Is it possible to cut costs by combining multiple smaller models?

Discussion in 'Design and Modeling' started by d0ede9ba53, Jul 19, 2014.

  1. d0ede9ba53
    d0ede9ba53 New Member
    I'm trying to print out some key caps for my mechanical keyboard and was wondering if it would be possible to do so? I need about 87 or so pieces to cover my keyboard, and I have each individual model on shapeways right now but they're a bit expensive to buy in bulk.

    Would it save me money by create a model with every single key in it that shapeways can produce? Or would it cost about the same/more if I did so?

  2. mkroeker
    mkroeker Well-Known Member
    Depends partly on which material you want to print them in - for some materials multiple parts per file is allowed, for some (notably the metals) it is not (or restricted to "natural" pairs of earrings or cufflinks). You will find this information on the Materials pages. Where it is possible, it would allow you to save on the fixed "setup fee" - but do not overdo this as someone at shapeways still has the same amount of work to do, picking out your small pieces from the big block that the printer spits out and cleaning each one individually. For small parts, try to "sprue them together", that is crosslink them with a small rod like it is done in plastic model kits. (This will add cost of material so may not save much over handling fee, but your things will be just a small section of the "raw"
    product of a print run the way shapeways operates - with locomotives, robots, anime characters, frames, fasteners, lampshades and who knows what else all around it - keeping track of all these cannot be an easy job, and the smaller the parts are the harder it will be).
    The trivial thing to do to keep cost down is to put many things in a single order, so you do not have to pay for shipping of each single item, but you probably know that.
  3. d0ede9ba53
    d0ede9ba53 New Member
    I plan on making them in only plastics (strong white, etc) if I do a large group of keys so I don't think will be too much of an issue there.

    So when I make an order I assume shapeways prints my models alongside the rest of my models or someone else's? That's kind of what I was wondering, if it would be possible to group everything at once to cut down on the general cost of materials and in turn lowering the cost to me.

    Yeah, I considered adding the crosslinks, but it's already a bit costly and I won't do it unless there would be significant savings in doing so.

    Thank you for your response!
  4. mkroeker
    mkroeker Well-Known Member
    You might want to do a test print if you have not done so already, just to see if the material is right for your purpose - the "strong and flexible" nylon material is porous much like a cuttlefish bone and will need priming and painting while the detail acrylic could be a bit brittle (I have no experience with the latter material)

    Yes, your own models and as much of everybody else's to completely fill the available volume of the printer - this is how shapeways can offer so much lower prices than a "more conventional" rapid prototyping business that would dedicate a print run to your model alone. (stonysmith has a fun "your model is here" photo of the big brick-like block of caked nylon powder that comes out of the printer - sadly I can never seem to find the threads where he posted it when I need it. There are a few shapeways videos on youtube however where the production processes are shown, I think you can see the block and its careful resolution with an airhose there as well.)
  5. d0ede9ba53
    d0ede9ba53 New Member
    I'm a bit nervous to do a test print. Of course, it's would be the best thing to do, but shipping to Dubai is relatively expensive and takes quite a bit to arrive here so I'm hesitant to do so. I've seen some people print keycaps from them and they have turned out nice although I think the polished plastic may be what I want to go for if I do decide to print them. All the more reason to try and cut down the cost :)
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2014
  6. mkroeker
    mkroeker Well-Known Member
    Ah I see. Well i am quite sure it would work, it just would not look and feel exactly like the injection molded keys of a mass-produced keyboard. (Light spraying with acrylic paint or varnish strongly suggested, seeing how grimy even an injection molded key gets from normal use. Also the unprotected white nylon will yellow a bit within months even if out of direct sunlight - perhaps not noticable on single or same-age pieces, but obvious when you compare two prints that are about a year apart)
  7. d0ede9ba53
    d0ede9ba53 New Member
    I'm not afraid of the key feel that much, I'm sure there are many ways to change it so that's something I'm looking forward to experimenting with. The coloring may be an issue, so I may go with a colored key or just stick with black if yellowing is an issue.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2014