3D Printing Farms, like those that Slant 3D deploys are able to produce 10,000 of parts at a time. Easily matching injection molding on cost and time to market, while reducing risk. Every once in awhile we get to show off some of the projects that we are working on and discuss the process. Check out this conversation that our founder had on LinkedIn recently.
There is a misperception that Production 3D Printing means 100-1000 parts. Just a solution for bridging the gap between prototypes and injection molding. But this is far from the case. Mass Production 3D Printing is able to be more cost effective than injection molding beyond 100,000 pieces. And in many cases injection molding can never compare. But how is that possible. Let's go through it.
Per Part Cost
On average a single 3D Printed part is more expensive than a single injection molded part. But but by how much varies widely based on the design of the piece.
3D Printed parts can cost $0.25, $5.50, or 24.50 each. Higher volume makes them cheaper and simpler parts are lower cost to produce. This is really not that different than the per part cost of injection molding when you amortize the mold.
Now can 3D Printing ever match injection molding on price with enough volume. Yes it can. Think about the inputs. 3D Printing just needs electricity and plastic to make a finished part. Injection molding needs the same things.
At Slant 3D we have worked with many clients where the per part cost has been the same or less than injection molding into the 100,000's of parts. The higher the volume the more efficiently your part can be produced.
And a real key difference is that production 3D Printing can be profitable from the first part. Whereas molding has a large up front cost that requires the sales of thousands of units to pay off. Molding is high risk. 3D Printing is much lower risk while still being a similar or better cost.
Rarely when designing a product or looking for a manufacturer do people consider the rest of the supply chain. There is the cost to make the part and nothing else. But 3D Printing really allows for an entirely new supply chain dynamic.
With traditional manufacturing it is necessary to make a large quantity of parts in one go. And then ship and store those parts over a long period of time. Ford stores spare parts for their cars for 10-20 years. While it was cheap to mold them warehousing can account for 10-25% of the cost of a product.
A simple example would be a simple widget or toy. We will use a product from Angled.io shown below (retails for $19-25). To store this product in an Amazon warehouse would cost between $0.40-1.50 depending on the season. If they do not sell quickly then the warehousing would become about 3-5% of the cost of the product after just a few months. Imagine the carrying costs when you have to hold inventory for years.
Compare this to 3D Printing. A part only has to be made when it is ordered. Or in batches over time. There are no large production runs. This reduces warehousing to a fraction of what it was, reduces cash tied up in inventory, and ensures that supply always matches demand. While the per part cost of the part might be higher these saving often more than make up for it.
This is not always considered in monetary terms. But Risk is a big part of a product cost.
With molding you have to risk 10,000's of dollars in the cost of the mold before you can even sell your first piece. If people just don't want to buy it, then you will lose your entire investment.
3D Printing allows you to test the market. Even at very low volume (<100) you may be profitable or at least break even on each unit. And then as you grow your margins widen. But if the product doesn't sell you lose only hundreds of dollars not thousands. 3D Printing is exceptionally low risk because no part has to be made until it is sold. This is the fundamental premise of services like Angled.io
What is the cost of a delay or a shutdown. This is now known from covid, when manufacturing and shipping shut down. Local options became attractive. But even at that level traditional manufacturing is very fragile.
Most injection molding companies run 1-10 large machines making parts. If a machine breaks down, or even a operator goes home sick, a large percentage of capacity can go down and parts will be delivered late. Production 3D Printing farms are made up of hundreds of individual units. If a single one of them fails it makes no difference in production because there are ten waiting to replace one.
This makes production 3D Printing farms exceptionally reliable. Saving cost on shutdowns or delays from that single point of failure that traditional manufacturing suffers from.
So the short answer is yes, 3D Printing can produce millions of parts for the same or less cost than injection molding. Largely through the savings that it brings about up and down the supply chain from reduced risk and reduced carrying costs.
Hopefully this post has made that a bit more clear. 3D Printing is able to operate at scale without up front risk or long term shutdown issues. During the entire pandemic, Slant 3D never shut down. Our factories are too automated and efficient to require it. Our clients were able to continue to receive products instead of being caught in the limitations of overseas molding and storage.
Back in the beginning of April, Slant 3D was approached by Natureworks to do custom Golf Course hole markers for the Zurich Classic in Louisiana. The idea was to have two block tee markers with the Zurich Classic logo at the beginning of each hole so that when the event was broadcasted on television, the Zurich Classic logo would be seen everywhere.
