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Aug 15

Cimetrix Advanced Application Guide: Embedding Threaded Inserts


Fused deposition modelling (FDM) process, and the engineered thermoplastics availible for Professional-Grade FDM technology, provide users with industry leading strength, functionality, and accuracy. However, these components can be taken to the next level by embedding hardware during the printing process, providing simulation of insert molding or increasing the functionality of end-use parts. In order to do this, a void is added to accommodate ia vast array of hardware that can be inserted, including: sensors, wiring, RFID tags, fabric, bushings, threaded inserts, etc. During the build process, the job is paused, the item is placed in the part and the build is resumed.

In order to properly embed hardware during print, advanced control of toolpath parameters and modification of support structures is required. This control is afforded by the Insight software, which runs exclusively on the Fortus family of professional-grade FDM technologies from Stratasys. As such, users running the Fortus 250mc, 380mc, 450mc, or 900mc, as well as legacy Fortus machines, will all have this control during pre-print processing; control not found on hobby-grade FDM technologies, but that is necessary for advanced applications. Though a number of different components may be embedded following this procedure, for this exercise we will focus purely on a threaded insert, the most common insert. In this guide, you will processes for inserts with threads parallel to the Z-Axis, as well as special cases requiring the Insert + Capture method.

Things To Consider

  • When placed in the part, the insert cannot protrude any higher in the Z-axis than the current layer. This is to ensure that the tip does not hit the insert when

  •  the build resumes. This could cause damage to the tip, head or part.

  • Supports for the insert and part must be generated as if the insert is already in the build. This ensures that there is material below the insert to hold it in position.

  • If the insert is not flat, a capture part may be built and used to fill any voids. The capture part will be placed over the insert before resuming the build.

The Process


Step 1: Create the CAD model of the part and item to be inserted as an assembly.
Tip: Incorporating the insert’s CAD model is optional. However, it will make the Insight software work easier since its STL can be used for support generation. The CAD can also be a multi-body part rather than an assembly.

Step 2: Create the cavity in the part that will hold the insert and add a 0.13 to 0.25 mm (0.005 to 0.010 in) clearance in the X/Y axis.
NOTE: The required clearance will vary depending on the system, tip and build material, and insert material. Build a test part to validate the required clearance.

Step 3: Create a CAD model of a capture part.
NOTE: If the insert gets smaller with successive slices, as would be the case with a hex nut placed horizontally, a void is required to place the insert into once the part has been built to the maximum height of the insert. This void will be filled with a custom made capture part.

Step 4: Export the files as an STL using the CAD software’s export-assembly function to ensure proper alignment of the assembly components.

Tip: Export a high resolution STL to avoid issues with overlapping curves between parts. If you are CADing a multi-body part, simply hide all bodies except one, save as STL, and repeat for all bodies in part (i.e. Part A_Body1, PartA_Body2, Part A_Body3).

INSIGHT: Main Body

Step 1: Open STL and orient it so that the insert can be placed into the part during the FDM build without protruding above the working layer.

Step 2: Click Slice icon to create part curves using the current parameters.

Step 3: Use the Custom groups operation located in the Toolpaths menu drop-down to create a custom group for the insert and add the insert’s boundary curves to this group.
TIP: Use a unique color for the insert’s custom group so that it can be easily selected later.
(1) This step is necessary only if you saved the insert along with the part in your STL file.
(2) Refer to Custom Groups Tech Tip for more detail on this operatio

Step 4: Click Support icon to create supports. This will create supports around the part and insert.

Step 5: Use the Delete operation located in the Edit menu drop-down to delete the insert’s boundary curves. 

Step 6: If fully encasing an insert, and supports are generated in the cavity, convert these supports to model material using Custom groups.

Step 7: Click Toolpath icon to create toolpaths.

Step 8: In the Toolpaths menu drop-down select Insert Pause.

Step 9: Select the layer above the top of the insert and click OK.
TIP: Adding the build pause must be the last action before saving the job.

Step 10: Save the job.

INSIGHT: Capture

Step 1: Open Capture STL and orient to achieve tightest tolerances.

Step 2: Click Slice icon to create part curves using the current parameters.

Step 3: Click Support icon to create supports.

Step 4: Click Toolpath icon to create toolpaths

Step 5: Save the job.

Tip: Print capture before starting build of main part. You will need capture when placing insert in main body.

Build The Part

Step 1: Prepare the insert to promote adhesion of FDM thermoplastic.

  • Clean the top surface of the insert (the surface that will be exposed when a paused build is resumed) with a degreaser.

  • Spray the top surface with a thin coating of clear acrylic paint. Allow to dry for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Tip: Not all insert materials will require degreaser or an acrylic coating.


Step 2: Place the inserts into the build chamber to pre-heat and start the job.

Tip: Ensure the insert is located in an area that will not interfere with the motion of the head or the build table. The insert should be easily accessible when the build is paused.


Step 3: When the build pauses, open the printer door and immediately place the insert/capture in the part. Then apply pressure to ensure the insert/capture is seated properly.

(1) Move the platen down to provide access to hard-to-reach cavities requiring an insert.
(2) Placing a few drops of cyanoacrylate (crazy glue) in the insert’s cavity will hold the insert rigidly in place, preventing shifting during the extrusion process. This is not necessary if the tolerances are tight.
(3) Run finger over cavity to make sure the insert or capture does not protrude beyond the last layer.

Step 4: Close the door and resume the build.

Step 5: Print finishes, hardware has successfully been embedded.

Step 6: Support removal. Depending on the hardware embedded, imersing the part into your clean station may have adverse effects on functionality. Our Applications Team will manually remove support by hand whenever possible when working with components containing embedded hardware.

Whether a single component, or part of a larger functional assemly, the addition of embedded hardware to your projects will enhance functionality whether for prototyping or end-use applications. Furthermore, the addition of embedded hardware can provide a unique solution for components that are difficult to produce with traditional methods, or in low-volume manufacturing and tooling applications. The insert + capture method will for embedded hardware, specially developed by Cimetrix's team of Application Specialists, allows for the addition of components that are not parallel to the Z-Axis, facilitating multi-insert components and assemblies to further enhance the functionality of your 3D-Printed components. For questions regarding embedded hardware, other advanced applications, or any other aspect of our Professional Services, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team of Applications Group. Stay tuned for more news, application guides, and updates from the team here at Cimetrix!