Tips on optimizing your design file for lower costs
posted this on October 19, 2011 14:43
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.
The key thing to remember with laser-cutting is that you're paying for the *time* your design spends on the laser cutter.
"If it's your first time making something, start small with a P1 size material sheet. The smaller dimension will help constrain the amount of making time, and your material cost will be lower." ~ Yana
"When it comes to laser-cutting, the more complex and detailed your design is the more expensive it will be to make. So when you can, and especially for beginners, I suggest starting with simple designs that aren't too intricate." ~ Christina
"Print out your design on paper first. You could consider this a free and instant first prototype. It's the ideal way to spot sizing errors, see whether you've made holes big enough, and get a feel for what your final result will look like." ~ Josh J.
"For any new design, I often recommend making a cardboard version first. Cardboard is one of our most affordable materials, and the laser can cut it really quickly; so you can get an inexpensive test run of your design. Then when you're happy with the cardboard version, you can order your design in the material you want and feel more assured that it will come out the way you want." ~ Josh R.
"One thing to remember is that the laser cuts the material by burning it. So thinner materials will cut faster than thicker materials. The laser is also faster at cutting straight lines than curves." ~ Catherine
"Try to make all the pieces of your design fit together like a puzzle instead of scattered around the template. See if there are any pieces that could actually share a cutting line*. And put the rest of the pieces close together, but be sure to leave enough space for the kerf (how much material the laser burns away)." ~ Dan
*If pieces in your design share a cutting line, you must remove any "double lines" created by the overlap. Check our design starter kit for more info.
"Raster Fill Engraving is a very time consuming process, similar to how a dot-matrix printer works. For creating details in your design, I usually recommend using Vector Engraving instead. If you do use Raster Fill Engraving, try to keep the engraved areas as close together on the template as possible." ~ Josh J.
• Time = money
• For beginners, start with a small size material (P1) and a simple design.
• Print your design out on paper to spot any immediate problems with the design.
• Make a cardboard prototype. You won't regret it.
• Keep in mind that different materials burn at different rates.
• Fit the pieces of your design close (but not too, too close) together.
• Consider whether Vector Engraving is a better option than Raster Fill Engraving
The key thing to remember with CNC routing is that you're paying for the *time* your design spends on the CNC router.
"Instead of creating a design first and then choosing a material size later, design with the material size in mind so that your pieces make the best use of the material." ~ Dan
"Like laser-cutting, CNC routing is a subtractive process. So the more the machine has to carve away from your material, the longer it takes. Unlike laser-cutting, CNC routing uses a physical, rotating router bit to cut your design. So this process is best suited to simple, economical designs." ~ Josh J
• Time = money
• Design for the size of your material.
• Keep your design simple. The benefit of CNC routing is size, not detail.
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.