Can you 3D print interlocking parts?

3D printing nuances come to life when we talk about enhancing the functionality using interlinking segments and joined pieces. Despite the challenges of maintaining dimensional consistency while printing these, I, Carolina, your tech-savvy guide, took a plunge and documented a guide to nail this printing technique.


To perfect the 3D print of joints and pieces that interlock, it’s paramount to calibrate your printer flawlessly, ensuring no under or over extrusion. This secures immaculate dimensions. It’s essential to maintain optimal spacing between the elements. Rely on experimentation to achieve peak outcomes.

Additionally, while churning out these pieces, it’s wise to heed design considerations especially if you’re crafting the models.

Dive deeper into the realm of 3D printing with my expansive guide on connecting and interlocking elements. From defining what joints are to the diversity of 3D printable joints like Interlocking and Snap-Fit variants, it’s all here!

Understanding Joints:
Borrowing insights from carpentry, joints are essentially where multiple components combine to yield a more intricate unit. This analogy is apt for 3D printing as well, where joints help merge numerous pieces, facilitating a more functional and larger construct. Whether you’re merging elements too grand for your printing bed or aiming for subtle motions between stiff parts, joints are your passport to broader creative frontiers in 3D printing.

Types of 3D Printed Joints:
Passionate 3D enthusiasts constantly redefine design boundaries. Let’s explore Interlocking and Snap-fit joints.

Interlocking Joints:
Common in carpentry, masonry, and of course, 3D printing, these joints depend on friction between corresponding components. Visualize an interlocking joint as a tab on one element fitting into a slot on another, held tight by friction. From the straightforward Box Joint to the unique Dovetail or the versatile Tongue and Groove Joints – each has its charm.

Snap-Fit Joints:
A darling for 3D fans, these rely on the art of snapping or flexing pieces into a specific position. Such joints need designs that flex under stress but remain sturdy once set. From the versatile Cantilever Snap Fits to Annular Snap Fits ideal for circular designs to the pliant Torsional Snap Fits – the possibilities are endless!

3D Printing of Connecting Joints & Pieces:
The essence lies in In-Place Printing (printing joined elements together) and Separate Printing (individual prints followed by assembly).

Tips for 3D Printing these Elements:
Successful 3D prints lean heavily on design and printer quality.

Design Tips for Interlinking and Interlocking Elements:
1. Optimal Clearance: Especially vital for in-place printing.
2. Rounded Edges: Use fillets and chamfers to resist cracks.
3. Solid Connectors: Print with 100% infill for resilience.
4. Adequate Clip Width: At least 5mm for stability.
5. Mind Clearances during Scaling: Adjust as needed post-scaling.

3D Printer Configurations:
1. Know Your Printer’s Tolerance: Calibrate and use suitable materials.
2. First, Print and Validate the Joints: Save time and resources.
3. Optimal Layer Direction: Print connector layers parallel to the joint.

Expand your creativity with these insights, and venture into the world of intricate 3D printing with confidence. Happy Printing!