Desktop 3D Printing has a Dramatic Impact on the Design Cycle


By combining easy access to rapid prototyping with advanced materials, designers and engineers can test more applications sooner and build functional prototypes that disrupt typical outsourcing.


MakerBot Tough Filament is a resilient, durable material specifically designed to offer two times the impact strength of ABS, the same tensile and flexural strength, but with less warping and curling and no heated build plate or chamber required. It gives developers the ability to test a wide variety of mechanical features and applications, like tapping and threading, high tension springs and clips, and impact-resistant assemblies.


Our industrial design team decided to put MakerBot Tough’s material properties to the test by building some highly functional objects. 


This poly-wheel system enables lateral movement and is popular in modern robotics that call for a wide variety of axis rotations and unconstrained moves. Whereas, typical prototypes would require the wheel hub and teeth to be machined before testing assembly fit and mechanics, the MakerBot Tough prototype simulates the final wheel well enough to enable more testing and better revisions before committing to final drawings.



It features high elasticity and deformation that enabled MakerBot’s designers to embed the main ball bearing with press fitting, impact resistant teeth for repeating testing and lubricious contacts for easy assembly and smooth rolling.



Where typical PLA risks fracturing on layer lines and ABS risks warping that prevents assembly, MakerBot Tough is more durable and uses a custom tuned profile in MakerBot Print for certified reliability.


This universal side-release buckle can be found in hundreds of applications from consumer backpacks to industrial securing equipment. It requires high tension prongs that can snap into place with enough elasticity that they return to their original position without losing tension or shape.



While prototypes like this are possible with typical PLA, it would require making specific design changes like prong thickness to work around the material’s constraints. Using MakerBot Tough, designers can prototype in a material that simulates the final product’s injection moulded plastics without changing the core mechanics.



With minimal time and material investment, this functional prototype can give valuable physical feedback early in the design process. Can it resist the necessary forces? Do the tolerances enable smooth action? These questions would be impossible to answer quickly or affordably without access to advanced, desktop-compatible materials.


This prototype of a mountain bike shock absorber simulates variable tension using durable threads along a stem that lengthens or shortens the spring. Like any assembly prototype, it’s valuable for early fit and mechanical studies, but the unique materials properties of MakerBot Tough add extra functionality to the device that would otherwise be difficult to test.



Like the buckle’s prongs, this spring takes advantage of the material’s elasticity – enabling high tension and repeated use while still returning to its original shape. That elasticity also contributes to the extended lifetime of durable threads along the stem, which resist the force of the spring and tend to deform instead of facture.



One important tip for printing high tension objects in MakerBot Tough: focus on testing wall thickness (number of shells) instead of infill. For the most part, 10-20% infill will be successful, but won’t have as big an impact on stiffness as the number of shells will – and in the general the higher each value is, the higher the tension will be.