Why can I not just upload my model, be given a quote and pay straight way?

A large number of the files that we receive are not ready for immediate 3D printing, even when they have been downloaded directly from thingiverse / Youmagine or Yeggi etc. As such quite often the files require some form of minor STL repair. For small issues we repair for free, in some cases however they require much more work.

We like to offer our experience in the field to ensure that our customers are completely happy with the final models that they receive. We produce a large number of prototype parts during the development phases of our projects and depending on the product and the application this will influence the prototype route that we choose.

We use 3D printing where we can but it is not always the appropriate choice.

Can my model definitely be printed?

Not all models are suitable to be printed on a ‘home’ 3D printer and better results can be achieved using other process on more technologically advanced machines. We like to initially review the file and determine the best method for giving the required result. If we feel we can produce a high quality print from our in house printer then we will offer the final quote and be happy to take on the project. If we feel that there would be a better route, we will inform you and forward on our recommendations.

The advances in technology for Home 3D printers is fantastic with new printers, materials and upgrades coming to the market on an almost weekly basis. Some of the models that can be produced are of an extremely high quality level with a great level of accurate detail. To achieve these high quality results, quite often there will have been a fair amount of upfront development prior to the final models being photographed, for example multiple prints of the part in various orientations to determine which gives the best results and also tweaking of settings such as print temperature/speed/flow rate and retraction etc.

We printed 5 versions of our Pele model prior to be being completely happy with it, our ‘Little L’ model took 3 iterations, the sculptures and the #teaclub bicycle however were printed in 1 hit.

I have been told that 3D Printing is cheap, is that true?

3D printing can be cheap when you put it side by side with other methods of producing one off prototypes or development parts.

The majority of traditional manufacturing methods involve relatively expensive setup and tooling costs. These are generally costs for manufacturing the moulds, tooling up a machine or creating a jig that first need to be produced in order to manufacture your part. This setup is usually the expensive part as it often takes time and requires skilled craftsmen, this in turn results in longer lead times and thus more expensive products, especially if you are only looking to order a one OFF or a very low quantity few.

With 3D printing, since there are no tooling or set up costs, only material and energy usage costs ,with the initial set up costs being removed you only pay for the materials/energy that you use, however 3D print materials can be much more expensive.

Because the primary cost in 3D Printing is the material, it follows that the larger the part you are printing the more it will cost to produce.

The other major cost in 3D printing is energy, it is not uncommon for detailed prints to take over 20hrs to complete. During this time, in particular using ABS, the hot end will be being kept at between 220-260Deg and the build platform at around 100Deg on most home 3D Printers.

As a very general rule of thumb, Small = Cheap, Large = Expensive

When it comes to 3D printing, the complexity of part is not a major factor, if we take an average home 3D Printer build Volume 200x200x200mm it would be more expensive to print that solid volume than it would to print a highly detailed multi faceted multi feature part of the same volume since the printer builds layer by layer rather than feature by feature. For traditional prototyping methods eg machining it would be the other way around.

So ‘What is small?’. Again as a rule of thumb, if you can comfortably fit the final product in your hand, it is probably going to cost approx £100 or less, if it is bigger, then it is going to cost more.

Once I have my printer, I can print anything?

Although this may be the opinion of many 3D Printer salesmen trying to sell you a 3D Printer and maybe the dream you have been sold, unfortunately it is not wholly true.

There are many many things that can be printed on Home 3D printer, however, not all of them are useful!

It is very important to remember that 3D printers for the home market are very much in their infancy, they are still being developed and improved on an almost daily basis with manufactures continually listening to the users who feedback issues and improvements/suggestions. A good example to highlight this point is, if you were to look at the most popular items to print on thingiverse, you will find that a large percentage are items to replace the original manufactured parts that come as part of your printer.

Home 3D printers are fantastic bits of kit and there are many useful parts available that can be downloaded and printed which either have a real functional use, are very decorative, are fun, are interesting or are artistic. They give opportunity for people to explore their creative side and have real parts in their hands within a very short time period.

Our answer to this question is not meant to sound negative but instead to try and manage/structure expectations. To get the most out of them then we would suggest that you need to be prepared to work with them on a daily basis or minimum weekly , to fully get to grips with what they are capable of and what they are not capable of. As long as people understand that home 3D Printers which cost less than £4000 are not going to be able to achieve the same results as industrial 3D Printers which can cost upwards of £100,000 then they will spend less time feeling disappointed or frustrated.

They do tend to be more useful to those who can design their own parts or generate their own STL files as this quickens the whole process from idea to physical part and is also less expensive.