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The 6 most common obstacles with 3d printing your design – and how to fix them.

Sometimes we find a problem in the 3d files we receive and sometimes our repair software finds them before we do. If you have received an e-mail from us or an error message on our website here is how to fix these errors. Many of these problems are caused by the different CAD drawing softwares and are easily fixed and avoided. The six we have gathered are the most common problems and we provide instructions alongside on how to fix them.


In order for your model to be 3d printed it must be watertight. Watertight meaning that the triangulated surface of your model must be closed and may not contain any holes or gaps in between triangles. Only when your model's surface is closed completely the 3d printer's driver software is able to correctly transcribe your model into matter.

When your model is not watertight you can close its surface by using a repair software. The holes in your model's surface will be closed mainly by adding new triangles. A free software for fixing holes is netfabb Basic. Some CAD programs also offer an option for producing watertight models when exporting to a mesh file format for 3D-printing.

Inverted normals

Your 3d model consists of many small triangles which describe its surface. There is a vector for each of these triangles which indicates where the inside and outside of the model is. The driver software of the 3d printer needs to be able to discern inside and outside of the model in order to know where to apply material. For doing so the software relies on the vectors, the so called “normals” With flipped normals pointing into the wrong direction the driver software cannot interpret your model correctly and attempts to put material on the outside while leaving parts of the model's inside unfilled.

For successfully 3d-printing your model it is therefore very important to have the normals set right. If you want to fix flipped normals on your model netfabb Basic can be used as well. You can select single triangles or flip the whole model.

Model analysis and automatic repairing

We have developed algorithms that check your model automatically for possible errors. If problems are found for your 3D file you can use our repair function to get a printable model.


Sometimes our website rejects files uploaded to the 3d printing service because they have a data type we do not support. Right now we support the following formats:

.ply .stl .3ds .3mf .step .stp

Most CAD programs offer exporting in one of these formats. The .stl format is suited best for monochrome 3D-printing. You can also use MeshLab (free open source software) or netfabb Basic to convert your model into one of the supported formats.

More information about the file formats

Unit length

When uploading your 3D model to the 3D-print service you choose which unit of measurement it was designed in. If you choose a different unit than the one the model was designed in it will be scaled much bigger or smaller than it was in your CAD drawing. A large scaling would of course strongly affect the price as well.

When choosing the material for your model later in the order process you can again rescale your model to the desired size. You can also just upload your model again and choose the correct unit from the start.

Object too big

The build volume of our 3d printers is limited. Sometimes objects are simply too big to be manufactured on our 3d printers.

If your model is bigger than the build volume of our 3d printer you have four options to still recieve your 3d printed object:

  1. You can just scale down your whole model. This can easily be done during the order process.
  2. You can make long features like antennas and horns smaller or even cut them off completely.
  3. You can cut your model into several sections and reassemble them after printing.
  4. You can contact us and we will find a bigger printer for your project.

Maximum build volumes.

32 MB

File too big

There is a certain limit on how big the files we accept for uploading can be. We support 3D-files as big as 32 MB.

If your file is bigger than that, a trick is to check whether the file is written in ASCII or binary mode. ASCII consumes much more disc space. If written in ASCII you can open and save it in MeshLab to convert it to binary. This usually makes the file much smaller. The 3D model will not lose detail.

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