In this tutorial, we'll review step by step design tips to help you optimize the price for each factor:
Scaling down your design reduces both the machine space and material volume required to produce it, therefore reducing cost. If your model can be scaled down, making it smaller is a highly effective way to change the printing cost.
It might be obvious, but since you're scaling in three dimensions, adjusting the scale of your model has an exponential effect on material usage and machine space. For example, scaling down a 4cm cube by 50% decreases material usage by almost 90%.
When you're scaling down, make sure details stay above the minimum tolerances required by the selected material. Another thing to keep in mind is to leave fitted parts to their original size. You wouldn't want your egg cup to be good for only sparrow eggs.
To print models affordably on very expensive machines, we carefully nest together hundreds of models in a build. This means that instead of making your model smaller, you can tailor your design so that we can fill up any empty space inside it with other parts.
We're only able to put parts inside openings of at least 40mm across. If you have hollow areas with openings close to that size, then making them a bit bigger can make a huge difference in the cost of your model. The Machine Space visualization within Shapeways 3D tools will help you verify when you've made a void big enough for a cost reduction.
When hollowing your models, be mindful of the required minimum wall thickness of 0.7mm for our Versatile Plastic.
While material volume is the primary cost of other materials, with Versatile Plastic it's only one part of the calculation, and usually not the biggest one. With this in mind, thinning walls and wires may not be worth the loss in strength on your design.
However, if you find that a specific model is strongly impacted by the material volume, you can always explore creating thinner walls and wires by re-evaluating your wall and wire thickness as well as wall thickness carving. Again, keep in mind the material guidelines for Versatile Plastic such as the required minimum wall thickness of 0.7mm.
We want to ensure that every part of your design is treated with the time and care that it deserves. With multi-part models, that additional time means additional cost, and with high part count models it can get quite expensive. We've worked with our community to come up with some clever ways to make your multi-part models cheaper by making them easier for us to produce.
Definition of a Part: A part is a piece of a model that can be picked up and handled separately from other parts. For example, two earrings are two parts, but a chain with twenty links in it is only one part.
If your parts all have holes through them, consider putting them on a loop. Putting your parts on a key-chain style loop ensures that we check, plan, handle and ship your product as one part. Good candidates for looping are lightweight parts with a common hole like rings, gears, and nuts.
Pro-tip: When you loop your parts, we can no longer orient them individually, or space them out for you. Take a look at the guidelines below to help you design your loop. Putting large/solid/heavy parts on a loop will break the wire, and trigger a canceled model.
For multi-part designs you intend to print in our basic (unpolished) White Versatile plastic, our Part Count tool within Shapeways 3D tools gives you the ability to add a mesh wrapper, called a sintershell, around your model. The idea behind sintershells is that we'll check, plan and process the wrapper and it's contents as a single part, reducing your labor cost.
We'll charge you labor for only one part, but the sintershelled model will use more material and space in the machine. On designs with many small parts, adding a sintershell may lower your cost, so it can be a great option to experiment with particularly for puzzles, building blocks, and assemble-it-yourself sets.
Though it may help to reduce your cost, the sintershell makes it harder for us to fully clean and inspect all the individual parts in your model. It's intended for DIY-ers who don't mind a little elbow grease when their package arrives.
We don't automatically pack the parts in your sintershell, so pack your parts close together to decrease costs but remember to keep at least 1mm between parts to prevent them from fusing together.
Please Note: Yield rates on sprued parts are often very low, introducing production delays and potentially preventing your product from moving out of First to Try. For this reason we strongly recommend using the above methods instead whenever possible.
Sprueing your parts presents some unique challenges at quality checking for our manufacturing teams. For particularly complex geometries, it becomes challenging to ensure your sprued structure is completely intact with all of its parts before we ship it. For best results with spruing, use it sparingly, use thick wires, solid connections, and attach every part in a least two places.
Each finish in our Versatile Plastic Family has its own minimum and maximum requirements that can be found on the Versatile Plastic Material Information Page.
Of course, if you have any unanswered questions, please contact us. We're always happy to help.