3D printing and CNC milling

CNC Engraving Aluminum Parts with 3D Printed Fixtures

So for starters: what’s CNC engraving? Simply put, CNC engraving is a process of engraving a design into a hard surface using a rotating tool in a milling machine.

You can engrave an art project, image, nameplate or a serial number to a part. CNC engraving is without a doubt a very rewarding and practical application of CNC machines.

It allows for repeatable producing numerous quantities of products quicker and easier than the traditional methods.

CNC Aluminum Engraving

There’s a wide range of materials used for CNC engraving. However, one of the most popular is aluminum. Why?

It has an exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, great corrosion resistance and it offers great machinability. The use of CNC aluminum has grown immensely. It’s the go-to material in the most manufacturing sector.

Engraving Machine

To CNC engrave aluminum components you don’t have to use expensive CNC engraving machines or marking equipment. There are a lot of custom solutions to consider. To engrave small batch of aluminum parts instead of outsourcing the work we decided to use ZMorph VX Multitool 3D Printer.

3D Printed Fixtures

Engraving, like all CNC operations, demands rigid material holding. To make sure that the material, will be held down during engraving you can choose between various types of working piece solutions. Just to name a few: t-slots, keyed vises or fixtures.

With ZMorph VX you can go step further and 3D print unique fixtures tailored for different parts and components. In this case, the fixture was designed in Fusion and then 3D printed on ZMoph VX with PLA.

The fixture has special t-slots so it’s easily mountable on the CNC worktable and it can be used for another runs.

It can store up to 9 parts. It keeps them sturdy and it’s very easy to use. Special grooves on the side make the part removing easy.

CNC Engraving

After mounting the fixture on the CNC worktable it’s time to engrave with CNC PRO Toolhead. It takes around 4 minutes to complete all 9 parts.

The whole process is easy to set up and to rerun. Removing the parts from the fixtures takes a moment thanks to the easily removable CNC worktable and the grooves in the fixture.

Results and Savings

The two decisive cost components are machine and fixture costs. In comparison to traditional methods, you have to take into account factors like a machine, material, and other indirect costs.

Each button engraved on ZMorph VX costs 10 cents total while outsourced $1.50.

The 3D printed fixture costs less than 50 cents. Additional savings to consider are when you take into account inventory and logistics cost. Less transportation is needed since multiple parts are engraved in house.

For 100 parts the rejection rate was below 2%. The engraved sings are highly visible and accurate. After engraving the parts are ready to use.

Marking a small batch of aluminum parts is often expensive as it requires a lot of effort. Using custom solutions like multitool 3D printers can save you a lot of time, space and money. The main advantages of CNC engraving with ZMorph VX are fast delivery time, full control over the process and means to produce unique fixtures on the go. 

Custom Engraved Leather Goods


While custom engraved leather goods are popular accessories, the time and price necessary to produce them are not always profitable. Having a laser cutter & engraver can limit your costs to just materials. A machine like ZMorph VX will allow you to create ready-to-market products in almost no time, comparing to outsourcing.


In order to obtain customized leather goods, the designer starts with preparing DXF files both for cutting lines and decorations engraving. The DXF files are then imported to Voxelizer and G-codes for ZMorph VX prepared. Afterwards, the designer mounts the leather on CNC worktable with double-sided table and mounts the Laser PRO toolhead on ZMorph VX. For this project, two G-codes were used – one for cutting the outline, second for engraving the custom design. After just several minutes, the job is completed. The last thing to do is to saw material in order to create a leather accessory of choice.


The custom engraved leather items can be used for various purposes. They can serve as phone cases, headphones sleeves, wallets or small purses and are ready to be put on the market. The design is 100% customizable so the shape, size and decorations can differ anytime you make another project. The end product is achieved after several minutes to few hours of designing in a software (depending on your skill and the complexity of the graphics) and after just a few minutes of laser work on ZMorph VX.

Silicone Molds for Baking and Freezing

Appealing and unique pastry shapes achieved with low costs.


