All the answers to the questions over the last 8 years about 3D printing and associated topics.
Why use 3D Printing?
The reasons for using a 3D printer is that you can create a 3D model of your Computer Aided Design without the need for tooling or specialist programming skills. You can choose from a variety of materials, and different resolutions to suit your application.
With the increased use of CAD many designers are either having a small scaled model made before production tooling is ordered to ensure the integrity of the design, or full size models to show their customers, to ensure they are going to be happy with the size, shape and form of a new design.
3D printing machines are optimised for speed, relative low cost and ease of use which makes them suitable for visualising designs during the conceptual stages of your design when properties such as mechanical strength is less important.
Colour can be introduced to a model in 2 ways, you can colour or render your model in CAD and export a VRML model, or you can send us an STL file and a document to show us the colours which we can then apply in our software.
How does the process work?
3D printing works by converting a 3D digital design into thin cross sections that are determined by the 3D printer software. This information is then sent to the machine where it starts to deposit material layer by layer, one above the other, thus creating a 3-Dimensional object. This process is called "Additive Layer Manufacturing". For a more detailed explanation and videos of the process please visit our explanation page in the 3D Knowledge Bank.
What is the typical despatch time?
This is dependent on the size of your model, which technology that has been chosen to 3D print your model, and how much post processing there is on the model after printing, and our workload at the time of ordering. Typically you can expect a model to be despatched 3 to 4 days working from receipt of order for our Standard service. If your model is more urgent then please let us know, and when we quote and we may be able to prioritise your model, it could take as little as 24 hours to ship.
How does 3D printing compare with other rapid prototyping technologies?
3D printing technology is cheaper, faster and more accurate than SLA and SLS machines, and with the added bonus of no nasty chemicals, powders or resins to handle it is better for the environment as well.
A typical SLS machine uses a layer size of 0.15mm whereas the Objet technology uses a 0.028mm layer size (that’s about half the thickness of a human hair!) so the resulting surface finish is superior to SLA & SLS technologies.
FDM on the other hand uses a 0.25mm layer size but uses an ABS plastic material which is ideal for living hinges and click fittings. Also SLA & SLS machines can only produce parts in one colour, whereas the Z Corp machine is unique in that it can print in multiple colours on the same component.
Each 3D printing technology has its advantages and disadvantages so have a look at our materials page to determine which technology will be best for your project.
Which file formats do we accept?
Our preferred file format is STL, which stands for "Standard Triangulation Language", but the following monochrome file formats can also be accepted:
- *.3DS - 3D Studio
- *.OBJ - Wavefront
- *PLY Stanford polygon file
If you only have .Step or iges files we can bring them into a CAD program and do a conversion for you, but this takes extra time and slow down the quoting process.
For colour printing the following formats are accepted:
- *.PLY Stanford polygon file Basic colours only
- VRML Virtual Reality Modeling Language Texture map and colour, GIS, FEA and colour assemblies
- *.3DS 3D Studio Full colour and texture mapped geometry
If you have any queries regarding file formats please contact us at email@example.com> or call 07957 862657 and talk to Brian.
Can you repair meshes?
Yes we can, we mainly use Materilise Magic's for checking and correcting faulty meshes. Sometimes it carries an extra charge, which is dependant on the number of errors in your mesh, and the time it takes to fix the model ready for printing.
If you want to minimise errors our tutorials section has some information on exporting STL files and checking your own mesh.
If you have a problem with a file, even if you are not going to get us to print it, please let us know and we will try and help. A typical example of this would be for printing architectural models when you have tight dealine and you need some expert help.
How can I pay?
You can pay by credit card or Debit card through our Sage pay gateway or if you are a business customer we can open a business account for you after your first order has been processed on a pro-forma basis. After this you will be invoiced after each job.
Can I pay by invoice or cheque?
Yes, if you are a business customer we can set up an account for you after your first order has been processed and you will then be invoiced after each job after we have a credit rating from Experian.
If you wish to pay for a one off job by cheque please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can arrange for your job to be processed once the cheque has been received.
Can I cancel once I have placed my order?
It is dependant on where your model is the manufacturing process. If we have started to produce the model or we have started repairing your mesh then cancellation may incur a charge. If we have not carried out any processing then cancellation may be possible, please email email@example.com as soon as possible if you need to cancel and we will let you know whether it will be possible.
Do we do discounts for higher volumes?
