Eight Guidelines for SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation

In the world of additive manufacturing, SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) 3D printing has gained significant popularity for its ability to create complex and functional parts. One crucial aspect of achieving successful SLS prints is the proper orientation of the model during the printing process. This article explores the importance of SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation and provides best practices for optimizing the orientation to achieve high-quality prints.

Understanding SLS 3D Printing

SLS 3D printing is an additive manufacturing technology that uses a high-powered laser to selectively sinter powdered material, typically polymers or metals, layer by layer, until a three-dimensional object is formed. The process involves spreading a thin layer of powdered material across a build platform and then using the laser to fuse the particles together based on a digital model’s specifications. SLS printing offers several advantages, including the ability to produce complex geometries and functional prototypes with excellent mechanical properties

Shapes that are impossible to produce using conventional manufacturing techniques can now be produced using 3D printing. But simply loading the model and starting the 3D printing process is not enough to achieve the best results. Successful component orientation is essential. Although flipping the model around is typically skipped, it has a significant impact on the finished part’s quality, surface polish, and mechanical qualities.

This article will teach you:

  • Why is print orientation important in 3D printing technology, not only SLS?
  • What impact does part orientation have on durability, reliability, and accuracy?
  • How can you alter the orientation of your parts to get better 3D printing results?

Some advice is applicable to other common additive manufacturing techniques, but this article focuses on SLS 3D printing technology. A catalog of 55 design guidelines for additive manufacturing (AM) created by Guido Adam from Paderborn University was examined by the authors of the paper “Considering Part Orientation in Design for Additive Manufacturing.” They discovered that 55% of those are influenced by orientation either directly or indirectly. Even while it is better than FDM or SLM, where even 70% of rules are reliant on orientation, there are still many things to take into account when setting up your model in a 3D printing bed.

Whether we’re talking about FDM (or FFF), SLA, or SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation, the printout is made by a process called layering. Between layers, 3D-printed shapes are frequently the weakest. Due to its anisotropic qualities, it is most evident in FDM technology, but even nearly isotropic technologies like SLS must contend with this issue. How can the weak points between layers in 3D printing be fixed?

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SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation

Importance of SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation

Proper model orientation plays a crucial role in the success of an SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation. By strategically positioning the model, several benefits can be achieved.

Maximizing Part Strength

The orientation of a 3D printed part affects its mechanical properties, including strength and durability. In SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation, the layer-by-layer fusion of particles creates anisotropic properties, meaning the strength of the part can vary depending on the direction of the applied forces. By orienting the model appropriately, the designer can align the part’s critical features with the primary load-bearing directions, maximizing its strength and ensuring optimal performance.

Reducing Support Structures

During the SLS printing process, support structures are often required to prevent deformations and maintain geometric accuracy. However, excessive supports can lead to increased print time, material consumption, and post-processing efforts. By carefully orienting the model, it is possible to minimize the need for supports or position them in less critical areas, reducing overall material usage and simplifying post-processing tasks.

Get stronger parts

Rule #1

Twist your model by 45O separately in X and Y axis to achieve the best strength in all directions.

All additive manufacturing techniques must adhere to this requirement, however SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation makes it the most straightforward to do so. When using SLS 3D printing technology, the unsintered powder acts as a natural support, so you don’t have to worry about the time-consuming postprocessing. Changing the orientation in the manner we suggest is also possible for FDM or SLA, but in those cases, you may need to add a lot of support structures. Speaking of time, some pieces, especially flat ones, will require a longer 3D print time when twisted. Just picture a 100 x 10 x 10 mm cuboid. Depending on the accuracy you choose, it will only have 57–133 layers when printed flat (on the long side), but when twisted 45° only in Y, you will receive from 371 to even 870 layers, which will take more time to print.

