Marketing guru Seth Godin has an analogy he likes to call “The Quarter Inch Drill Bit.” In the analogy, he highlights that when a customer goes to a shop to buy a quarter-inch drill bit, they don’t really need a quarter-inch drill bit… They just need a quarter-inch hole. The drill bit is merely a means to an end; an instrument that they require to make a quarter-inch hole in the wall that can then be used to hang a shelf. Now apply this analogy to the world of 3D printers.
You could be on the market for a 3D printer, whether it’s for building prototypes, miniature figurines, hobby items, or actual products. Instead of splurging on a 3D printer, however, the folks at Xometry have a better solution – just use their printers instead. A global company based in Maryland, Xometry has a network of over 10,000 CNC manufacturers, 3D printers, molders, and other equipment that you can access. A whole lot easier than buying, maintaining, and upgrading your own personal 3D printer, Xometry’s online dashboard and Instant Quoting Engine let you easily upload your CAD files and have them printed just the way you want and shipped to your doorstep in a matter of days.
These hyperrealistic pumpkins were 3D printed on Xometry’s PolyJet printers
With its online dashboard and global presence, Xometry makes 3D printing accessible to pretty much everyone… without you even needing to own a printer. Working almost like the ‘Amazon’ of fabrication, Xometry simplifies the prototyping process to a handful of steps and gives you exactly the kind of quality you need, going from basic single-color prints to even detailed prints with as many as 600,000 colors (including those from Pantone, RAL, HEX, and CMYK libraries), and also home-delivers the results to you just like ordering something online. Quite like the way Uber makes transportation easy without owning a car, Xometry makes fabrication easy without needing to own any expensive gear or have elaborately designed spaces for it.
The printers allow for solid, transparent, and translucent prototyping
The 3D printers used by Xometry aren’t your average consumer-grade ones either. Xometry offers eight types of industrial 3D printing using top-of-the-line equipment from Stratasys, EOS, Carbon, Desktop Metal, 3D Systems, SLM Solutions, Concept Laser, and more.
Xometry’s 3D printing and fabrication services are used in an expansive range of industries, from design and engineering to architecture, automotive, aerospace, art & decor, and even the culinary industry. Their 3D printing services are even favored by large multinational corporations, the likes of Bosch, BMW, Dell, General Electric, and NASA, all of whom use Xometry’s platform to quickly prototype ideas to perfection without investing in expensive 3D printing equipment or massive fabrication/prototyping divisions… and honestly, you shouldn’t have to either. Xometry’s online dashboard makes it easy to just upload your design and generate a quote and delivery timeline for your final product. You can modify your process too, opting between regular or PolyJet printing, and choosing your print colors, quality, and material, saving time, energy, and money in the process. Don’t buy a 3D printer. Just rent the services of one out instead!
To put my problem into perspective, I made a 3D printer fund for myself in 2015 after working for a company that had a Makerbot Replicator 2. I loved the idea of making models and sending them to a machine that fabricated them for me. It’s been 5 years and my fund’s still growing, and I can sort of still afford a decent consumer 3D printer, but A. I can’t make up my mind, and B. I can’t help but wonder if this consumer 3D printer will ever be as good as a professional printer used by prototyping agencies.
It’s a good thing I never went on to buying that 3D printer, because owning a printer can often limit you to the capabilities of said printer. For designers who work across multiple industries and may require different processes and materials to really explore the true potential of design, it’s just better to hand off the expertise to, well an expert. It’s comparable to learning a new software and spending time and money trying to figure stuff out, versus hiring someone who has the software skills you need, saving you time and effort in the process.
Now I’m not knocking on 3D printer ownership, because people’s needs differ from occupation to occupation, and from hobby to hobby… but for designers and studios who just want to be able to fabricate without investing in a printer or picking up the skills involved, or like me, spending years wondering which printer is the right printer, companies like Xometry has a nifty solution. You do the designing, they’ll find you your manufacturer. Based out of Maryland and operating globally, Xometry has a network of over 4,000 CNC manufacturers, 3D printers, molders, and more. Using its intuitive dashboard, Xometry lets you tap into its network to get your needs fulfilled. I don’t use the Uber analogy often, but Xometry helps you get your designs made, instead of you fabricating them yourself with a self-owned 3D printer, much like Uber gets you from A to B, instead of you buying a car and driving yourself.