When we calculate the price of a model, we take into account the quantity requested, we will look at the volume of material used and the time it takes to print and post process your model and send you a quote. If you want to increase the quantity ordered we will re-calculate the price and in most cases higher volume will mean lower prices.
We actively encourage 3D printing for production items and will ensure discount prices apply accordingly, but it is up to each customer to assess the usage, as written in our Terms and Conditions.
The kind of items we have made for production recently are Printed Circuit board spacers, connector polarising pins, low volume bespoke boxes, retaining clips, hearing aid accessories, seat stops, game character, toys, awards and model car components.
I don't have a 3D digital model, can you still give me a price?
We now have a new service to help people who don't have CAD, we can convert 2D drawings or sketches to printable 3D CAD files. This will allow us to calculate the price for your model we need to import your file into our specialist 3D printing software.
Unfortunately there is no way of calculating the actual price without doing this, so we cant give firm cost without a 3D digital model, but we can help you decide if 3D printing is appropriate, so please send a jpeg or enquire to firstname.lastname@example.org or call me personally on my mobile 07957862657. We look forward to helping you get your 3D design printed.
What colours are possible?
This is dependant on the process that you require for your model. The white functional material is as its name suggests only available in white, whereas the multi-colour material has full VGA capabilities, so parts like the ones shown below are possible.
Can I have a model shipped to a different address other than my own?
Yes you can. Please ensure that your payment address is the one registered to the credit card you are paying with.
Do I have to pay VAT?
If you are inside the European Union (EU) and you are an individual unfortunately you will have to pay value added tax (or VAT) on top of the prices shown on this page, the current rate of VAT is 20%. If you are a business within the EU (excluding the UK) and you are VAT registered you will qualify for zero rate VAT as long as you can supply a valid VAT registration number including the country code.
The following countries are within the EU: (take a deep breath!):
Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, except the Faroe Islands and Greenland, Estonia, Finland, France, including Monaco, Germany, except Busingen and the Isle of Heligoland, Greece, Hungary, The Republic of Ireland, Italy, except the communes of Livigno and Campione d’Italia and the Italian waters of Lake Lugano, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, including the Azores and Madeira, Slovakia, Spain, including the Balearic Islands but excluding Ceuta and Melilla, Slovenia, Sweden, United Kingdom and the Isle of Man.
The following countries although in the EU are considered to be outside of the EU fiscal area and therefore are exempt from VAT: (not quite so big a breath!)
The Aland Islands, Andorra, The Canary Islands, The Channel Islands, The overseas departments of France (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Réunion, St. Pierre and Miquelon, and French Guiana), Gibraltar, Mount Athos, San Marino, The Vatican City
Outside of the EU there is no VAT charge, but your local customs may charge you additional fees that are specific to your area. The shipping company will collect this when they deliver your goods to you.
How much does shipping cost?
Delivery options for the UK only:
Standard Next Day Delivery: £7.50
For international shipping a typical example would be a 250g package to the USA would cost £20.00 for a 4 day delivery. The list is too long to put in the FAQ's so please contact us for price information on International shipping to where you live.
What is support material?
During the 3D printing process the part being printed needs to be supported. In Z Corp it is supported by removable powder, in Objet it is removed by a jet wash and in Dimension technology it is dissolved.
I don't want to use the website to request a quote, what can I do instead?
That's no problem, just email your enquiry to email@example.com> and attach your file(s) to the email. If your file(s) are over 10Mb then please use the free file upload service YouSendit where you can upload up to 100Mb.
Alternatively give us a call on 0845 533 3417 to discuss your project.
How are cost calculated? Are they dependent on volume of material/weight/size etc? Secondly, are there size limitations on materials and could they be painted etc?
We have nine 3D printing machines, 3 technologies with a forth just waiting to be ommissioned. As you have correctly anticipated the costs are calculated in a formula derived from entering the STL file into the printer software, the output gives us the volume of material used in the print, the time to print and we add any post printing costs to that calculation to establish a sales cost, we add time to fix the mesh before printing, also packing and carriage and then send you a quote. The limitations for a single build is the volume of the build envelope, the largest one being 500mm x 400mm x 200mm, but having said that we have printed 1000mm sculptures and glued them together and 700mm x 600mm plinth covers and again joined them by using adhesive. All the models can be painted if required but we do have colour printers that can print any coloured image on the model, as shown on our website.