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Mar 31

FDM Part Optimization: Leveraging Custom Groups Within Insight

Insight software, included with all Fortus Production Series 3D Printers, offers unparalleled control when processing parts for specialized applications or containing complex geometries. The customizability of a number build parameters allows the user to achieve high accuracies and improved aesthetic, whilst simultaneously enhancing the structural integrity of parts. For example, customizing part toolpaths with the custom groups feature is a commonly overlooked, yet extremely powerful feature of Insight.


Though many models can be built using the default toolpath parameters set in Insight, however at times you may come across a part that contains features that are simply too small to fill. What are your options? One route would be to use a thinner slice height for the entire part, as the default toolpath width decreases as the slice height is made smaller. This route however, would require changing the tips, recalibrating, and would significantly increase the overall build time. The second (and better) option would be to utilize Custom Groups. This tool allows the specification of different toolpath parameters for individual curves that have been added to the group, giving the user significant control when processing complex part geometries.

In Figure 1 we can see that the inner and outer toolpaths do not meet each other, resulting in a void in between. If left this way, the disconnected walls will be cause for a point of weakness within the part. However, this condition can be corrected by modifying the toolpath widths. Both the Contour Width (the “outline” of each part layer) and the Raster Width (the infill of the part) can be tweaked separately, meaning there a few alternative solutions to improve the fill.


Modifying Contour Width

The first method is to measure the total width of the wall, and make the contour one-half of the total width (Figure 2).

The processing for modifying the contour widths with the custom group tool is outlined below

  1. Select “Custom Groups” from the Toolpaths menu click on “New” to see the toolpath parameters popup box.
  2. Select a different size from the drop-down menu next to Contour Width and click on the green check mark
  3. Drag the cursor over the desired curves to select them; choosing Part Curves Only from the "Selection Tools" menu prevents accidental selection of any support toolpaths.
  4. Click on the “Add” button to apply these new parameters to the selected curves.

Modifying Contour and Raster Fill Widths

The second way to ensure a proper fill in this feature is to use a narrower width for both the Contour and the Raster fill. The thinner contours allow enough room in between to fit the smaller raster fill (Figure 3).

The process increasing fill with both raster and contour modificaiton is outlined below:

  1. Select “Custom Groups” from the Toolpaths menu.
  2. Click on “New” to see the toolpath parameters popup box.
  3. Select smaller sizes in both drop-down menus (minimum allowable widths was selected in this example)
  4. Add these curves to the new group (as above) and click on the “Create Toolpaths” button. The walls are now completely filled in.

Modify Tool Path Widths for Bosses or Holes

Another instance when a custom group can be use is when there are features such as a boss or a hole that needs to be drilled, bored or tapped. When using the standard Contour/Raster fill style, there will be air gaps in the model between the outer wall and the raster fill. To create a more solid wall, create a custom group using extra contours.

  1. Create a New Group
  2. Select “Contours to Depth” from the Contour Style drop-down
  3. Add desired layers to the newly-created custom group
  4. Select 0.0600” under Depth of Contours to create a .060” shell, consisting of three concentric .020” contours, around the hole.

Although the standard perimeter and raster fill is sufficient to build quality part in in some of circumstances, these methods are a simple, yet powerful tool to drastically improve part quality in a few straightforward steps. This ability is just one of the advanced features of the Insight software, providing unparalleled part optimization capabilities with a straightforward, user-friendly Insight. As Canada's leader in Additive Manufacturing for over 20 years, Cimetrix continues push the boundaries of  the technology by leveraging the advanced capabilities inherent to Stratasys technologies. To learn more about our additive manufacturing solutions and professional services, please feel free to have a look through our website or contact our team of Applications Specialists.