3D Printing FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

Which File Types can I upload for an instant quote?

You can upload OBJ, STL or STEP files, these are the standard files used in the 3D printing industry.

Note: As STL files don’t contain information on what measurement unit was used to create the model, it is important that you know which measurement unit your 3D program uses in mm, cm or inches before you export it.

Once you have completed the export, you can upload a 3D design for printing and specify the measurement units in mm, cm or inches within the instant quote tool.

Can you print in colour?

Yes you can. There are an increasing number of 3D printing processes that can print in full colour with certain materials.

Typically, by comparison, this is a more expensive process and parts are not as strong.

Full colour printers are generally used for visual representation models rather than functional parts. For functional polymer parts, we believe it is better to 3D print them in a strong plastic material and add colour afterwards — either through a dyeing process for block colours or painting for an application-specific finish.

 

What material should I use for my project?

You can learn about our 3D printing materials and technologies on our materials page.

If you are unsure of what material to use, submit an enquiry with your project details and we can advise a suitable material.

Can I have a smooth glossy finish?

Not really. Not without any post processing. 

Most 3D printers a very stepped gloss finish.

How do I know if my 3D design is suitable for printing?

When you upload your 3D design for printing, we check each file for holes (non-manifold geometry) before production. This initial check is to ensure that your model is a so-called solid mesh – a model where all the edges of the polygons that build up the model are connected to one-another (manifold geometry). We also look out for issues with the design and will get back to you if any amendments are necessary.

Nevertheless, we highly recommend ensuring that your file meets the basic design requirements for 3D printing beforehand. If you’re unsure, visit our guide for detailed information.

Is 3D Printing Fast?

3D printing is fast, if you compare it to other methods of manufacturing, however, the quickest we can generally turnaround a print is about 24 hours. The process is not like using an inkjet printer, it is far more time consuming, remember that there are other factors like data preparation, machine warming and cooling, model cleaning, etc! Some things can be printed in a number of hours, but these are only tiny items, this makes it unlikely for you to be able to call up and collect a print a few hours later. We generally require 7-14 days for more prints (which is still fast for manufacturing!)

What is the smallest hole you can produce?

For short holes that are open both ends, around 2mm.

Are your materials certified food safe?

Im afraid not. Our materials have not been certified and therefore we would not recommend contact with food or drink

Can you print big things?

You can, if you are prepared to pay for it! The cost of 3D printing is based on volume of material used. Generally the material is expensive to buy, and the process is slow. This means big things can be expensive. 

Are 3D printed products strong?

It depends on your material.

The first factor is that there are lots of different types of materials, ranging from plastics to ceramics, metals to glass (we specialise in fused filament materials). 

If you are looking for strength, definitely, definitely use our PETg or ABS.

The Layers
3D printing is a layer by layer process, which means that you effectively have a grain – and where there is a grain, there is weakness, especially on thin features. The easiest way to visualize this is to imagine that your part is made out of Lego. If you make your wall very thin, you cannot easily break the wall by adding pressure from the top or down the length of it, but if you push from the side of it, the wall will buckle easily and break. This is the same with 3D printing – to get around it you can either orient the part at a different angle (being humans, we will always do this for you if we notice a weak point on your model, though it is not guaranteed that we will notice everything), or you can thicken the wall up considerably – just like if it were Lego.

We accept the following 3D CAD file types

  • Autodesk Alias (*.wire)
  • AutoCAD DWG Files (*.dwg)
  • Autodesk Fusion 360 Archive Files (*.f3d)
  • Autodesk Inventor Files (*.ipt, *.iam)
  • CATIA V5 Files (*.CATProduct, *.CATPart)
  • DXF Files (*.dxf)
  • FBX (*.fbx)
  • IGES (*ige, *iges, *igs)
  • NX (*prt)
  • OBJ (*.obj)
  • Parasolid Binary Files (*.x_b)
  • Parasolid Text Files (*.x_t)
  • Rhino Files (*.3dm)
  • SAT/SMT Files (*.sab, *.sat, *.smb, *.smt)
  • SolidWorks Files (*.prt, *.asm, *.sldprt, *.sldasm)
  • STEP Files (*.ste, *.step, *.stp)
  • STL Files (*.stl)​
  • SketchUp Files (*.skp)
  • 123D Files (*.123dx)