So you Want to Build a Part...
First off, if you want to 3D print a part, you will need a 3D CAD file. While most companies have an internal Engineering or Design team that creates these files, we also work with those that have nothing but a concept in their heads.
Getting your idea into CAD
In order to get an idea of what your project is, a sketch, image, or detailed drawing always helps, even if it's a reference of something similar. We will need to get a feel for the size and complexity of the part in order for us to start visualizing the project in terms of CAD hours. This is used to get a rough ballpark of what it will cost to create a 3D file that can then be used to 3D print your part. While we can handle most simple projects, some items that require a different type of modeling like organic or sculpted shapes may require a third party with better suited software. We also currently do not take on large projects that span large assemblies or require project management/design team meetings through corporate as we don't have the bandwidth to accommodate them at this time.
Filetypes we use:
Our printing software runs off of STLs, and they are the most common type of 3D file out there. However, we can also take Solidworks Part or Assembly files (.sldprt or .sldasm), step (.stp or .step), parasolid (.x_t or .x_b), iges (.igs or .iges), object files (.obj) or color STLs (.vrml). Other file formats are typically native to a specific application and may not necessarily be import-able on our end without that particular software.
- Note that depending on what you want printed, you may need to break out features to apply different materials. The most basic application of different colors or materials like rubber grips for polyjet is to apply them to separate bodies. This requires the bodies to be separated in the file, and if you save an assembly as one stl file, it generally acts as one body.
- For textures and color wraps, .vrml and .obj are the best formats to bring over your colors, and are typically available in any software that can apply them. They will typically be a single solid body rigid part, but give you access to full color capabilities to mimic whatever you want.
- Keep in mind that what you put in is what you get out. With a low resolution stl, files can go from round, smooth shapes to faceted, polygonal surfaces. For Solidworks users, we've found that the best settings for resolution without going overkill on filesize tend to be a 5 degree Angle Tolerance, with the Deviation Tolerance slider lined up vertically with the angled one (it will change depending on the size of the part you're building).
Uploading Your Parts
Now that you have a file, we can quote out your part! There are a few ways to upload your parts to get a quote:
Email - You can send your file with a request to firstname.lastname@example.org this is the main email that our team uses to quote parts and ensures the fastest turnaround for your quotes.
Site Upload - You can upload your parts here or by clicking on the Request a Quote button at the top of the page and filling out a form with all of the necessary info.
Third Party Links - If you are required to use an FTP or your own portal, simply send us the link to our email with any details regarding the parts.
Encrypted Secure Transfer - We have the capability to set up a locked down folder for you to upload parts to, however it will take some time for IT to set up the protocol with your particular company.
If you aren't going through the site upload, having a material and/or technology in mind helps. If you are unsure, a brief description of what the part is used for and what/if any requirements are needed will help us narrow down the options for you. These can include Heat, Chemicals, Stresses (direction can be important), Water/Airtight, Clarity, Outgassing, Tolerances, Colors, etc. Quantities are also important as multiples tend to lower the overall per part cost and allow us to give you the correct pricing.
- If you are sending an STL, the file will hold the correct dimensions, but not necessarily units. Giving a rough overall size helps us make sure we don't quote your part in MM or CM when it should be IN or vice versa (generally off by 10x or ~25x) if it's not blatantly apparent.
- If you are going with FDM, a sparse (honeycomb-like infill) can greatly reduce the cost and weight of thicker parts. If you are familiar with the process, you can also call out a specific layer height (our default is 0.010", but most materials will let us run at 0.005", 0.007" and 0.013" with some that can run 0.020" layer heights.) Just keep in mind, each step down is generally a about a 2x increase in time and cost.
- If you are going with Polyjet, you can find a Pantone color, Hex code, or RGB code online to callout specific colors. Also, our Shore A values are 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 85 and 95.
Getting Your Quote
Once we have a file, we run the part through our software using the chosen material and resolution and quantity's discussed, and this gives us the material consumptions and runtime which are used to base the quote off of. Since technology, orientation, complexity, and resolution all play very big role (and can sometimes double the cost or more), it's very difficult to even ballpark a project without the actual files.
Having any and all information will help us immediately work on getting you a quote. If we feel any info is missing, we will work with you to find out the correct material, resolutions, etc. or send a default quote for the basic options as a starting point.
Typically, our team will get you a part quote in 2-4 hours for anything we can handle internally. If you have needs that we have outreach to, usually we will have a quote to you within 24 hours.
Accepting Your Quote
If you are a first time customer with us, we will need you to fill out a New Customer Form which details your billing and shipping info. If you are looking to set up terms, the process of verifying credit references can sometimes delay the start of the first job at our discretion. If you are a returning customer, we will need written approval to begin your build with either a credit card on file, or a PO#.
Printing Your Parts
Once your quote has been approved, we will get it in queue and start the printing process. Most jobs are somewhere between a few hours or an overnight build, so our turnaround is typically 1-2 business days. We will respond to your acceptance with an estimated delivery time based on the length of the build and the current queue, and reach out with a notification if anything changes due to downed machines, power outages, rejected parts, etc.
Once your parts have been cleaned and packaged, they are ready to ship. If you are local to the area, you can stop by to pick up your parts instead of waiting for them to ship and avoid the shipping charges. If your parts are shipping, a tracking email will be sent to the quotee once a label is created (typically towards the end of the day). Packages ship via UPS Ground which is 1 day for RI, CT, MA, VT, NH, most of Maine, and the top half of NJ. We can ship 2-Day or Overnight (typically has 8am, 10am, and end of day options) or use a customers' UPS or FedEx account.