When Natureworks reached out to us the Zurich Classic golf tournament was only a month away. This is why they looked into mass 3D printing the marker cubes with Slant 3D to ensure that they would be finished in time for the tournament and made affordably. There was no time for delays or mistakes in the manufacturing process. Slant 3D worked with Natureworks to design a 3D model of the hole marker and finalize a design. Natureworks was able to see exactly what the final product was and what it would look like without having the physical partl. Once the 3D model was approved, Slant 3D manufactured, assembled, processed, and shipped more than 1,000 parts within 2 weeks. A project that would have taken 30 weeks worth of print time was able to be completed in just under 14 days using the largest print farm in the world.
This would have been impossible with traditional processes. Using Injection molding the cost alone would have been 10-20x the cost of 3D Printing, if it could be done with such a large part at all. But the lead time would have also been 6-12 months.
We were super excited to work with Natureworks using their environmentally conscious material Ingeo. Ingo is a sustainably produced biopolymer with a small carbon footprint produced by Natureworks. Natureworks uses plants like corn and beets to transform greenhouse gases into long-chain sugar molecules, which are then fermented into lactic acid and used to create the material Ingeo. This process of making this specific type of PLA is only the beginning. Everyday the 3D printing industry is becoming more and more environmentally conscious and Slant 3D is happy to be a part of it.
Working with Naturworks and the Zurich Classic was a great project to work on and a great testament to how quickly and effectively we can deliver on a major time crunch. It also was an added bonus to see the products we manufactured on live television. If you have a project you would like to get quoted for contact us today to see how we can produce your product.
Production 3D Printing Allows for thousands of parts to be made very quickly. At Slant 3D we operate some of the largest 3D Printing farms in the world. This allows us to provide other companies with large scale 3D printing. Freeing them to focus on design, marketing, or customer relations without the cost of building 3D Printing factories themselves. We believe that 3D Printing is much like computer server farms. They are always present and important, but also invisible (You probably didn't know that Netflix actually uses Amazon Servers).
With our white-label 3D Printing service we often work with online marketplaces, stores and other 3D Print services. These companies get the benefit of large scale production at very low cost while still maintaining control of their brand and customer relationships.
More Capacity for 3D Printing Services
With partners like MakeXYZ we serve as an overflow and production partner. While MakeXYZ services many orders in house that come through their prototype service, they don't always have the capacity to meet large unit demands and tighter deadlines.
In this situation Slant 3D would be able to take on production of certain components and ship them directly to the client under the MakeXYZ brand. This gives MakeXYZ the ability to provide large scale production reliably to their clients but focus on other prioroties within the company. Slant 3D serves as backup infrastructure.
This same solution works well for marketplaces during seasonal rushes. At Christmas many online stores that sell 3D Printed objects can be overwhelmed by the demand. Again Slant 3D is able to provide overflow production for those companies over a short period of time to ensure they can fulfill all orders in a timely matter. This is very common for Etsy and Ebay Stores or other similar small businesses.
In all of these situations Slant 3D would be invisilbe. All packaging and Branding would be that of the marketplace or store that we are servicing. The end customer would never be aware of the difference.
Never Need Inhouse 3D Printers.
This is also very common for the online marketplaces. Many designers and product creators want to focus on design. Operating 3D Printers can can quickly become a drudgery, as well as a large expense.
Slant 3D is able to serve as the manufacturing backend through our whitelabel 3D Printing service. Producing parts on demand, placing them in custom packaging, and fulfilling orders. Customers only see the branding and identity of the marketplace. They will never know that the parts came from a Slant 3D facility.
This solution has been utilized by stores like Bakerstreet Cutters, which makes custom cookie cutters. Slant 3D stores custom packaging merchant and when orders come in they are fulfilled.
This is ideal for these stores. They are able to focus on new products while all production and fulfillment is kept out of sight and out of mind.
How to Do It
Plan for Preparation
It is important to note that preparation is key to a good white-label solution. If you are in a hurry there is a danger that parts will not be made identical to those made in-house. Slant 3D will need colors, print profiles, and accurate quality specs to ensure that we producing parts that match your brand and business.
