Setting indicative prices for Nylon SLS 3d printing is notoriously complex.

Some price purely on the volume of the part, so if you need multiple items, the volume can add up very quickly and the price goes with it. Other pricing models are based on build height and then add only a handling charge for additional objects built within the same height as the tallest object. This can be more affordable, however it’s extremely difficult to quote for this without seeing the object and the multiples in question.

One of the glories of SLS 3d printers is that they can create multiple jobs within the same build run, not only side by side, but also one on top of the other. This means that prior to running the machine, all of the objects to be printed have to be packed in to the volume of the build chamber prior to generating the slice data that the 3 printer works from. Software has generic “nesting” functions, but these only currently work well with fairly regular rectilinear forms. Therefore, most of the packing has to be done manually which can be a very laborious process as we try to fill the build chamber in the most efficient way.

Similarly, when the 3d printer has finished, there is the often laborious stage of sifting through multiple parts, ensuring that all of them have been retrieved, processed and then the sorting of them in to the relative jobs in order for them all to be dispatched to the correct customer.

Noah's Traditional Loading Method - Two by Two
Noah’s Traditional Loading Method – Two by Two

It occurred to us that this system was not unlike traditional shipping cargo handling. Items of cargo (the 3d CAD files) were individually loaded in to the hold of a ship (the 3d printer’s build chamber.) The ships then sailed to their destination (the 3d printer’s build time) and upon arriving, the ship’s hold was then individually unloaded on to the docks, moved in to warehouses and then distributed to their recipients (the de-powdering, post processing and delivery of the 3d printed parts)

From the mid 1950s, shipping cargo handling was revolutionised by containerisation, which transformed dockyards around the World. Standard sized rectilinear metal containers were introduced that were then systematically stacked in the hold and on the decks of enormous container ships. Larger ships could carry more, more efficiently. Distributors could fit as much of whatever they liked in to these standard volumes. The docks could now be mechanised using enormous cranes and the old warehouse buildings were made redundant as each container was in effect it’s own protected warehouse which could then be stacked one on top of the other.

Ships take whatever time they take to sail between destinations, so there’s little to be done about the duration of this element of the process. However, containerisation revolutionised the efficiency of cargo logistics at either end. We thought that something similar could be achieved with the 3d printing process based on the same principles.

Standard Basket Containers
Standard Basket Containers

D2W are now offering standard prices for digital basket containers of varying sizes.

For the benefit of customers, this allows you to print however many objects that fit in to a specific sized container. This allows you to print multiple versions of your design simultaneously, or multiple different objects, all for a fixed price. This system also offers an opportunity for groups to consolidate a number of different projects in to the same basket in order to gain the most economical parts. Therefore schools, students, hobbyist groups or simply friends, can benefit by using the largest volumes to achieve the very best of the basket prices.

The benefit to D2W is that multiple parts are contained and packed at both ends of the printing process.

We can neatly stack the different digital containers inside the build volume and then once the printing is complete, all of the parts relating to a specific job are contained in the basket that has been built around them. The basket design of the containers allows us to shake out the unsintered powder and then wash or bead blast the parts clean through the open sides of the basket. The customer then takes delivery of the container which can then be broken open to reveal the parts. Printing them inside a container also adds additional protection to the objects if they are being dispatched to you. We will still box them and pack out with bubble wrap, but the basket will add an additional layer of protection.

We have designed a range of 12 different basket volume .stl files which you can order at a set price. You can then download a CAD volume that represents the precise space available for you to fill inside the basket. Import the volume in to your design file and pack the objects within the volume as closely to one another as possible (no closer than 1mm please.) Please click on the Vimeo image below where you can view the packing process. Once you have done this, then send the file back to us with all parts and the volume remaining as separate objects. We will then check the parts, fix if necessary and then transfer them in to the requisite digital basket. When we see your parts, if we think that there’s a more efficient way of packing them that would allow them to be built in a smaller basket, or if a larger quantity is possible, then we will let you know. We want you to get as much as possible out of your baskets.

Video illustrating the packing process
Video illustrating the packing process

The baskets come in 4 different heights, 25mm, 50mm, 75mm and 100mm. There are then 3 different sizes of each height, representing a quarter, a half and a full plan bed of the machine. These relative dimensions and their relationship to the build volume of the machine, mean that we can stack a selection of different sized baskets in a highly efficient way. Please visit the Nylon SLS Containers page of our website to view the volume dimensions and prices. Here you can also download files which represent the precise volume in to which you can pack your objects. So long as the objects all fit inside this volume (nothing sticking out of the sides) then they will fit inside the requisite basket. All that we ask is that no parts should be smaller than the aperture dimension of the baskets which are 9mm square. The purpose is defeated if the printed parts all tumble out of the baskets when we clean them!

The containers are not replacing our existing pricing method and we are still happy to quote using the old “Noah” system. The baskets won’t suit all projects and for larger individual items, it may still work out to be more economical when priced on an individual basis, so it is still worth using the SLS price estimator and then being in touch for a final quote. You can always request an individual quote and compare it to what you can achieve in a standard basket.

We anticipate that this system will lead to much less waste unsintered powder, as customers will be motivated to fill the baskets to their maximum potential in order to achieve the best value for money. We are also looking forward to playing dock crane drivers as we lower and then stack containers in to the hold!

We hope that this new alternative pricing system is simple to both understand and use, and that it opens up the use of high quality Nylon SLS to more people to make more great things!