Xometry, just like Uber, uses AI to guide you through the prototyping process. Just like how you don’t need to liaise with a driver or coordinating and comparing prices, Xometry’s back-end AI algorithm handles it all so you don’t need to compare quotations and samples across a bunch of manufacturers. Anyone can securely upload 3D CAD files to Xometry’s Instant Quoting Engine and receive quotes within seconds for processes like CNC machining, turning, 3D printing, and sheet-metal fabrication. The dashboard lets you upload your model and choose quantities, materials, colors, and finishes (you can even be as specific as choosing the quality of the material or the specific alloy of the metal you want) and instantly generates a price quote and a delivery timeline, saving you the hassle of having to own your own 3D printer, or liaise with a manufacturing company and waste time in the process. Then, they ship the parts right to your door, often within days. It’s as smooth and convenient as ordering a part from an e-commerce website, so you can leave the fabrication to the experts and focus on creativity…
Xometry’s services aren’t just for designers. They work with architects, automotive specialists, engineers, planners, artists, decorators, and even culinary specialists. Democratizing and streamlining the process, Xometry helps offer high-class services to People who want quality but can’t afford to buy state-of-the-art equipment, as well as to industry leaders looking to quickly prototype their ideas to perfection… I mean, the fact that they’ve got Bosch, BMW, Dell, General Electric, and NASA on their client list should be a testament to their abilities, no?
Use coupon code YANKO25 for $25 off your first order of $100 or more through 05/15/2020. Offer is good on any process. Limit one use per customer.
Xometry is the largest marketplace for custom manufacturing, connecting customers with optimal manufacturing solutions through proprietary AI algorithms. Xometry provides on-demand manufacturing and industrial supply materials to a diverse customer base, ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies.
Xometry’s global network of over 4,000 partner manufacturing facilities enables them to maintain consistently fast lead times and pricing (in a matter of clicks, not days) while offering a broad array of capabilities, including CNC Machining, Metal/Plastic 3D Printing, Sheet Metal Fabrication, Injection Molding, Urethane Casting, and Finishing Services.
Xometry provides 24/7 access to instant quoting and manufacturing feedback. Their Dynamic Manufacturing Partner Network ensures consistently fast lead times, low prices and efficient delivery, and they provide live support from our project engineering team via email, phone, or online chat to help you get exactly what you need.
Their online Instant Quoting Engine gives you a CNC machining quote within seconds. Then they make your machined metal or plastic parts and get them to your door in as few as 2 days. Advantages of CNC:
– Custom Finishes. Select from a variety of finishes on solid metal and plastic parts, built to precise design specifications.
– Material Selection. Choose from over 50 metal and plastic materials. CNC Machining offers a wide variety of certified materials.
– Precision. Offers high-precision tolerances ranging from +/-0.001″ – 0.005″, depending on customer specs.
– Scalability. CNC Machining is perfect for production of 1-10,000 parts.
Metal 3D Printing
Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) is a metal 3D printing technology that builds prototype and production metal parts from a CAD file using a laser to selectively fuse a fine metal powder in either stainless steel or aluminum materials. A DMLS machine is capable of producing highly complex features and all-in-one assemblies using metal materials that would be difficult to achieve with subtractive manufacturing techniques. DMLS is often used as a substitution for aluminum or steel metal casting. Advantages of DMLS:
– Complex Geometry. DMLS produces parts that cannot be made using traditional manufacturing techniques.
– Efficiency. DMLS defies traditional Design-For-Manufacturing guidelines, so designs that would typically be made in assemblies can be made in a single piece.
– Strength. DMLS utilizes powdered metals with strong mechanical and dynamic properties, making it perfect for end-use parts.
– Rapid Turnaround. Metal 3D printed parts do not require tooling which reduces the manufacturing lead time from weeks to days, allowing for faster innovation and speed to market.
Plastic 3D Printing
Plastic 3D printing is one of the fastest and most cost-effective methods available for the iterative design, prototyping, and production of custom parts with Xometry. Rather than material being removed from a stock, as historically done with subtractive manufacturing processes such as CNC machining, 3D printing works by repeatedly layering small amounts of plastic to build a design from the ground up. This is done by providing the 3D printer with a three-dimensional digital design file, commonly referred to as a computer aided design (CAD) file. Once you have a CAD file for your design, there are a number of different 3D plastic printing methods that can be used to create your parts. Advantages of Plastic 3D Printing:
– Precision. They use the latest generation of 3D printing technologies to meet tolerances of +/- 0.005” or +/- 0.002” per inch for SLS and +/- 0.004″ or +/- 0.002″ per inch for FDM, whichever is greater.
