A “printing plate,” sometimes referred to as a “production plate,” is the practice of organizing the pieces of a multi-part print so that several parts will fit onto a build area. They help streamline printing and production by reducing the number of separate printing tasks. Organizing your multi-part print onto plates is a relatively easy design trick for improving your speed of production. Here are a few tips in case you’re doing this:
- Draw a square or rectangle the shape of your build platform into the design. Try to organize your parts onto that square1 and delete the square when done. 2
- Start by placing the largest piece onto a square, then adding the largest piece you can manage to the plate. Add as many little pieces as you can around the larger parts.
- If you are printing slot-together parts, you can safely mirror or flip the pieces. Once printed, they’ll be functionally identical whether they were printed face-up or face-down.
- Packing parts together can actually reduce warping and curling. You may find that the extra parts will either provide apron-like mechanical advantages by holding down corners or thermal walls.
- If certain parts need to be printed multiple times, put them with other parts that need to be printed multiple times. In the case of Dino-Girl’s spidersaur, it has two different kinds of legs – four identical long legs and four identical shorter legs. It also had a body panel and a fang part that needed to be printed twice each. I created one plate with a long leg, a short leg, and the body panel and another plate with a long leg, short leg, and the fang part. If you print each of those plates twice, you end up with four long legs, four short legs, two body panels, and two fang parts.
- Ask for help! I had a lot of trouble organizing the last five parts onto the fifth printing plate. I enlisted the help of two other Thingiverse citizens, Syvwlch and Renosis, in organizing this plate. They each solved it in a nearly identical fashion in far less time than I had spent trying to figure it out.
- Use a stepper extruder. If you’re packing parts in closely together, you’re going to want the kind of fine-grain control a MK6 stepper extruder can provide.
What other tips do you have for creating printing plates?
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