If you want to explore using Slant 3D as a white label 3D Printing service then reach out to us through our quoting form. Include common objects on your store and include your expected volumes. An account engineer will then get in contact with you and we will work with you to tailor pricing and integration to your business.
3D Printing is on average less expensive than injection molding up to about 100,000 pieces. If you are making more parts than that in a production run then a mold might be advisable. (Though you should also consider the Just In Time Supply benefits of 3D Printing as well). But that is just an average. So what are ways to optimize a product for mass production with 3D Printing. Here are a few tips
This is by far the most important component, to 3D Printing or any other manufacturing process. Any product design has to be optimized to the 3D Printing process to be made the most cost effectively.
For FDM production 3D Printing the general rule is Fatter, Rounder, Thicker. This is often difficult for designers to adapt to. Injection molding is often the exact opposite (i.e. Thinner, flatter, straighter). But since 3D Printing allows so much control of the properties of a part, volume is irrelevant and the geometry changes often allow the 3D Printed parts to have better performance than a traditionally manufactured part.
Here are more details on design for FDM Production 3D Printing
3D Printing has no MOQ. You can make one piece or millions. And while this seems obvious any increase in volume decreases the per unit cost of production.
We are often asked by clients what are the volume cutoffs for price breaks. At Slant 3D there are none. Basically any increase in quantity decreases the unit cost. It is a curve not a set of stairs. And how steeply that curve drops the prices is entirely dependent on the product.
Since 3D Printing does not have to to produce an entire run of one part at a time the way injection molding does, we instead can produce partial runs of dozens of parts at a time. This not only ensures that a project can launch on time, it will in fact decrease inventory costs on the client side.
This is how it would work. A client might request 10,000 parts for the project. But they only need 1000 per month. Rather than producing all of the pieces in a bulk shipment, Slant 3D would dedicate a smaller amount of capacity to just making 1000 units per month and shipping on a set date. The benefit to Slant 3D is more predictability in production scheduling and the clients has lower inventory carrying costs since they only have 1000 pieces on shelves at any given time not 10,000 collecting dust. Thought sometimes extra shipping charges can offset the cost benefits.
Longer Production Time Using Excess Capacity
Plan ahead. Rushed orders are expensive orders. And while any project will have an expected timeline within the normal production flow, longer lead times can be great cost saving options. And 3D Printing allows these to be achieved much more easily without always delaying a project.
Historically most products have a defined lead time. This is because the client has to be able to plan the launch. And the manufacturer has to produce all the units in one go. 3D Printing is not so stringent. Especially 3D Printing Farms. We have hundreds of machines working on hundreds of projects at any given time. Each machine could be working on any of the active projects. For example, if there is a rush order, most of the capacity could be pointed toward production of that single order, and then the next day switched to the next order in the queue.
But even more common than rushed orders are intermittently used equipment. Since manufacturing is often cyclical some equipment may be unused or kept for overflow purposes. This is called "excess capacity." (Most factories seek to operate at at 85-90% capacity, the extra 10% is for spikes in demand).
If a project has no set lead time then it can be produced on that excess capacity. This allows production capacity to be utilized more effectively and decrease machine down time. The tradeoff is that at any time your project production could be usurped if that capacity has to be utilized for priority clients. So in return for allowing us to utilize our factories more effectively and possibly having a longer lead time, we are able to discount the machine-time component of production.
Slant 3D Helped Haddington Dynamics Produce Their Advanced robot Arms. Now they have Sold for 25 Million Dollars.
Haddington Dynamics started out with a Kickstarter for a DIY advanced collaborative robot called Dexter. The arm used a new type of control chip and advanced dynamics to attain very high precision at a very low cost.
The Kickstarter was successful with Haddington gaining $108,000 dollars in preorders. But there was a problem. They did not have the capacity to fulfill them. So they reached out to Slant 3D in 2017 and our large scale 3D Printing farms. So started a long relationship. Slant 3D ended up producing thousands of parts for Haddington that met the quality and scale that they needed as they grew. And along the way they transitioned from standard plastic components to Carbon Fiber Re-enforced parts.
Today we are very happy to see Haddington hit a new milestone by being purchased by British online supermarket Ocado. Haddington's technology will be deployed as a way to help with warehouse management and distribution.
Haddington was purchased for 25 million dollars in cash and stock and can look forward to having their 3D Printed robot arms helping to delivery groceries to thousands of happy customers.