When creating custom shaped cakes you can run into two major problems. On the market, you can find only a limited number of forms that don’t allow for much diversity. If you want your sweets to be of unique design you cannot rely on already existing shapes. The second problem is the budget. The cost of ordering custom forms might be too high for the whole venture to be profitable. Not to mention the time needed for outsourcing. Here’s where a 3D printer can help a lot.


To make a cake with a unique design, the pastry chef asked a designer for help. Together, they decided on the size, volume, and shape of the form. Secondly, the designer created a 3D model of the cake in 3D modeling software. Then the 3D model was imported to Voxelizer and 3D printed on ZMorph VX. The first mold is just a prototype the designer and pastry chef used to see if they are any improvements needed. Some minor changes were made in the 3D model, and then the mold was once again 3D printed on ZMorph VX in the best quality possible. The cake mold is then washed with water and dish soap solution and finally dipped in liquid silicone. After 24 hours the form is ready for use by the pastry chef.


The result is a unique cake form that can be used repeatedly for different fillings. To make a cake using this form, the pastry chef needs to prepare a special filling. The ingredients depend on the desirable outcome. After the form is filled with the ingredients it needs to sit in the freezer to become a solid body that won’t be destroyed by removing it from the form. The final result can be decorated accordingly. 3D printed mold and custom design guarantee exclusive form that no other pastry chef has used before.

Zoles company manufactures custom 3D printed insoles drastically reducing costs and shrinking lead times

Zoles manufactures customized insoles around Europe using BCN3D printers, speeding up all the process and being able to save up to 80% of the total production costs with each pair. Based in Denmark, Zoles gives to their users an experience of increased comfort and performance when walking and running. The focus resides on producing customized footwear and shoe insoles. Thanks to 3D printing they are now able to fulfill all their clients requirements.


How the idea started

During the last few years, the footwear and orthotics market has been growing until reaching some impressive numbers. Nowadays, they are being produced 23.5 billion pairs of shoes per year, and the foot orthotics industry is expected to reach a value of 3.5 billion dollars in 2020. An important volume of this footwear market is managed via online shopping and it is still growing 15% per year. From all this online shopping, some studies estimate that 20% of these shoes are returned to manufacturers due to unfit. That is why Zoles focused on producing customized insoles and shoes. The main challenge comes when talking about the production because customization can’t be done on mass production machinery. Besides, it would be too expensive to create individual molds for each pair of shoes and insoles.

The advantage of 3D printing for customization

In order to solve this challenge, Zoles created 3D models of the customized insoles with their own foot analysis and insole design software. Then, using 3D printing was a natural next step to turn into physical models the created designs.

In June 2017, Zoles launched a 3D technology platform that enabled them to make customized insoles and shoes for their clinic customers in Denmark. After a great success, Zoles launched an online platform in August 2018 to let everybody order customized shoes and insoles. The user can take some pictures of his own feet and the software itself calculates how the shoe or insole should be to fit well.


Zoles studied the printer market to look for the best ones to print flexible filament, and they found BCN3D printers the ideal printers to achieve their goal. Thanks to Bondtech extruders and e3D hotends, Zoles considered the BCN3D Sigma and BCN3D Sigmax as the perfect printers to fit their needs. In addition, they took advantage of the possibility to print in Mirror/Duplication mode, which was used to print a pair of insoles in half of the time as with traditional 3D printers.  


Zoles has now more than 250 users and the 3D printers will also give them the opportunity to provide local manufacturing with their shoe manufacturer partners in Europe.

They can today 3D print customized insoles of high quality, at a price that can compete with standard insoles. The insoles are made from the flexible material TPU with its high elastic characteristics and ability to bounce back and forth into the shape. Zoles customized insoles cost less than 50% of a pair of orthopedic insoles. It is a great example of a 3D printing application, in which are produced low-volume series of a product.

