Why use 3D printing?

3D printing is commonly utilized to save costs and bring products to market sooner. The product development phase often works as follows:

1] Concept is rendered on a computer and made into a digital file (a CAD file).
2] Prototype is cost effectively 3D printed from the CAD file before investing a great deal of overhead into manufacturing options.
3] Prototype is reviewed and tweaked accordingly until the final design is reached.
4] Product development phase ends and manufacturing begins.

3D Printing is a cost effective way to make something from nothing, quickly. You can move from CAD file to in-hand prototype, potentially in the space of 24 hours, without massive outlays for a mold and/or tooling costs. However, 3D printing is generally not cost effective for manufacturing high quantities, and that is why it fits within Steps 2 and 3 as a precursor to 4.


What is a CAD file?

A CAD (Computer Aided Design) file holds a design created on a computer. There are a variety of CAD software packages. Some CAD software creates 2D data, which will not work for a 3D printer. Others create 3D data which a 3D printer can then use to produce a physical model.


Can you explain 2D CAD vs 3D CAD?

A 2D CAD file may appear to have three dimensions on the computer screen, but it is actually a series of drawings. 3D files are generated from programs such as Solidworks and SpaceClaim. Almost all 3D software packages can export a STEP, OBJ, or STL file. Any of those formats are terrific options to send us. If you cannot export one of those formats, it is possible you are using a 2D CAD package. The best test is rotating the part. You should be able to toss and turn the part around on your screen, just like a character in a video game. If you cannot do so, it is possible you are working with a 2D program.


If I have an idea, can Incept3D make a CAD file for me?

We only specialize in the production. You would first need to have a designer create the CAD file for you.


What is an STL file?

An STL file is the CAD format that most 3D printers use. Specifically, STL files consist of many triangles that mesh together to make a part. More triangles will produce a higher resolution and nicer result. However, it’s easy to create STLs that have an unnecessary amount of triangles (more than could be seen by the human eye, much less captured by any machine). When in doubt, we recommend sending us a STEP (.stp) file and allowing us to export the STL on our end.


What are the best settings to use when exporting an STL from Solidworks?

If Solidworks is your software, click file, save as, and choose STL as your type. Click options, set output as binary, set resolution to custom, set deviation to .0126 mm (.0005”) or less, set angle to 5 degrees or less, and do NOT “save all components of an assembly in a single file” if you intend to have multiple materials on the same part. This will produce an STL at a resolution that is ideal for our highest resolution printers.


How much will my part cost?

Your price will be based on the time and material required by the machine(s) at hand. We do not incorporate file processing fees. For example, if you have twelve small parts, your total price will be based, as mentioned, on the time and material required to print those twelve parts vs charging you an unnecessary fee for each individual piece. We have intentionally avoided an instant online quote algorithm for that exact reason. We’ve researched these systems extensively, and it is our opinion that such systems must account for a large margin of error (never in the consumer’s favor). Furthermore, we feel these systems make it easy for companies to collect your money first and then deliver unfortunate news later (such as a file issue or a delay in the schedule). Someone will eventually need to manually inspect your part, and we’ve found it’s better to do that before you pay vs after. In conclusion, the best way to find out how much your part will cost is to submit it and let us take a quick look.