Mass Production 3D Printing is a very affordable means of producing custom shipping trays and packaging. Since there is no molding cost, but a still a high production capacity, custom packaging solutions can be created for the same of less cost as traditional methods. And, and since it is always a custom solution the results are often better.
PCB's come in all shapes and sizes. Because of this transport can sometimes be difficult. The pieces need to be well protected (both from physical harm and ESD dangers). Very often PCB makers and chip manufactures will resort to traditional generic packaging solutions. Such as vacuum-formed plastic trays and injection molded ESD safe waffle trays.
But these have a limited viability. A chip may need special features to help with manufacturing or just a shape that works with a PCB that is outside the norm.
3D Printing can quickly create custom trays at volume without a long lead time or high expense. Generally it takes about a 1-2 weeks to complete production of several hundred trays. And depending on material the cost per chip for the packaging can be between $0.10 and $0.50, comparable to traditional solutions.
But since 3D Printing is a different process these trays need to be designed slightly differently. Here are some basic notes for your internal design teams if they are looking to design custom PCB trays. Though we also offer Design services if needed
Use Nubs or Tabs as Finding Features
Traditional designs would just have a peg with a hole to act as a finding feature when trays are stacked. This does not work with 3D Printed PCB trays because that would create an overhangin during printing. And overhang is a feature that juts at 90 degrees from a part, like the branch of a tree. Most trays are printed on end so finding pegs become that overhang.
The best alternative it to just a use small nub. This will will still prevent shifting without creating an overhang.
The other option that perfectly replaced the peg is a slot and tab. Just make certain to have the the them positioned parallel to the longest side of the tray (Again because the part will be printed with its longest side vertical on the print bed.)
Angle the Chip Slots if Overly Large
FDM 3D Printing is used to create these types of trays therefore there is a limit to how large of an bridging overhand, like the top of a chip slot, can be. generally if that upper surface is greater than 1 inch wide then this option needs to be used.
Basically, the rotate chip slots so that they no longer follow a rectangular pattern. Instead of squares they become diamonds. This eliminates the overhang and instead gives each slot a slanted roof.
This is a very simple rule. But it provides a huge advantage because it can reduce cost and improve quality at the same time. Just eliminate any sharp edge, and if a fillet can be made larger, make it larger.
Add Labeling and Branding
While 3D Printing requires some shifts in design thinking due to manufacturing limitations, there are a few things that it contributes that can vastly improve your product. Since there is no mold involved you can actually create features for free that were not even possible before. Labeling is one of those.
This labeling can be something as simple as the name of the company producing the chips, or information about the batch and chip name for us in production. An example of branding is shown below for one of our clients Silicon Mountain Contract Services
Not many trays are able to actually retain the chip in place so that it won't fall out. These features are exceptionally difficult to mold affordably. But with 3D Printing they are free to add.
Production 3D Printing can create exceptionally complex mechanisms, again without significant added cost depending on the cost. But for specialty applications systems can be created that control chips in just the right way so that they are not damaged but are released when needed in a production line. When working with Plexus we created a simple locking tab system that was able to hold the proprietary chips from the side but them lock open so that they could be removed on the factory floor.
3D Printing is very affordable and very flexible, it is an ideal way to create custom packaging solutions for PCB's or any other type of product. Why we have even done consumer packaging at times.
But the quickest way to find out if 3D Printing is right for your application is to submit a quote with your needs and specifications and one of our account engineers will be in contact with you soon.
Up until about 10 years ago, if you wanted to manufacture a product the process would look something like this
And this system has worked. It is why we have cases for our iphones. Why there are more clothes in the world than anyone can deal with. And why about 90-99% of hardware product-based businesses fail in the first 3 years.
In order to get rich making stuff you have to already be rich. The barrier to entry in manufacturing has been very high. You have to buy engineering skill, buy the molds, pay for storage of the parts, all before you even sell one. Compare this to what Zuckerberg did with a laptop in a dorm room on a weekend. All he had to invest was his time. Can manufacturing ever be like this? With 3D Printing it already is.
Let's take a look at manufacturing a part with mass production 3D Printing at Slant 3D (other production 3D Printing companies follow a similar process).
The reason this is all possible is because 3D Printing does not have any tooling. Each part is grown from just the raw material. There are no stamps or significant setup. It is a digital process. All we need to make a part is a 3D model of the part. Basically you go from idea right to production.