The main advantage comes when buying online. It can be done in 5 minutes, anywhere and totally customized. Taking 5 pictures and evaluating the user’s feet and problems data, Zoles is able to adapt all the insoles to the user. Check it out at their website zoles.eu

Competitive prices using 3D printers

Because of the low-volume customized production, 3D printing is the best solution in terms of costs and adaptability. In addition, timing is crucial and Zoles can ensure that the insoles will get to the user in less than a week. When using an external supplier it takes more time and the cost per part is higher. The core 3D print production cost less than 20% of the cost of producing a traditionally custom-made insole. Then, it has to be taken into account the preparation cost of making the 3D model, which is much lower than the time to prepare a traditional custom-made insole. Finally, the custom-made insoles are sold at a price of 65€ which is approx 50%-80% lower than what it is paid for traditionally custom-made insoles, so they can compete with standard insole brands.

Additive manufacturing helps isolate cells from one of the most aggressive breast cancers

Scientists from the University of Girona have successfully isolated breast cancer stem cells using additive manufacturing. This investigation has been considered a very important milestone in the research of triple negative breast cancer, one of the most aggressive cancers with a high relapse rate. Using the 3D printer BCN3D Sigma, the research team has been able to manufacture three-dimensional scaffolds that recreate those structures found in the tissues and fibers of the body. These 3D scaffolds are able to separate the stem cells, responsible for causing relapses, in order to study them later for the purpose of devising pharmaceuticals capable of eliminating them without affecting other cells and avoiding the occurrence of relapses in patients.


A research team from the University of Girona has managed to isolate stem cells from one of the most aggressive breast cancers through an additive manufacturing system. The goal of isolating these cells is to facilitate the investigation to the laboratory and find a drug that exclusively attacks these cells and that does not damage healthy parts of the body, therefore preventing patients from suffering a relapse.

Dr. Teresa Puig, one of the researchers directing the project, explained that these tumor cells still remain in the body after treatment via chemotherapy or radiotherapy and that they are responsible for the reappearance of the disease. According to Puig, the cancer being researched is the triple negative subtype, which occurs in young women and leads to relapses within three or four years in 20 or 30 percent of patients.

“A tumor is made up of many types of cells, and these are the cells we have in low proportions. Therefore, it is complicated to locate these cells within the tumor. This new system is cleaner, allowing us to work more directly with these types of cells later,” says Teresa Puig, director of the Oncology Unit of the Group for the Investigation of New Therapeutic Targets.


To accommodate an optimal three-dimensional cell culture, the main aim was to develop a scaffold architecture which affords a high breast cancer cell proliferation rate. For this purpose, several values of the selected parameters (layer height, infill density, infill pattern, infill direction, and flow) were tested on the slicing software BCN3D Cura to find the optimal ones and 3D printed using the BCN3D Sigma. Using the Taguchi experimental design method, twenty-seven scaffold configurations were manufactured and then analyzed. To perform the characterization and cell proliferation assays, at least ten copies of each configuration were printed. The objective of the study has been to see which geometric form was most effective in separating the stem cells, the cells responsible for leading to the relapses.


Microscopic characterization of PLA scaffold configurations. Top side was visualized under an optical microscope and images were used to calculate pore area and filament diameter.

“This structure is a mesh that, on the basis of a series of parameters such as porosities, spaces, and the distance between one element and another, is ultimately able to allow cells to stick to the matrix or not, to grow, and to be able to ‘enrich themselves’, as our colleagues say,” explains Joaquim de Ciurana, director of the Research Group on the Engineering of Products, Processes, and Production.

Prior to this investigation, these cell cultures were produced two-dimensionally, which did not allow the cells to be effectively separated, and therefore, specific pharmaceuticals could not be produced to attack these cells.


Optical microscope images of cells attached to different scaffolds configurations. White arrows indicate cells adhered to PLA filament.

Now, after isolating the stem cells of this sub-type of breast cancer, the researchers will be able to study them in greater depth to find the bio-indicators responsible for the tumors and will be able to attack them using pharmaceuticals. “We still do not know how to treat them, but we have found a way to isolate them,” says Teresa Puig. This biomedical engineering project created using 3D printing, known as ‘ONCOen3D’, has also allowed reducing the costs of the traditional methodology of analysis, and therefore to increase the experiments carried out with cancer cells.

The results of the study have been published in the scientific journals ‘International Journal of Molecular Sciences’ and ‘Polymers’, and have been presented at international congresses. The research has been funded in part with money from La Marató de TV3. In this document, a detailed report on the investigation can be found.

