Optimize your 3D printing design file for lower costs

When making things with your Personal Factory, there are 3 costs involved: making, materials, and shipping.

Making cost is all about labor — mostly machine labor and a little bit of human labor. Think of your design file as a work order, a set of instructions for the machine to follow. The simpler and more efficient your instructions are, the less time it takes the machine to follow them. And that means less making costs.

Here are a few tips and tricks direct from the Ponoko team that you can use to optimize your design file and help get you the lowest cost possible for your project.

3D printing works differently. Making and material costs are directly linked. The key thing to remember here is that you are not paying for time, but paying for the total volume(measured in cm3) of your design.

"3D printing is an additive process. That means you aren't paying for a machine to take material away, but to build material up. So the less material your design needs e.g. the less volume, the lower the cost." ~ Rich

"As with any kind of making, you should make prototypes before you order a full size print in a pricey material. Choose the cheapest material e.g. prototype in White Plaster instead of Stainless Steel. Just make sure to choose a material with a similar minimum wall thickness." ~ Dan

"You can reduce your cost a huge amount by creating hollow models. Just make sure the walls of your design meet the minimum thickness requirements, an don't forget to add a drain hole for the unused material to escape." ~ Rich

"If for structural reasons you cannot create a hollow design, you may be able to create a lattice like structure instead of a solid form. Or have a pattern of holes in your design to reduce the volume. These techniques can also add to the aesthetic quality of your design. The cool thing about 3D printing is that complexity can actually lower the cost!" ~ Christina


• Volume = money.

• If you don't need material somewhere, eliminate it in your design.

• Make an inexpensive prototype. You won't regret it.

• Try reducing the volume of your design by making it hollow.

• Try reducing the volume of your design with a lattice structure, holes, or recesses.


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