Inaccurate Information For Steel

Discussion in 'Suggestions & Feedback' started by jesstaylor90, May 16, 2018.

  1. jesstaylor90
    jesstaylor90 Member
    I've just gone through a frustrating case wherein I re-ordered a model I had printed previously in Gold steel. The first time I ordered it in 2016, I had no issues, despite the model being hollow. This time, I ordered the hollow model again, it passed all checks, and I received a plain steel model. After a lot of back and forth between me and a customer service rep, I've been told that you are no longer able to print hollow models in plated finishes, and was refunded the cost.

    My question is, if this is the case, why doesn't the material page seem to reflect this? I was assured it's been a problem for quite some time, and have gone over the materials page, but can't find any mention of this limitation myself. I'm happy to be wrong, but I certainly didn't see this, and whoever allowed my model to pass manual checks didn't either.

    It would also be good to update the materials page as I had a browse on the marketplace, and it seems like there are a few hollow models for sale in this finish. Add to that, I spoke to a couple of other makers who had also printed hollow models in gold steel before without issue - they weren't aware of any problems with doing this.

    Obviously I don't order hollow models in gold steel often, but it would be good for it to be made absolutely clear that this cannot be done to save others the same trouble I've had.
  2. Moms_Sphagetti
    Moms_Sphagetti Shapeways Employee CS Team
    Hi jesstaylor90,

    Thanks for reaching out to us. I'm sorry you were given inaccurate information! Please understand, due to the nature of 3D printing, we're always discovering new limitations to what can and cannot be printed and as such is something we try to, and will continue to, update our material guidelines for.

    As far as other models on the marketplace that are hollow, just because they're offered on the marketplace, does not mean they will be printed on our end. Most models offered on the marketplace are actually "First to try" models meaning they haven't actually been printed before and could potentially be rejected.

    Although we may or may not have printed similar models in the past from other designers, this trend will not continue as we're unable to print models like this consistently as more are ordered. This is why we will do our best to update our guidelines accordingly and help reduce the amount of rejections that may potentially be caused with this issue.

    If you have any other questions or concerns, please reach out to us at

    All the best,
  3. jesstaylor90
    jesstaylor90 Member
    I understand that. However, your customer service rep said that this had been an ongoing problem for 'quite some time', and that this wasn't a new issue, but a limitation that the production crew was aware of. If it has been an issue for a long time, why hasn't the material page been updated? Or, now that you've apparently figured out that under no circumstances can you plate hollow models, when will the material page be updated?

    I also understand that makers can put something on the marketplace when it's First to Try, but I'd wager fewer would put gold steel as a finish option if you communicated this limitation to them. It also seems like a few of them are in my position, where they printed a hollow model a while ago without issue and so have placed that model for sale without knowing of the updated guidelines.

    From browsing on the forums it seems a lot of people are tired of not being informed of changes to materials and guidelines, despite being long term customers. From a business perspective, I don't think shapeways can continue to keep makers in the dark, or that businesses can continue to use shapeways to produce their products if this trend of keeping makers in the dark continues.
  4. Schmeagle
    Schmeagle Well-Known Member

    Would it be possible to provide a more detailed explanation as to why a hollow steel item cannot be plated? I've been reading about this issue on this forum, but unfortunately all I've heard as an official response thus far is simply "we can't do it." Hollowing is an important technique that not only reduces an item's weight, but can also mean the difference between affordable and too expensive to produce. As such, it's difficult to accept that it just "can't be done."

    The reason for the material guidelines is for us to be able to design our items with as few rejections as possible. A rejected item means rework for the designer and wasted time and/or materials for Shapeways. It's a lose-lose for both parties when an item is rejected.

    As of the writing of this post, the material guidelines for steel indicate that hollow items are permitted, as advice is given for escape holes for "models that are hollow, or contain hollow cavities." Please correct me if I have missed it, but I see no mention of guidelines against plating models that fit this criteria.

    If a thorough explanation were given as to why it is not possible, designers could understand the limitations of the process and could adjust their models accordingly. Without such knowledge or up-to-date guidelines, we are otherwise just wasting our time and your resources making the same mistakes over and over again. The more information we have, the more compliant our models can be.
    Malwen and jesstaylor90 like this.
  5. jesstaylor90
    jesstaylor90 Member
    Well said Schmeagle. The response I got was this:

    "during the plating process, the liquid from the tanks gets trapped in the parts ant transfers that liquid into the next tank in the process. This contamination makes the plating process less effective and it also requires us to change out the liquid in the tanks more often. The parts may have been successfully plated in the past without corrosion but this still would have caused contamination in our tanks."

    And that's all good and well (well, its frustrating, because as you note hollowing a model is a way of making it affordable, but I digress). But it seems they know exactly what the issue is and it seems like a pretty standard issue - as in no hollow models can be printed. So my issue, and the reason I posted on here, is that they know of this issue and aren't communicating clearly to makers. It's all good and well if one or two makers get a reason for their models getting rejected, but if its a known limitation, we need to know before we've designed, uploaded and ordered a model that will just flat out be rejected because of a simple, avoidable design trait. Like you said, its a lose-lose for us to be uploading and ordering models that get rejected - we waste time, they miss a sale.
    Malwen and Schmeagle like this.
  6. Schmeagle
    Schmeagle Well-Known Member
    Thanks, jesstaylor90. That is exactly the kind of explanation for which I was looking. I agree with you completely. If this issue results in rejections then it certainly needs to be included in the material guidelines. More importantly, it needs to be conveyed with the rejection the first time it occurs.

    I'm just afraid that outright prohibiting the plating of hollow steel items is just the easy way out and may overly limit what we can do with the material. For example, could the issue be avoided with more or larger escape holes?
  7. jesstaylor90
    jesstaylor90 Member
    I too think it's just an easy fix - surely there are ways of preventing or limiting contamination, and I too have been thinking that the issue would be resolved with larger or multiple escape holes, or a more stringent 'cleaning' process between tanks. I'm sure they could resolve the issue; more and more I feel as is Shapeways can't be bothered and is more interested in making their job simpler to cut costs at the expense of makers and the capabilities of their service. Even responses to my complaints have been a 'sorry' without any promise of rectifying the issue in any way.

    It's just if they're going to reject the hollow models, I'd rather know in advance, even if I think it's a bit of a cop out. And I would rather set rules that apply to everyone, rather than what's in place at the moment, which keeps makers in the dark as to why their models are being rejected. It took me two weeks to get an actual answer as to why my model was rejected when it had been printed previously with no issue. That is itself is not good enough, and to then be told that Shapeways has been aware of this limitation for some time merely added to my frustration - especially as I couldn't see many other maker discussing this issue on the forums.
  8. Lefteri
    Lefteri Shapeways Employee CS Team
    Hi everyone, we understand that there is room for improvement on the information that is shared on our Materials page, and I'm very sorry for any frustration caused. This is not something we in Customer Service can directly assist with, but I have moved this to our Suggestions & Feedback section so my colleagues can see it. I have also brought this up directly with our Materials team.