Now many people question the scale of 3D Printing. That is, how many parts can it actually produce at a time. That question really depends on the part. But let us us try to break it down a bit.
On a cost basis 3D Printing is generally cheaper than injection molding up to about 100,000 pieces. So if you are making more than that a mold should be considered. If you are making fewer than that 3D Printing is likely the #1 choice.
As far as the ultimate quantity, our Print Farm Beta facility is able to produce between 30-80,000 pieces per week, and that number continues to increase.
Though again this really depends on the part. Print time and complexity can all affect this. A bigger piece is more expensive than a small piece. A Carbon Fiber Nylon piece is more expensive than something made from PLA. And 100,000 pieces will be produced more cheaply per unit than 1000 pieces.
The best way to find out for sure is to get a quote. Quoting is free and you can use the information to compare to other manufacturing options. And your project engineer will work with you get reduce the cost and improve the product.
So how is a final product manufactured with mass production 3D Printing? And more importantly what is the development process leading up to final production.
Well, there are a few steps. Mainly there to ensure that the final product is within spec for the client. Mass Production 3D Printing offers much more control and variation than traditional processes. And since it is relatively new there are areas that we think it is important that a client understand early on which can reduce cost and provide amazing new opportunities if utilized.
With this post we hope to outline the general process and why it exists, and give mass production 3D Printing clients a "look behind the curtain"
If the title is not clear enough this post focuses only on the process of mass production 3D Printing. Which is generally longer and more intensive than prototyping 3D printing. If you just need a part made quickly for testing we recommend going to our prototyping service Twist 3D Printing
Submit a 3D Model
3D Model Type
This sounds simple but can be confusing, mainly because there are dozens of 3D model formats. And what is submitted might have limitations.
When we request a 3D model we prefer a .STEP, .STL, the original CAD, or a .OBJ file. And if you are sending a zip a dimensioned drawing with critical tolerances is nice icing on the cake.
A .STEP file is the strongest because it is immediately editable, and contains accurate dimensional information. It is pretty much the universal 3D model file. And the editability is also great because we can quickly implement slight modifications that do not change the function of the part but improve its manufacturability.
Original CAD files can be converted but not always, and they can delay processing of quotes.
.STL and .OBJ are often submitted by clients with a history in 3D printing. And these files are fine. But they have no universal units associated with them and can therefore be incorrectly scaled during processing. And since they are generally files that have been developed for 3D Printing they are generally focused toward the machine or process that they were prototyped on. Which means that tolerances may be off for the mass production 3D Printing method. And last of all they are uneditable. So these standard 3D printing files are the easiest to work with but can lead to many problems.
The need for a dimensioned drawings ensures that critical features are highlighted and the tolerances associated with them. This helps during the design review.
Overall, if you can send one of each file type that is great. If you submit a .STL make sure you provide the dimensions it was created it. Or just submit a .STEP file. If you have all the files to submit place them in a zip file.
If you have none of the files requested. Send what you have and we will work through it. But do expect a delayed processing
No 3D Model
This is not uncommon. But a 3D model is required in order to 3D print the product so one must be created. Fortunately we offer a 3D modeling and engineering service, so we can create your model for you. Our team can create anything from engineering models to creative character modeling.
3D Modeling is billing at an hourly engineering rate. The advantage of our team is that they are able to optimize your part for mass production 3D Printing, speeding up the process down the line.
If you are still indeterminant about what the final production process will be, then we do recommend hiring an independent design firm. Because our team's expertise is focused on 3D Printing, therefore should that not be the ideal avenue we might not have "all the tricks" for converting your model over to something like an injection molded format optimally. We are specialists and not explicitly a design firm.
When submitting a part there is always an option to "elaborate" on it its function and specs. While it is optional, due to confidentiality reasons, we highly encourage completing it for engineering and economic reasons. The more we know about your product and what it needs to do to function, the more we can help by offering advice about optimization and good design for additive manufacturing so you get the most bang for your buck.
Any file submitted to Slant 3D is kept confidential and will not be shared outside of the organization. Any employee of the company is required to sign an Non-disclosure agreement upon hiring covrting all projects within the company that they may interact with.