We frequently use 3D printing technology, specifically SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation, to create items that are either impossible to create using conventional manufacturing techniques or are either too difficult or expensive to create using the conventional methods. However, using a 3D printer makes simple, flat objects absurdly more difficult. While CNC machines can precisely cut the edges of flat nylon cuboids, when the same shape is 3D printed, it begins to distort and flex. Why is that taking place?

SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation

There are several causes, but temperature is a common theme. The most visible one occurs when you remove the model too soon before it has had a chance to cool. Shrinkage could be brought on by significant temperature variations between the environment and the printed object. Because printer software keeps track on the temperature of a cooling part and stops you from removing the lid before the printout temperature is secure for both the operator and the part itself, this one could be easily prevented using SLS technology. However, certain large, flat components still bend. The heat buildup during 3D printing is the cause. There is too much heat concentration when you print a solid, flat cuboid shape with flawlessly overlapping layers; the output may bend.

The sintering surface is often warmer than its surroundings. Cuboids feature corners that cool first, but cylindrical versions have edges that cool uniformly.

Remember that even while the unsintered powder provides a somewhat stable foundation for the printed model, the lower portion may tend to melt slightly due to gravity.

Ribs can be added to flat surfaces to solve this issue, but only if doing so doesn’t alter the intended uses and attributes of the 3D-printed element.

Rule #2

To prevent warping or bending, don’t position flat surfaces horizontally. Twist them 45o in all axes to achieve layers of different surfaces that will not completely overlap each other.

Avoid placing flat surfaces horizontally to avoid warping or bending. To create layers of various surfaces that won’t totally overlap one another, rotate them 45 degrees in all axes.

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Even heat distribution is the most important success factor for SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation. The most optimal is in the middle of the 3D printing bed.

SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation

Rule #3

For best-quality prints, start positioning your models from the bottom center of the printing bed. Add the next models evenly towards the edges of the printing chamber and up.

Evenly distribute the models

The recommended practise for SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation is to keep the parts close to one another without being too close. The ideal gaps are about 4-6 mm. The unsintered powder’s self-supporting qualities can also be experienced by putting smaller things inside larger ones. To ensure that your parts are consistently spaced, make sure that each layer has a similar printed area.

SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation

To obtain the best print quality, the difference in cross-sectional area between adjacent layers should be as small as possible.

p(n-1) – p(n) -> 0
p(n) – p(n+1) -> 0

Rule #4

Distribute models evenly with a 4-6 mm gap between them. Place smaller parts inside bigger ones for better efficiency.

For people who want smooth surfaces, the minor melting of the printout’s lower portion that was noted as a disadvantage previously might actually be a benefit. The bottom parts of SLS 3D printed objects, especially those made of nylon PA12, are always the smoothest. Such, if you require such qualities, place your model so that it faces the button.

SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation

Rule #5

The bottom part of the model will have the smoothest characteristics. Set the surface whose smoothness you care about the most from the bottom side.

To get the sharpest edges or details, position them towards the top of the 3D printing chamber.

SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation


Rule #6

The upper part of the model will have the sharpest and most detailed edges.

Eight Guidelines for SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation

Place parts, such as round holes, parallel to the printing bed for the optimum precision. Additionally, research demonstrates that precision is related to other elements. Rising bed temperature from 173 to 176oC resulted in better representation of dimensions, according to Vishal Sharma and Sharanjit Singh’s study “To Study the Effect of SLS Parameters for Dimensional Accuracy.” Layer thickness is another consideration. The accuracy decreases as the layer thickness increases. The precision may suffer if 3D printed elements are positioned too closely together.

Eight Guidelines for SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation

Rule #7

Position holes, channels, and openings parallel to the Z-axis, if possible, to get the best quality.

SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation is frequently used because it can create objects with internal geometries or moving parts. A functional gap of at least 0,2 mm clearance between elements should be designed in order to print parts in a single pass and get the best results. The orientation can also be important for such a small distance (new SLS users should even take 0,5 mm into consideration). Place the moving component parallel to the Z-axis if at all possible.

