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We manufacture artificial corals for aquarium decorations.

We are trying to use 3D scanning and printing to duplicate live corals. Please see attached photos, left is 3D printed model, right is coral molded using resin.

The problem is lacking detail, the real corals have pores (tiny holes).

Can anybody please help to add pores to the 3D printed corals? Maybe using Blender 3D software?

3D printed coral (left) vs resin molded coral (right)

3D printed coral is lacking pores (tiny holes)

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  • $\begingroup$ Unless your anticipated sales are less than a couple dozen per month, you will be much much better off with molded products. $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Sep 1 '17 at 13:05
  • $\begingroup$ we need 3D printed corals for molding. To open molds, samples have to be damaged. Real corals can be used only once, then they are gone. Thanks $\endgroup$ – anyan88 Sep 3 '17 at 22:30
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    $\begingroup$ Realistically, this can only really be achieved with a DLP printer (search Carbon 3D Printing). There are too many variables for this to be feasible with FDM, SLS/SLA, or other types. To get the level of texturing to come out will require very fine (~50-75 microns) layer heights which are difficult to achieve consistent results on anything other than DLP. $\endgroup$ – tbm0115 Sep 7 '17 at 0:10
  • $\begingroup$ @tbm0115 SLA and DLP are both resin based and both can achieve this, SLS and DLSM are powder based but might achieve this depending on powder grain size - with very fine powders they come even to resin based SLA/DLP. $\endgroup$ – Trish Aug 13 '18 at 21:47
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First thing to check it's, What printer are you using? is FDM or SLA/SLS? Technology used is the great bottleneck to achieve the results that you want to.

Also, going cheap in 3D printing it's a way to get bad results. A good setup it's really important to get a great XY and Z resolution.

FDM it's not able to achieve the same resolution as SLS/SLA has, but it's cheaper.

If you using FDM try reducing wall speed, that will increase the detail level. Using a smaller nozzle and lower layer settings will increase it as well.

EDIT: Also, you need to check in the 3D model how the model is. If the details that you're looking for are not there, there is nothing else to do but start doing it by hand.

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  • $\begingroup$ The 3D printer I am using is LulzBot TAZ 6, 3mm PLA. I think the loss of detail occurred during the 3D scan process, STL does not have tiny pores. I can not find any other 3D scan equipment or technics that have high resolution to pick up the tiny pores. So I am trying to add the pores using some sort of editing software, maybe Blender or Microsoft 3D Builder? if you could provide any suggestion, I'd really appreciate it. $\endgroup$ – anyan88 Sep 1 '17 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ It depend on what software you learn or want to learn. I use fusion360 but don't know if it's going to be able to handle that job, never did that before $\endgroup$ – Luis Diaz Sep 1 '17 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ I'll continue doing research, if found a solution, I'll post it here. Thanks again :) $\endgroup$ – anyan88 Sep 2 '17 at 0:20
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As you told in a comment, you are using an FDM printer. Now... here's the problem:

FDM can't do details this small with a standard nozzle. I do print occasionally an item that has a 0.2 mm circular depression in its wall. To show, I need to print with a 0.2 nozzle. So take note: smaller nozzle = smaller achieveable details. As a rule of thumb, the nozzle diameter is the smallest visible detail in XY and 2 layer thicknesses in Z. Remember, that some intricate details can become SUPER fragile.

Next up is print time: The smaller the nozzle, the longer the print, as you need more movements to follow the now more complex outline and to achieve the same density of interior, more (but thinner) interior walls too.

So, FDM has two limitations:

  1. Nozzle size is limited downwards, limiting the achieveable details.
  2. Print time is the great unequalizer, as halving the nozzle diameter usually results in more than double the print time.

But fret not, there is a way out: Go even tinyer! Stereolothography and other resind based systems (DLP/SLA) are more time efficient when it comes to details and can manage even smaller details. Under some conditions (very fine powder and precise laser) SLS and DLSM might achieve the size, but nylon based prints don'T work under water while metal prints might not serve the purpose really.

In either case, your print file needs to have the details you wants to print: it makes no difference if your 3D scan does not include the pores what system you use - information not included can't be printed. Check your Slicer if the model has the surface you want.

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Perhaps with the scanned data you could import it into some sort of 3D modeling application such as Blender and add the pores either manually or with a modifier. See Blender - modifiers.

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