Source: Article posted on the International Journal of Molecular Sciences by Emma Polonio-Alcalá, Marc Rabionet, Antonio J. Guerra, Marc Yeste, Joaquim Ciurana and Teresa Puig. “Screening of Additive Manufactured Scaffolds Designs for Triple Negative Breast Cancer 3D Cell Culture and Stem-Like Expansion”.

3D printed molds by creating a unique fascinating dessert

Jordi Bordas, Pastry World Champion and creator of the B·Concept recipe formulation method, uses the BCN3D Sigma 3D printer to produce pastry molds to shape their latest pastry product, the Golden Peanut. 3D printing technology has allowed Jordi and his team to unleash their creativity and produce this unique fascinating dessert, turning pastry into an even more artistic industry.

Jordi Bordas, the World Pastry Champion in 2011, is a pastry chef who is revolutionizing the pastry field. Since then, he’s been investigating and developing new recipes, opening a pastry school in Viladecans devoted to R&D of new pastry products.

Creation and Development of the Golden Peanut

His last project was making a product whose main flavour was peanut, giving it the shape of a peanut itself, called Peanut Gold. As Jordi and his team didn’t find any mould that suited their needs, they realized that they would have to create it themselves.
Inspired by Dinara Kasko, who had also worked with 3D printed moulds for food, Jordi got in touch with BCN3D in order to manufacture the mold with 3D printing technologies. Besides, using 3D printed parts to create food molds is becoming more popular, as 3D printers have always been used to print chocolate in food industry.
There are some alternatives to make moulds for pastry, as creating master models or working with CNC machines, but they are more complicated to use and normally imply more costs. With 3D printing, moulds can be done easily and with complex shapes, getting the best results.


Once the collaboration started, BCN3D Technologies proposed a solution to his needs: to print the peanut with PLA on a scale that’d allow Jordi to create the mould for the Peanut Gold. Then, Jordi’s team created the peanut 3D model through a scan, obtaining a result as real as possible.
Using a Sigma R19, BCN3D team could print the 3D peanut in high resolution using a 0.3mm hotend, to shape every detail of the model with a smooth surface. 3D printing technology is ideal for producing customized moulds for low-volume production, as it reduces times from weeks to days and reduces costs significantly.


Once the prototype was made, it was enough to print an external structure to be able to pour inside the liquid silicone that, once hardened, would become the mould.


Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

Custom made PCB with Bluetooth circuit, exceptional design, made on a single desktop machine.


Usually, when it comes to developing complex functional prototypes, the 3D printer is used for printing cases, or parts like gears that otherwise would be hard and expensive to make. The rest of the project parts like electronics or PCB have to be outsourced. Even though it’s faster & cheaper with comparing to traditional techniques, it still takes a bit time. However, there’s a different story if you choose a multitool 3D printer over a single purpose one. To create a Wireless Bluetooth Speaker the designer chose ZMorph VX. Thanks to three workflows he was able to print the speaker enclosure and fabricate a custom PCB with a Bluetooth circuit on a single machine.


After sketching the speaker enclosure, the designer chose the final design after several iterations and printed it with PLA. The PCB was designed and then made on ZMorph VX. Outsourcing custom PCB usually takes time and it’s more expensive than making them in-house. The CNC PRO Toolhead milled the board, and Laser PRO engraved the board traces. After that, it took a bit of soldering and the PCB with Bluetooth circuit was ready to use. Making this Wireless Bluetooth Speaker with design iterations and printing, and PCB manufacturing took just two working days for the designer.


The Wireless Bluetooth Speaker is a fully functional prototype that resembles the final product with the design and all functionalities. It can connect to a device with Bluetooth like smartphones, laptops or smartwatches. It plays loud and clear music. The product development process took a laptop, a note & a desktop 3D printer used for 3D printing the speaker enclosure and manufacturing the PCB. That way, it’s much easier for the designer to choose the right components either for low volume or mass production. Making PCB on the ZMorph VX is from 8x to 10x faster than ordering it from suppliers. The three different workflows of ZMorph VX allows creating complex projects, like this speaker, a lot easier by cutting the costs, time and space to produce.

