3D Printing Hollow Parts Using FDM Technology Saves Time, Money and Materials

Creating end-use or prototyping parts, regardless of industry, can be a time-consuming and expensive process. FDM 3D printing technology offers a solution that blends quick turnaround with a financial benefit. What is it? Leaving the inside of a 3D print hollow, which uses less material, can add up to savings when applied to large parts or multiple 3D prints.

Stratasys 3D Printers, including Dimension and Fortus series, use FDM 3D printing technology, and are the only ones that can successfully build truly hollow parts without supporting material.

hollow objects, 3d printing

Hollow model 3D printed with Stratasys FDM technology

I recently had the opportunity to work on some customer files for an investment casting application. This is an application where 3D printing with FDM really shines! When I had received the SolidWorks files from the designer, it was very easy to adjust the file in order to “build hollow” in FDM. Here’s how it works:

  • Use “shelling” in SolidWorks
  • Choose the name of the part, select “hollow feature,” and define the necessary thickness to create the right structural integrity for the customer’s requirements
  • Modify internal or external geometries to account for the internal space
  • Export as an STL file
  • 3D print in FDM
3d printing hollow parts

Inside the 3D printed hollow model produced using Stratasys FDM technology

Although we could have achieved a .008” tool path (bead of material) width, our team, along with input from the customer, decided that .022” for their mold making process was the right thickness.  For all of the chamfered sections that held up the 90 degree angle structures, I was able to “sparse” (use a honeycomb pattern) these areas using Stratasys Insight software. This allowed us to save material and time, and we had even better success in the burnout process.  Due to the nature of FDM and our ABS-M30 material for this application, the largest mold tool (14”X 4” X 4”) was built in a short 19 hours, a marked improvement compared to traditional mold pattern creation.

With the cost and time savings generated through the use of 3D printing hollow parts in FDM, the customer was able to invest in other areas in order to grow their business. FDM broke down the design barriers of the traditional mold making processes.

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