Eight Guidelines for SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation

Rule #8

To achieve the best quality of moving parts, design a functional gap of 0,2-0,5 mm and position your model parallel to Z-axis model’s axis of rotation parallel to Z-axis.

Factors Affecting SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation

Several factors influence the selection of the optimal model orientation for SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation. Understanding these factors is crucial to make informed decisions.

Surface Quality

The orientation of a model can significantly impact the surface quality of the printed part. In SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation, certain orientations may result in visible layer lines or rough surfaces, while others can produce smoother finishes. Factors such as the powder flowability, laser access, and heat distribution need to be considered to achieve the desired surface quality.

Overhangs and Supports

Models with overhangs or intricate geometries often require support structures to maintain their shape during the printing process. The orientation of the model affects the placement and complexity of these supports. By strategically positioning the model, overhangs can be minimized, reducing the need for supports and simplifying post-processing tasks.

Print Time and Cost

Model orientation also impacts the printing time and cost associated with an SLS 3D printing project. Complex orientations may require additional support structures, increasing the overall printing time and material consumption. By considering the geometry and critical features of the model, it is possible to optimize the orientation to achieve shorter print times and reduce manufacturing costs.

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Best Practices for SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation

To achieve the best results in SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation, several best practices should be followed when selecting the model orientation.

Design Considerations

Designing the model with the final orientation in mind is crucial. By incorporating features such as self-supporting angles, chamfers, or fillets, the need for external supports can be minimized. Furthermore, avoiding steep overhangs and ensuring a balanced weight distribution can improve the overall printability of the model.

Support Placement

When supports are necessary, their placement should be carefully considered. Identifying non-visible or less critical areas for support attachment can reduce post-processing efforts. Additionally, using soluble supports or incorporating breakaway structures can simplify support removal, ensuring cleaner and more accurate final parts.

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Optimizing SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation

In addition to following best practices, utilizing software tools and simulations can greatly assist in optimizing the model orientation for SLS 3D Printing Model Orientation.

Software Tools and Simulations

Various software tools, such as 3D slicers and simulation packages, offer orientation optimization features. These tools analyze the model’s geometry, material properties, and support requirements to suggest the most suitable orientation. By simulating the printing process, potential issues, such as excessive warping or unsupported areas, can be identified and addressed in the design phase.

Iterative Testing and Refinement

Iterative testing and refinement play a vital role in optimizing model orientation. By printing test parts with different orientations, designers can evaluate the physical properties and surface quality of each variant. This iterative approach allows for data-driven decision-making and fine-tuning of the orientation parameters until the desired results are achieved.


Proper model orientation is a critical factor in achieving successful SLS 3D prints. By strategically positioning the model, designers can maximize part strength, reduce support structures, and optimize print time and cost. Following best practices, considering design considerations, and leveraging software tools and simulations are key steps in ensuring the optimal orientation for SLS 3D printing projects.


  1. Q: How does model orientation affect the strength of SLS 3D printed parts?
    • A: Model orientation can influence the anisotropic properties of SLS 3D printed parts, affecting their strength and durability.
  2. Q: Can model orientation help reduce the need for support structures in SLS 3D printing?
    • A: Yes, by strategically orienting the model, it is possible to minimize the need for supports or position them in less critical areas, reducing material usage and post-processing efforts.
  3. Q: What are some software tools that can assist in optimizing model orientation?
    • A: Various 3D slicers and simulation packages offer orientation optimization features to analyze the model and suggest suitable orientations.
  4. Q: How can iterative testing and refinement improve model orientation?
    • A: By printing test parts with different orientations and evaluating their physical properties, designers can fine-tune the orientation parameters based on data-driven insights.
  5. Q: What are the benefits of optimizing model orientation in SLS 3D printing?
    • A: Optimizing model orientation leads to improved part strength, reduced support structures, shorter print times, and lower manufacturing costs
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