BCN3D unveils the Sigma & Sigmax R19: A new generation of 3D printers

BCN3D Technologies, the worldly renowned Open Source 3D printer manufacturer, announced today the unveiling of a new generation of FFF dual extruder printers: the Sigma R19 and the Sigmax R19. Featuring new extrusion system with an unmatched performance composed by extruders powered by Bondtech™ and hotends optimized by e3D™, new filament runout sensor to detect material presence, Mirror and Duplication print modes, refined GUI and UX and new slicing software BCN3D Cura 2.1.0.

Today BCN3D Technologies has released the new 2019 printers generation. The new Sigma R19 is a reliable and easy-to-use desktop 3D Printer with IDEX (Independent Dual Extruder System) architecture that delivers high-resolution multi-material parts in a simple and effective way. On the other hand, the new Sigmax R19 is a professional 3D printer with IDEX architecture and a massive printing volume, ideal for those who need to increase their production capacity and manufacture industrial-grade parts.

“The new Sigma R19 and Sigmax R19 are equipped with one of the most powerful extrusion systems so far and also with the unique IDEX architecture. Such a great combination turn both printers into two of the most productive and reliable 3D printers ever seen,” states Xavier Martinez, BCN3D Technologies CEO. “We’ve partnered together with top world manufacturers such as e3D and Bondtech in order to equip our 3D printers with the top-grade components available nowadays in the 3D printing industry.”

Hotends designed and manufactured by e3D™. Sharper details. Accurate prints.

The new hotends have been optimized by the global specialist e3D™. This new partnership with the English manufacturer has allowed BCN3D to work closely with the renowned company in order to equip the printers with top-level features in terms of hotends and extrusion systems. The improved hotends include the machining and engineering know-how acquired by e3D, which ensure the highest quality standards, providing a smooth and reliable extrusion under different printing environments. The new e3D hotends are fully compatible with all previous Sigma and Sigmax printers.


High-tech dual drive gears by Bondtech™. More power. More control.

The extruder of the new R19 printers is made with aluminum CNC machined body and hardened steel drive gears powered by Bondtech. It provides an incredible grip thanks to its high-tech dual drive gears that have proved to be the best feeding extrusion system, getting rid of grinding issues, no matter the filament used.

BCN3D_Technologies_Sigma_Sigmax_R19_bondtech gears

Filament runout sensor.

The new R19 printers include a mechanical switch to detect filament presence, allowing to prevent from one of the most common and frustrating failure reasons. In case of running out of filament during a print job, the printer will automatically pause and warn the user to load new filament to resume the print, letting to save time and money.

Improved GUI and UX. Operate flawlessly.

Through the full-color touchscreen BCN3D users will be able to operate the printer flawlessly thanks to the refined interface that incorporates several new features, offering a smoother and more intuitive user experience.

“For this new generation of BCN3D printers, not only have we worked on creating a great hardware but also in improving the user experience, creating a refined graphic user interface with new informative screens, maintenance recommendations, new guided assistants and access to advanced settings,” states Marc Felis, BCN3D Technologies Marketing Manager. “The ultimate test of a product comes when the users confront it, not just from a list of its specifications. That’s why we’ve taken special care of each phase of the user experience.”

BCN3D_Technologies_Sigma_Sigmax_R19_touchscreen GUI UX

IDEX architecture. Enabled Mirror and Duplication modes.

All BCN3D Printers are equipped with a unique dual extrusion architecture introduced back in 2015: the Independent Dual Extruder system (IDEX). It allows to print with 2 different colors for an aesthetic finish, or use PVA water-soluble support for intricate parts with overhangs, while ensures the finest surface finish. The idle toolhead remains parked, preventing the dripping of molten plastic into the part.

To take profit of the IDEX architecture, in 2017 BCN3D announced the Sigmax 3D printer with 2 new highly productive printing modes: mirror and duplication. These modes allow to print the same model or its symmetrical with both toolheads simultaneously, and consequently, double the production capacity.


Now, both the Sigma R19 and the Sigmax R19 are capable to print with these powerful modes.

