Save Money 3D Printing – Design Tips for Multiple Parts

Save Money 3D Printing – Design Tips for Multiple Parts

Today we have a really useful guest blog post from one of our awesome Featured Designers; Joseph Larson, aka  joealarson. While testing out how the pricing system works on Pinshape, Joe came across a simple way to save money 3D printing, for yourself and your potential customers, when printing designs made up of multiple parts. He managed to reduce the print prince by 79% using this method, so you’ll want to pay attention!

Saving Money on Pinshape, Sculpteo or Shapeways

by Joe Larson

I mentioned before that there’s been some learning involved in using Pinshape. Because Pinshape partners with Sculpteo to print your stuff, understanding how Sculpteo prices their prints, which is similar to how Shapeways prices their prints, is key in bringing prices down.

First of all, a big print is a big print. There’s little to nothing that will bring down the price of a huge model no matter what you do. Yes, making big objects a thin (2mm) shell and giving it a hole to drain build material is one way to bring costs down, but I don’t know any way to make my dice tower any cheaper. But there are tricks that can help my other models.

The cost from services like this is a per-volume cost plus + setup fee. So if your thing is made up of a lot of different parts and you print them all separately that setup fee is being paid on each part and ends up adding up quickly. But if you don’t mind if those parts are all printed with the same material, placing your objects in one model file with enough space between them that they don’t fuse together (about 2mm to be sure), a practice called “plating” on FDM printers, will save significant amounts of money. How much? Let’s find out.

Save Money on 3D Printing Doctor Who Pinshape Joe Larson

When I uploaded my Doctor Who pawns I uploaded them ala carte, as 12 different models. When uploaded that way the cost for printing them was a whopping $66.51. This for a handful of small pieces of plastic. So as an experiment I put all the individual STLs on a plate setup that would still 3D print happily and uploaded that and the price dropped to a considerably more reasonable $13.92.

Save Money on 3D Printing Doctor Who Pinshape Joe Larson 2

Then, as an experiment I wondered if I couldn’t decrease the build envelope by taking advantage the fact that SLS printing, the way Sculpto and Shapeways prints, doesn’t need to worry about build platforms and the like. So I flipped half the doctors upside down so I can nest the bodies closer and spent a little time cramming them as close as I could and still have 2mm between them. I didn’t want this to work because it means that my download would be a tough one for FDM printers (like the one I have) to print. I uploaded this crammed block of Doctors and the price came out to… $13.92, exactly the same as the plate.

So there’s clearly advantage to be had in pre-plating files, but less advantage in alienating home 3D printer folks. Which is good. So with this new understanding I’ve gone through and, where it made sense, lowered the price of many of my Pinshape models. Hopefully, maybe, in the future Pinshape can do the plating for you and save you money or multiple items you want to order.

But that dice tower will forever be pricey.

Want More Insight Into 3D Printing?

If you want to find more great tips like this, be sure to check out Joe’s blog, where he writes about all sorts of awesome things he’s figured out while using 3D printing.

Teach Us Something And We’ll Feature You Too!

Do you have something cool to say about 3D printing? Tell us about a great new project you’re working on, or teach our community something about how to improve their design skills, about 3D print technology, or how to improve their print results, and we’ll happily share it with the Pinshape Community!

Get in touch at connect[at] today!


Pinshape is a 3D printing community and marketplace where makers from all over the world can find and share their next great 3D print and help each other get the best results from their 3D printers.