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How to design Interlocking Joints for fastening 3D Printed parts

Written by Ben Hudson

How to design Interlocking Joints for fastening 3D Printed parts

Introduction

Interlocking joints are a common method for connecting components that are regularly assembled and disassembled. The use of interlocking joints allows:

This article will discuss the common applications of interlocking connections used in 3D printing, and recommend the 3D printing processes most suited to interlocking joint production.

3D printing technologies and interlocking joints

The table below provides a quick overview of the most common 3D printing technologies and whether they are appropriate for printing interlocking joints:

Process Description
FDM Low cost and effective way of manufacturing interlocking joints but lower accuracy than other printing methods. ABS better suited than PLA due to its improved ductility
SLA High accuracy but can be very brittle unless using a “tough resin”
SLS Good for interlocking parts as parts have high print accuracy and good strength
Material Jetting Good strength and elasticity combined with high resolution details makes material jetting ideal for interlocking applications
Binder Jetting Not suited for interlocking connections

Designing for interlocking joints

There are 3 forces to consider when designing interlocking joints:

Interlocking joints accuracy

When interlocking joints are manufactured in injection molding, a tolerance of 0.1mm is applied. For 3D printing, tolerances vary between technologies as summarized in the table below.

Process Interlocking parts tolerances
FDM 0.5 mm
SLA 0.2 mm
SLS 0.2 mm
Material Jetting 0.1 mm

Rules of thumb

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