Interchangeable toolheads. Unleash your creativity.

The new R19 printers are compatible with the Hotend Family, a range of six hotends (with nozzles from 0.3mm to 1.0mm) that enhances the versatility of 3D printing. Small nozzles are ideal for detailed models. Instead, big nozzles allow users to fabricate more resistant parts or for rapid prints.

BCN3D_Technologies_Sigma_Sigmax_R19_hotend family

Additional enclosure for technical materials. Engineered for reliability.

The new enclosure for R19 printers allows getting a constant interior temperature to prevent warping in technical materials such as ABS, Nylon and PET-G. Furthermore, protects the working environment from potentially harmful particles thanks to the HEPA filter.


BCN3D Filaments: Industrial-grade materials portfolio.

The new Sigma R19 and Sigmax R19 support the full BCN3D Filaments portfolio, composed by common polymers in several industries that cover the majority of the technical applications: PLA, ABS, Nylon, PET-G, PVA, TPU, Composites and Carbon Fiber.

New slicing software update: BCN3D Cura 2.1.0.

BCN3D Cura is a free and easy-to-use 3D printing software that prepares your model for 3D printing. It provides an intuitive user interface and an improved workflow, both for newcomers and expert users. It includes preconfigured profiles of BCN3D materials so the user can enjoy a better 3D printing experience. BCN3D Cura 2.1.0 has been released together with the Sigma & Sigmax R19.

Upgrade kits to R19 coming for previous versions of BCN3D printers.

With the intention of bringing all these new improvements to the customers that already own a Sigma or a Sigmax, we have designed the new R19 enhancements in order to be able to be offered also as an upgrade kit. Therefore, any owner of an Original or R17 Sigma will have the possibility to update their machine with the new features incorporated into the Sigma R19 thanks to the Upgrade Kit Sigma R19. The same for those users of an Original BCN3D Sigmax, they will able to upgrade their printer with the Upgrade Kit Sigmax R19.


“Our experience says that being Open Source it has no sense to keep old users trapped in old features wanting them to purchase a new machine to catch up with the rest of the community. Instead, we want the maximum number of users to enjoy the new features, that’s why we will release these kits,” states Xavier Martinez. “Furthermore, following our commitment with the Open Source community, all CAD files of the new R19 3D printers will be published during the following months.”


3D Printed motorcycle parts for time and cost savings

BORN Motor customizes high-quality deconstructed motorcycles and is using 3D printing for manufacturing final parts instead of traditional processes, saving €2,000 for each motorcycle modified.

Traditional processes are time-consuming, expensive for short runs of production and limits the engineers design freedom. The BCN3D Sigma is now part of the daily life at BORN Motor, empowering its engineers to create more complex parts with a fraction of the previous effort, time and money.

Born Motor ·D printing BCN3D Sigma Motorcycle

The automotive company BORN Motor Co., based on Calella, Barcelona, produces high quality deconstructed motorcycles. Besides customizing, BORN Motor Co. also designs limited editions and upgrade kits for motorcycles. Last but not least, as an industrial design studio, collaborates in the aesthetic design of several motorcycle manufacturers. Exclusivity and originality are distinctive features for the BORN Motor products’. Their design and activities follow a purpose and are strongly inspired by its surrounding individuals.

The challenge

Given the culture and concept of the company, BORN Motor use traditional manufacturing technologies, like laser cutting and CNC milling, or create custom pieces by hand. However, both options are time-consuming and expensive for short runs of production. In addition, such technologies limit the design freedom and don’t allow creating complex, custom pieces. Despite BORN Motor has contemplated investing in injection molds for certain parts, the low volume inherent to its business advice against it.

Born Motor 3D printing BCN3D Sigma Motorcycle 3

The solution

3D Printing has allowed BORN Motor to speed up his creative process, from the design to the manufacturing and testing stages. The team is now capable to iterate faster and get refined designs in a very straight-forward workflow. 3D printing also has allowed BORN Motor to overcome design limitations caused by the previous manufacturing technologies used. Thanks to the versatility that the BCN3D Sigma 3D printer offers, BORN Motor engineers now are able to fabricate end-use pieces made of different materials, such as NylonPET-G or ABS, depending on the final use of the part.

