design.

Lifecycle of a 3D printed design:

aaron pearson
Aaron Pearson May 04, 2020
May 04, 2020

Most designers know the feeling of seeing something – a product, a concept, another designer’s work – and immediately start thinking, “How can I do that?”

Now that 3D printing is becoming more ubiquitous in the design world, you might be wondering how a designer goes from that initial lightbulb moment to a finished 3D printed part. Read on to learn more about the lifecycle of a 3D printed design, how it differs from traditional manufacturing techniques, and how ideas are turned into reality.

How to 3D print design concepts. 

The first step is one you’re probably already familiar with – ideation and initial renders. Most designs, however the prototype will be made, start on paper as rough ideas. The designer can then translate those ideas to digital renders, both 2D and 3D.


In a traditional design process, designers often rely heavily on renders because they’re extremely inexpensive and quick to create. Digital renders are great for experimenting with colors and design possibilities, but they have a major drawback: they don’t allow for problem solving the way physical prototypes do. Designers can’t hold a render in their hands and test the ergonomics of a design, or verify the color accuracy in real life. 3D printing lets designers make renders real.

How to prepare 3D models to print.

The next step after creating digital renders is preparing them for 3D printing. Stratasys PolyJet printers feature a design-to-print workflow strategy, which makes going from render to printed part straightforward and fast.


With a digital CAD model, or one designed with rendering software, designers can simply import the design using native CAD files or 3MF file format. 3MF imports complete color and texture data, including PANTONE-verified colors, ensuring that the final 3D printed design looks exactly the way the designer intended.

How to print 3D models. 

Once the model design has been imported, designers use GrabCAD Print software to print and manage projects.


Unlike traditional manufacturing techniques, 3D printing doesn’t require active labor or constant supervision. Instead of spending hours crafting foam models, designers can just click “Print.” GrabCAD allows for remote monitoring, which means designers can leave the printer on overnight and come back to a finished part in the morning.


In addition to easy workflow, PolyJet Technology provides multi-color and multi-material capabilities. Whatever the original render featured – specific color matching, intricate surface details, realistic textures like wood or leather – 3D printing can make it real in hours.

How to finish 3D printed models. 

Traditional methods for creating prototypes typically involve lengthy post-processing. Depending on the material, the model may require sanding, staining, buffing, painting, and varnishing to achieve the desired finished look. Detailed models especially may require hours of finishing time that takes away from time to correct mistakes and improve the design.

But finishing doesn’t have to take up a huge part of the design process. Parts created with PolyJet Technology come off the printer with full colors and accurate surface textures. 


Often, post-processing is limited to removal of supports. PolyJet printers typically use one of two types of support: soluble and WaterJet-removable. Soluble support materials like SUP706B dissolve in a solution of caustic soda and metasilicate, while materials like SUP705 can be sprayed off parts using the WaterJet cleaning system. Both support types allow the creation of detailed, intricate geometries and interior spaces.

For designers who want to see their ideas in real life, not just on a screen, traditional options can feel limiting. Hand-modeling is laborious, but outsourcing is expensive and sometimes equally time-consuming. The process of taking render to reality is faster, simpler, and more efficient with the power of 3D printing and PolyJet Technology.