That company NDA is enforced upon all employees. But we will also sign NDA's put forward by clients. If you would like to have a 3rd party NDA signed before submitting files please either contact us first or send your NDA to email@example.com
The Quote for Your Mass Production 3D Printing
Once a file is submitted to use it is forwarded one of our design engineers. These people have some of the most in depth knowledge of mass production 3D Printing in the industry. We know this because Slant 3D operates the largest 3D Printing farms in North America. Once assigned the design engineer will be with your from the beginning to the end of your project and they will be the main point of contact.
The first thing that engineer does is quote your part. This will include slicing it and receiving estimates of material use and print time. The engineer will then use their expertise to optimize the process as much as possible at this stage and give a reasonable estimate.
The design and features are then fed to our quoting system which takes into account dozens of features about the part including capacity available, lead time, rejection rate, and of course material and print time to create a final estimate.
But we do want to emphasize that we do not always agree with the final quoting system. Design of a product and the optimization of it is a process that is so broad that there can be exceptions that our automated system can't deal with. That is why the design engineer is there, and we don't use a fully automatic quoting system. A good engineer can spot things that a computer can miss. And that leads to our next component
While the engineer and system are restricted to your design when quoting they will make design suggestions when the quote is delivered. 3D Printing is a new and often foreign process so we want to make sure that clients are able to utilize our expertise in the field to get the best result. There is no reason to hire a service if that service cannot lead to a more optimal solution.
So the engineer will offer modifications that can improve price, functionality, appearance, and manufacturability. These might be as simple as reminding a client that the best way to design for FDM production is to "Minimize surface area and don't worry about volume," an idea that is counterintuitive to those with a history in injection molding, to more detailed ideas such as adding specific features. The design engineer will also have the expertise to implement those design changes if necessary.
But this part is why it is so important to provide as much information about the function and critical features of the parts at submission. Without that information the engineer is not able to make optimal suggestions quickly. It is entirely possible that they could suggest something as simple as a different material to dramatically improve the economics. But if they don't know the function of the part then they must defer to the client entirely. Because the last thing we want to do it slow the process by changing your product. But we do think it is important to make our expertise available in every way possible.
When the quote and design review are sent over to you that is the first step of what will likely be an iterative process. Ideally the client will be able to implement any design notes that the design engineer offered and have the parts requoted.
Sampling is part of the process that we consider very necessary in order to ensure that reality match expectations. Again mass production 3D Printing is quite new and we want to be certain that client are getting what they want.
A roughcut sample is a piece that has not been optimized for production. That means that it is not final and is not representative of the final product.
So why do them? Well we use roughcut samples as a quick and often free way to illustrate a challenge with the part that the client should be made aware of. For example, it may show how support material could be converted into a functional feature of the part with a redesign.
Though we are often hesitant to create roughcut samples, because clients often misconstrue them as representative of the final product, and they are not meant to be. For example, while highlighting a feature like support material usage a roughcut sample might be made with a large layer height for the sake of speed. But the client might assume that the large layer height is somehow part of the final product as well, which it most certainly isn't. So we are cautious because these quick and dirty pieces can create confusion.
Shipping Time and cost can delay a project. And often mass production 3D Printing is used to shore up a leak in the manufacturing a supply chain. Much like in the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic. So to expedite this we can do photo samples.
These pieces are production ready prints of the part which are photographed in our studio to highlight every critical feature of the part. Some include caliper measures and color comparisons.
While not the same as holding a part these samples are quite common and can create some ease of mind when a part is ordered in a rush.
Regular Sample/Production Prototype
Of course we do these. But we call them a production prototype. Therefore a fee is applied that is a prototyping fee. At this stage we go though the full optimization process. It might include several iterations on the part finding the optimal process and tweaking tolerances. This is not a push-button part of the process. Therefore it can be quite expensive. While 3D Printing is most certainly more flexible than injection molding it is incorrect to assume that there is not still a setup process for a new part or product to make it just right.
The cost of a sample is the standard setup fee, plus shipping, plus the cost of the prototype of that part at the prototype quantity. Often these will be included in the first quote you receive.
Quality Control From Samples
There is a lot of possible variation in 3D Printing. There are different processes and an infinite control of part material behavior. Depending on application there is also a broad variation of requirement from clients. A bracket might not need to look good, but a vase must be immaculate. But those words are not quantifiable. Many clients will use "good surface finish," but that phrase can have wildly different interpretations based on their backgrounds.
