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I am new to 3D Printing. We currently have to design in process that I want to finish. The design consists of two parts (top and bottom), the top and bottom that need to snap fit into each other. The arrangement should be similar to the one used in many electronics, for example, the cordless phones in the picture below.

My question is, can such clips be done with 3D printing? Will they last (be used 5 to 20 times) and does the material used for 3D printing make a difference? Is there a material that is particularly good for such snap-fit connectors?

Note that my design will only be a prototype and eventually we would be creating a mold for our product.

clip connector

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yes

You can totally print snap-fit connectors for 3D printing, but you need to keep some things in mind. I assume that since you have looked at these connectors, you have a good idea about the matter, but I nevertheless suggest Angus (MakersMuse) discussion locking devices at the beginning of a tutorial Video on designing buckles.

Your tabs thickness will need to be at least one line width wide at the most narrow point to be printable at all.

Print-Orientation

Another thing besides thickness is orientation. For the strongest tabs, you might want to print the tabs like a C for maximum part strength. Just modeling the part with the tabs, it should print in this orientation then:

A C-Clamp

This way the bending is not applying stress against layer boundaries but 90° to them, giving even force on each layer. This means that you will need to print parts in awkward orientations just for the tabs usually. You will need lots of support.

You can certainly print in a less awkward position at the expense of strength of the tab, acknowledging that "this is a prototype, we can show you that it closes perfectly like this, though due to FDM limitations we might break the tabs opening it again. So we'll be careful."

prototype-variation of model

Snaples tabs

It might be however easier to print the tabs flat and without the hooks, allowing to do a fitting test, but not a snap-connection. Your benefit is, that you won't have to watch for print orientation, but it won't be locking. Make sure to work with workflow and put the modifications for easy printing/not-locking at the end. Alterations to the general design should come all before this point. Then turn off these steps to create the model that is sent to machining for the mold.

Modular intermediate design

If you need to have working, strong tabs AND a good print, it can pay off to print separate parts that combine into a single piece with a little glue. Maybe the C-clamp is actually a thin bar that is put into the back plate and glued into place or secured with a little friction weld.

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  • $\begingroup$ The print orientation does not need to be as depicted, it depends on the design, I have created snap fit parts where the snap tabs are printed as if your print was printed from the flat bottom up, see e.g. this thing with a perfect snap fitting. $\endgroup$ – 0scar Feb 2 '19 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ @0scar adressed $\endgroup$ – Trish Feb 2 '19 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ One alternative to parts that combine with glue is parts that combine with a threaded interface. Horizontally printing both the tab (as in your image) and the threaded bolt will result in a very strong part. Threaded holes on the other hand are better printed along the Z axis, matching the direction you'd tend to want for the larger part that the tabs connect to. $\endgroup$ – R.. GitHub STOP HELPING ICE Jun 1 '19 at 16:08

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