Born Motor 3D printing BCN3D Sigma Motorcycle

The result

3D printing is now part of the daily life at BORN Motor, empowering its designers to create more complex parts with a fraction of the previous effort, time and money. While before the staff were spending time in handcrafted components, now they can focus on higher added-value parts. 3D printing for internal or non-aesthetic parts has opened the door to new solutions and design strategies, enriching the Design process and the final outcome, while reducing the time-to-market and overall labor costs.

Cost reduction

Costs are affected by several factors: from size to function and geometry influence in the decision of which traditional manufacturing technology is ideal for every single custom part. The following table is based on the modification of a dash housing for a Honda CB25.

3D Printed
Costs (labor, materials and service fee)
Lead time
2-3 weeks

BORN Motor, by using 3D printing technologies, is able to fabricate customized parts for limited edition motorcycles quickly and affordably. Are you interested to find out what BCN3D Technologies can do for your business? Contact us at info@bcn3dtechnologies.com, we love hearing from you!

Introduction to FFF technology and its most important parameters

In this article we cover the basics of FFF technology and which are the most important parameters when it comes to 3D printing.

Educational 3D printing parameters Kit.

About Fused Filament Fabrication Technology (FFF)

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), or Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), is an additive manufacturing process that deposits a thermoplastic material layer-by-layer in order to build a part. FFF technology manufactures strong, durable and dimensionally stable objects with an unmatched accuracy.


FFF technology applied to the dual extruder of BCN3D Sigma based on IDEX architecture.

Among the multiple 3D Printing technologies in the market, FFF is the most widely spread because of several reasons. First of all, both the hardware and material are affordable, requiring a low initial investment. Secondly, there is a large range of materials available, so the technology is suitable for multiple applications and markets. Finally, the design criteria needed and equipment operation are simple enough, especially compared with other 3D Printing technologies, so there is no need for specialized operators or complex training.

The technology supports industrial-grade thermoplastics such as Nylon, TPU, PET-G or ABS, among others. Check out the BCN3D Filaments, our portfolio of materials.

FFF most important parameters and its influence

Every 3D print starts with a digital design of an object, which is then divided in thin layers with a software called slicer. The layer split is made in order to print in the XY plane and then give volume through the Z axis. When using BCN3D Printers we recommend the usage of the slicer BCN3D cura, a free and easy-to-use software entirely optimized for our printers.

When printing a digital design, a slicer is required in order to select the material and the quality of the print. All the parameters described in this article are automatically calculated by the software BCN3D Cura, so the user doesn’t need to know any of them. Nevertheless, it is important to define them and know how they influence in the quality of the part and the printing time. The most important ones are explained below and they are Layer Height, Infill, Shells, Printing Speed, Temperature, Overhangs.


BCN3D Cura slicing software.


The layer height is an implicit parameter in all 3D printing processes. Geometries are generated in the XY plane and then extruded along Z axis. This extrusion is made with layers, whose height can be modified to obtain the desired result. These layers are defined with BCN3D Cura Software.

Modifying layer height
There are two major factors that may influence when choosing layer height. First of all the printing quality, because the layer height is equivalent to the vertical resolution of Z axis. Lower layer heights will result in smoother prints, because the number of layers will increase so will do the number of points that define Z axis.

The second factor is the printing speed, because when decreasing the layer height, the total number of layers is higher, so does the printing time.

All in all, for low values of layer height, the resulting part will be smoother but will also take more time to print it. Thus, high values for layer height result in a loss of resolution but faster prints. Therefore, the designer has to chose whether time or resolution is more important. It is normally considered a high-quality part when the layer height is below 0.15mm, and low quality when this value is above 0.3mm. In the next picture, there are shown different types of layer height from 0.1mm to 0.3mm.


Layer height difference between parts.


When 3D printing with FFF technology, most of the parts are not printed completely solid. Printing a solid part means wasting a lot of material and spending a long time printing, and that means increased costs. Instead, these parts are filled with less material and wrapped with shells. In this picture, it can be appreciated the difference between each part.