– Scalability. SLS can make a single part or component as easily as dozens of production pieces, while FDM is capable of producing end-use parts on-demand, increasing your throughput.
– Rapid Turnaround. Parts can typically be shipped in 3-4 days, allowing for faster design iterations and speed to market.
– Durability. SLS nylon is a durable material with great impact strength, medium flexibility, and high resistance to environmental factors, while FDM printed parts are available in a variety of high-performance plastics for applications that require resistance to the elements.
– Complex Geometry. Geometries can be built more easily due to the 3D printing process, adding complexity without additional cost.
Sheet Metal Fabrication
Sheet metal fabrication is the process of forming parts from a metal sheet. 3D CAD files are converted into machine code, which controls a machine to precisely cut and form the sheets into the final part. Typical forming tools are brakes, punches, and dies which can form angular bends and features. Installing inserts, such as PEM inserts, is standard practice along with welding and finishing services. Sheet metal parts are known for their durability, which makes them great for end-use applications (e.g. chassis). Parts used for low volume prototypes and high volume production runs are most cost-effective due to large initial setup and material costs. Advantages of Sheet Metal:
– Durability. Similar to CNC machining, sheet metal processes produce highly durable parts well-suited for both functional prototypes and end-use production.
– Material Selection. Choose from a variety of sheet metals across a wide range of strength, conductivity, weight, and corrosion-resistance.
– Rapid Turnaround. Combining the latest cutting, bending and punching with automated technologies, Xometry provides instant sheet quotes and completed parts in as little 12 business days.
– Scalability. All sheet metal parts are built on-demand and with lower setup costs compared to CNC Machining. Depending on your needs, order as little as a single prototype up to 10,000 production parts.
– Custom Finishes. Select from a variety of finishes, including anodizing, plating, powder coating, and painting.
Urethane casting provides end-use, rigid or flexible plastic parts with production-level quality. Built without expensive and time-consuming hard tooling, our urethane casting process uses a 3D printed master pattern and silicone molds to deliver high-quality, short-run parts up to 30” long. The finished dimensions of urethane cast parts depend on the accuracy of the master model, part geometry and casting material. In general, a shrinkage rate of + 0.15% is expected. Advantages of Urethane Casting:
– Durability. Polyurethane cast materials are available in rigid or flexible end-use plastics. Urethane cast parts are generally as tough or tougher than injection molded pieces, and are significantly stronger than 3D printed counterparts.
– Material Selection. They offer a wide range of rigid and flexible urethane cast materials, from very soft and flexible (Shore A) to extremely rigid and impact resistant (Shore D). Parts are cast in a color that is blended to your specifications.
– Rapid Turnaround. Urethane cast parts are shipped within 15 business days, depending on order specifications and volume. By contrast, injection molded parts can take months to build.
– Scalability. Their casting process is optimal for low-volume production for quantities of one to several hundred. On average, a silicone mold can accurately cast about 20-25 parts. The maximum quantity varies based on part design and material cast.
– Color Matching & Finishes. The urethane casting process is capable of reproducing small details. Little to no finishing is required, because the desired textures and finish levels are applied to the master pattern.
Xometry delivers on-demand injection molded parts. Injection molding is the most cost-effective way to make a plastic part at scale and offers consistent quality for low-to-high volume manufacturing. Molding also has the highest variety of materials, colors, and configurations when compared to CNC machining or even 3D printing. Beyond materials, injection molded parts can have custom cosmetics, polishes, or surface textures. Advantages of Injection Molding:
– Scalability. Molding can be the ideal process for custom production runs of 250-25,000+ parts.
– Efficiency. In higher volumes, custom molding with Xometry produces significantly less waste than other manufacturing processes.
– Strength. Molded parts will generally perform better than the same part CNC Machined from the same material. Careful selection of the resins allow for a wide range of corrosion resistance and chemical and solvent compatibility.
– Rapid Turnaround. Using our vetted Partner Network, Xometry is able to produce top quality Molded parts in as little as 10 business days.
– Part Production. Piece price is significantly lower with Molding vs other processes, particularly as production quantities increase into the thousands.
– Precision. Molds are CNC machined to high precision, high tolerances and are able to produce thousands of identical parts with very small and intricate details.