Therefore we have adopted the "Eye Doctor" QC method during sampling. In most cases with new clients we will send multiple iterations of the same part to the client for them to evaluate. Some will be blatantly bad, some will be "immaculate." (Particularly in the area of appearance, tolerances after all are very cut and dry. "Look good" doesn't mean anything to an engineer.) When the client receives these samples we will use their feedback to establish a QC checklist that will be used during post processing in production to verify that parts are up to spec during production. This checklist might evolve and become more narrow overtime.
Unfortunately there are not currently universal engineering standards within the additive manufacturing sector. So this has been the best method we have to ensure that we meet the clients standards when each client is different, and the technology is incompletely understood or designed for.
The quickest way to create a sample is to print it yourself and iterate until your have what you want. That eliminates shipping, and Slant 3D providing iterations to choose from. It can also be very fast since shipping and communication lags are eliminated. The reason it is not general practice is because no 3D Printer or process is created equal. And there are costs in the machine itself as well as skill of operation. We have years of experience, your company may only use it causally.
But we have fixed this problem with our Mason 3D Printer. The Mason is a prototyping machine. But one that leads directly to production with no intermediate steps. Anything made on a Mason is identical to what will come out of our 3D Printing farms. This dramatically speeds up sampling because the client can do it themselves. And if they do not have expertise in a particular area your design engineer can prepare an iteration of the part and email it you to print on your Mason. So you get our experience and one of our machines to work with in your facility or business.
Our clients who use this model often have many products (such as in a toy company) or designs which change dynamically (such as factory tooling).
Adjustment of the Quote after Sampling
As we have said the creation of the production sample is an iterative process. There is experimentation that can reveal problems with the piece that were overlooked during the digital quoting and evaluation process. Therefore after a production sample is made and evaluated the quote made need to be adjusted, either from features we find or from client feedback.
Very often the design itself will change after samples are created. And every time the design changes the quote must be updated as well.
So the part has been submitted, the design has been optimized. The Sample has been approved. Now we are ready to actually make thousands of parts and really utilize mass production 3D Printing.
The payment method and structure will be decided during the quoting process. Generally it is quoted as payment upon order if the order is under a certain dollar amount. But that is flexible based on size of the order and the structure of the contract. 50% down and Net30 are common.
Note: The setup fees are applied anytime a design is changed or a production context changes. So the setup fee is billed at sampling and at production.
We Make the Parts
Not much to say here. We make the number of parts requested with the same specs as the approved samples. We do this by using fleets of 3D Printers.
Shipping can be done a number of ways. The most common are shipping in batches, just in time, and bulk shipping.
Batches are generally the fastest way to get parts, but can increase shipping costs. But this method can allow for the payment on delivery contract that spreads out expense over a longer period of time and allows for tighter control and iteration in between shipments. Remember 3D Printing allows for a design to be changed during production without a big uproar, just a refreshed setup fee.
Just in Time is often partnered with Slant 3D's fulfillment capabilities. When an order is made we are notified though a number of means and the part is printed and shipped. This can also include warehousing of inventory or just digital inventory. This is optimal for spare parts and high margin businesses where the cost of the single part can be higher.
Bulk Shipping, is just like injection molding. We make 100,000 parts and send them to you on a pallet.
The Baker's Dozen Rule
3D Printing is new. Things are overlooked and sometimes problems can slip through. Therefore at Slant 3D we have a "Baker's Dozen Rule" where we intentionally overproduce on nearly every job to make sure that there are spares and replacements. Just in case.
We Guarantee Our Parts
Once a sample is approved and we have shipped those parts we are responsible for those parts to your doorstep. If they are damaged in transit we will replace them. If they are not up to the specs outlined and agreed upon we will replace them. A supplier should not require oversight. The reason a company uses a supplier is because they think the supplier can do the job better then they could. If we can't then it should be taken inhouse. If we screw up we own it and pay for it.
Gabe was able to speak with Senior Industrial Designer John Mauriello of the youtube Channel Design Theory several months ago. But, due to a number of issues that we won't get into here, Making Products was delayed. But we are back up now.
It was a great conversation. During the discussion Gabe and John covered everything from trends and why shoes are a common project in industrial design school to reactions to the Tesla Cybertruck.
Check out some of John's videos at his youtube channel where he discusses Industrial Design practices and theory.
And get new podcast episodes on Spotify and other audio platforms.
This episode of Making Products was made possible by Angled.io