Infill and shells schema, depending on their position.

Despite this first classification, shells can be broken down into different types depending on their position.

  • Walls: the shells placed by the sides of the model.
  • Bottom layers: the shells between the infill and the build plate. They are the first printed layers.
  • Top layers: the shells between the infill and the nozzle. They are the last printed layers.
  • Infill: the internal structure or the skeleton of the part.

Modifying shells
Strength can be improved by adding shells, which will also take more printing time and material. The wall thickness is the value of the nozzle diameter, so the size of the wall must be a multiple of the diameter to prevent voids between shells. The recommended number of shells in BCN3D Cura is 3, but it can be easily changed to the desired number. Below are shown different numbers of shells from 1 to 5.


Number of shells difference between parts.

Modifying infill
FFF parts are usually printed with a low value of infill, around 20%. Infill is measured from 0% to 100%, being 0% a completely emptied part and 100% a completely filled part. The idea is to reduce time and material, keeping mechanical properties. When increasing the percentage it also increases the strength of the design. So, if it is necessary to print a prototype the infill should be around 15%, whereas if it is a final part the infill should be more than 50%. Below are shown different infills from 0% to 100%.


Infill difference between parts.


Printing speed is the speed at which printing happens. This speed depends on the material, size of the nozzle, layer height, etc. It is a key factor to get the highest quality in printed parts. Printing speed has an important influence on time. For small models there is practically no difference between slow and fast printing speed, but for large models it makes a remarkable difference.


The temperature at which occurs the print depends on the type of material and the quantity of material going through the nozzle. Each material has its theoretical melting point, but when 3D printing it exists a range of melting temperatures. The melting happens in the nozzle and it is instantaneous. Due to this factor and the presence of additives to improve the printing experience, the range temperature is noticeably above the melting point of the material.

Modifying temperature
The optimal temperature is the lowest temperature that can melt the material completely. If the temperature is too low, the nozzle can have problems with clogging because of the non-melted material.


Because of the manufacturing strategy, sometimes it is required to build auxiliary support structures for those models with overhangs shallower than 45º from the horizontal plane.


Creating supports with IDEX technology.

In the case of printers that only have one extruder instead of a dual extruder system, once the model is printed, it is necessary to perform a manual and time-consuming operation to remove the supports. This process affects the quality surface between the model and the supports and also increases the chances of breaking the part. In addition, depending on the geometry of the model it can be impossible to totally remove the supports by hand.

However, BCN3D Technologies proposition uses IDEX architecture to counteract the described disadvantage. IDEX stands for Independent Dual Extruder, a unique system that allows to print support structures properly and ensures the finest surface finish. Most of the other printers featuring Dual Extrusion have both toolheads in the same carriage. However, IDEX architecture allows to park the idle carriage aside, preventing the dripping of molten plastic onto the part and improving the overall quality.

idex architecture bcn3d technologies

Moreover, this architecture of all BCN3D printers also adds differentiating advantages. First of all, it is possible to combine different materials, like rigid and flexible, or to use two colors to get more attractive or aesthetic models. Last but not least, IDEX opens the door to new printing strategies, allowing to use different tool sizes to cut down printing times without giving away quality.

When considering the use of supports in a print, there are two types of structures that are critical. Bridging is a structure between two points at the same height without any solid below. With BCN3D Cura, these structures may be printed without supports if the distance is not too long, and the temperature and speed let the material cool fast and keep its rigidity. In the picture below, there is a bridging test, in which a distance of 150mm has been printed correctly.


Bridging size variation from 10mm to 150mm.

Overhangs are solid parts forming an angle with the normal of the base plane. When this angle is above 45º, supports are in most cases mandatory. But, structures with angles between 45º and 80º can be printed without supports reducing temperature and speed. In this picture, there is a structure with a variable angle from 0 to 85º, to see the evolution of the bottom layers quality. In BCN3D Cura we recommend activating the option Generate Support in order to get a better 3D print.


Angle variation from 0º to 85º.

Would you like to better know any of the parameters described? Contact us at sales@cgztech.com , we love hearing from you!