What's Changing by Service Line: 3D Printing

Posted On 20 October 2020 Matthew Hatch

Protolabs’ new digital quoting platform is an exciting customer experience. It’s a completely new digital manufacturing platform that brings much more in functionality and reduces significantly the time it takes to get your products to market.

In this series of articles we’ll be exploring what’s changed by service line in the new platform. We’ll look in summary and in detail into what you can expect as you upload you CAD models, go through the quote and analysis of your parts, and place your order.

In this particular article we’ll take a look at the new platform for when uploading parts for 3D printing – Protolabs’ world-leading service for rapid prototypes and functional parts.

2.0 Sign in

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‘My Account’ will no longer be available with the launch of our new platform. Legacy users will be able to login using their existing email and password. All previously placed orders will be available in ‘order history’ and quotes placed from 30 days prior to the new platform launching will be visible in ‘project 0’. Users who have uploaded/ordered previously but hadn’t setup a password, will be asked to create one at registration. As with legacy customers, all orders ever placed and all quotes placed from 30 days prior to launch of the new platform will be visible.

When you are signed into the new platform you will find it’s a really simple interface. It’s easy to search for parts, plus you can organise current and archived projects.

Upload

In order to upload a CAD within the new platform it’s necessary to have an account,  if you don’t already have one, What’s really useful is you can now manage uploads in groups so you can clearly distinguish the various parts and their revisions – effectively giving you project management capabilities. You can even share uploads with colleagues, which is part of the forward quote functionality.

The system gives you the opportunity to upload additional documentation in support of a part, plus it gives you the capability to configure parts before analysis – saving you time further down the line.

Choosing your material is really straightforward, with a material guide and a simple process to select what you want. There’s also the ability to select resolution and an easier way to switch between stereolithography (SLA), selective laser sintering (SLS), direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), Multi Jet Fusion and PolyJet (inc 3D printed silicone). Pricing’s more visible too with price comparison between the resolution options.

The whole interface looks and feels different. It’s more intuitive and will help accelerate the whole process to order.

We accept these file formats for 3D Printing:

  • IGES (.igs)
  • STEP (.stp)
  • SolidWorks (.sldprt)
  • Stereolithography (.stl)

Part Configuration

One of the great benefits of the new system is pricing visibility. And that’s one of the key changes here. You can now more easily view options around materials, finish, print orientation, quantities, you can make price comparisons against all these factors and get individual pricing per part.

And there are a number of elements within the quote configuration that speed up and simplify the process. For example, it’s now possible to rename parts as you go through revisions to the design. This is a useful detail when managing your project as previously renaming parts could only be done on request. Also, if there are several part quotes in a project and one is holding up the order, it’s possible to remove that part and create a separate order with it. This helps ensure you get all parts created and shipped as quickly as possible, while making use of the quote batch functionality.

Revision control is easy as everything is tracked and stored, so earlier design versions are accessible. There’s clarity on the design decisions, too, with the forward quote functionality allowing visibility for multiple users. Collaborators can adjust turn time, materials, finishing, and other options to see the real-time pricing impact.

What’s more, the engineer can do all the technical work then pass it on to their purchasing department for them to complete the order.

Finally, there is support available to assist you in the technical quote configuration. This is accessible at login and consists of a ‘quick start’ guide, tips and updates, and live chat.

Analysis

The design analysis functionality in the new system is a more comprehensive tool, but it’s simpler and easier to use. There’s more transparency with your parts, and more communication so you know exactly the status of your parts.

One of the key changes is colour indicators. Your parts can have many statuses as they progress through the configuration, analysis, review, and approval stages. Each of these statuses has a corresponding colour code. Ultimately, the goal is to get your parts to the ‘Ready to Manufacture’ status, which is Green.

Red - Revisions Required / Unable to Manufacture: Unfortunately, we are unable to manufacture parts with a red status. Please review the manufacturing analysis to learn how you may modify your part design to match our manufacturing capabilities. Please contact us to review with our application engineers.

Green - Ready for Manufacturing: Green status parts have completed analysis and quoting, and do not require additional review or approval. You may checkout once all parts on a quote have reached this status.

The whole interface is cleaner and simpler, helping to speed up the analysis process. And if more detailed feedback is required, this can be requested in the ‘add a note’ field.

Order and Checkout

In the new system it’s possible to choose a delivery date through the ‘receive by’ calendar functionality and see the cost increase or decrease accordingly. This is a useful time-saving tool for cost management. The system will also break down shipment cost per part order, with no hidden charges at all.

Shipping outside the UK and the EU will require the completion of a questionnaire, but this is a simple task that our Customer Service Team can support you on.

Also, you can include your own reference number on an order and the page won’t time out so you won’t lose what you’ve inputted.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, you’ll be able to forward your quotes to colleagues. It means you can get multiple people to edit and confirm just prior to order.

Parts Received

The format of all identifications have changed in the new system – they will appear differently on the label, specifically the part ID, the quotation ID, the sales order ID, the production ID, the shipment ID and the purchase order number.

Also, if you’ve ordered a certified vendor material, it will be clearly labelled on the bag which certifications go with which parts.