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Let's say you're printing a container or some other object with no infill. What's a good rule of thumb for how thick to make the outside? I'm looking for something along the lines of millimeters thick per square inch of area.

I'm thinking about PLA right now, but answers for ABS and other materials are welcome, too.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hi Joel, I took the liberty to change the title. IMHO "Estimation" does not capture your question adequately. In fact you inquire what wall/shell thickness you need for designing storage containers; correct? "Parts" in the title could also be changed to container or box also. Feel free to make changes! $\endgroup$ – 0scar Aug 8 '18 at 7:38
  • $\begingroup$ go by noodles wide instead of mm. you want at least 3 spaghettis lined up for anything non-decorative and 5 plenty for most non-load-bearing applications. It depends on material and object as well, so 3-5 layers is just a low-side guideline. $\endgroup$ – dandavis Aug 11 '18 at 7:36
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This totally depends on what you think is acceptable for your print, and what the usage of the print is: is it a structural/functional part or just for aesthetic purposes. There is no general rule of thumb for that. Basically this is a design issue.

If it has to be stiff and may not flex much you would require to use more walls to give it more rigidity. Less if it is not that important.

When using infill and depending of the part, 0.8 to 1.2 mm walls are frequently used for nozzle sizes of 0.4 mm, without infill you could use the same values, but need to take less rigidity for granted. Add more walls when you need it to be more rigid. Note that the larger the wall surface area becomes (height over width), the easier a wall can buckle under load; increase the wall count to counteract.

In your case (design of a container) I would consider what the purpose of the container is; e.g. how big is it, how much weight is it going to contain (e.g. heavy nuts and bolts, or left over filament pieces), is it stackable, etc. etc. etc.. As a final thought, note that you can play with the design as well, a straight box/container is less stiff than a box with some curved edges or stiffeners. An example of a stackable container is e.g. this:

Stackable container

The indents on the walls of this container give it more rigidity, these walls are in the range of 2 to 3 perimeters.

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As alluded to in 0scar's answer, it is important to stick to multiples of your nozzle width for thin shells. If you try to print a 1mm wall with a 0.4mm nozzle, you give the slicer a bit of a challenge in filling the joint between the two outer faces. Maybe it can print a half-width line, by under extruding, maybe not - but a 0.8mm wall is likely to be stronger.

So long as the slicer has more than 3 nozzle widths to play with, it is able to add diagonal fill to build up a solid form (as hinted in this comment on github for cura)

The answer to the question depends completely on the rigidity required. A single (vase) wall can work, particularly for a curved object - but you might find that a stronger lip is required. Although 2 or 3 perimeters will flex, they may be strong enough for your application.

Above this, you may be better off with a 2-sided wall. 2 perimeters each side with a 1mm gap (and a bit of infill) is comparable to a 6 perimeter solid wall due to the increased overall thickness and the compression/extension multiplication. I rarely go above 3 perimeters - if I need extra strength, I resort to punching holes like the slots in this part.

5mm rigid part

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  • $\begingroup$ Yeah... my first print I modeled myself has 1.5mm walls. It worked out good, but understanding that my .4mm nozzle didn't fit exactly got me thinking. Did Cura just decided to use 1.6mm walls or did it play other tricks like we do with anti-aliasing, where it wasn't extruding everything? Either way, I decided to try to starting thinking in terms of .4mm units. $\endgroup$ – Joel Coehoorn Aug 8 '18 at 13:47
  • $\begingroup$ This comment seems relevant github.com/Ultimaker/Cura/issues/1303#issuecomment-270880709, and a couple of related questions 3dprinting.stackexchange.com/questions/3568 3dprinting.stackexchange.com/questions/3121 $\endgroup$ – Sean Houlihane Aug 8 '18 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ also, the gcode.ws website can be useful to visualise your sliced gcode. $\endgroup$ – Sean Houlihane Aug 8 '18 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ i think cura would print 1.2mm instead of 1.6mm; it doesn't like going over in my observations... $\endgroup$ – dandavis Aug 11 '18 at 7:32
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I make small objects (25mm^2) with 1 to 1.5 mm walls and larger objects (think coffee cups) with about 2.5 - 3 mm walls. I set the line width and number of perimeters to completely fill the thickness. I use this for ABS and PLA. The PLA objects have been electronics enclosures, with internal structures to support the parts. They aren't subjected to strong forces. I've made small containers for stain gauges with the amplifiers, and larger ones for greater sequences and Arduino boxes. I've used ABS also for coffee mugs and beverage glasses, to withstand the mass and temperature of drinks. It can take some fussing to worry the Slic3r slicing parameters into place. Especially with mugs the design is for function and appearance, not for effect.

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    $\begingroup$ This answer would be a lot more useful if you described the end use of your objects and what sort of stress they may be subjected to. $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft Aug 8 '18 at 14:45

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