How to: Quoting, Design Analysis, and Part Ordering

Posted On 02 November 2020 Matthew Hatch

Hello! We're here, right now, because we’ve revolutionised manufacturing once again with our all-new digital experience engineered with you—our customer—in mind. From quoting to production to quality control, we’ve rebuilt our entire manufacturing system around speed to help transform ideas to products and optimize manufacturing throughout the product life cycle, prototyping to on-demand production.

At the heart of the system is our new, user-friendly ecommerce platform for quoting and ordering. Its modern, intuitive interface was designed so you spend less time uploading, quoting, and ordering parts, and more time bringing ideas to market. And it’s a catalyst for new capabilities—more production options, multiple part configurations in a single quote, more of what you’ve asked for.

To get started, we want to show you around the platform a bit and highlight some of the key features around navigation, organization, collaboration, and other elements.

Navigation 

Sign in

Just hit GET A QUOTE in the upper right corner of on any protolabs.com page or SIGN IN to your account directly above it. From there, you can either quickly create a new account—we just need a few pieces of information—or sign in to your existing Protolabs account. After your first sign in, we’ll remember your info for future visits for easy one-click sign in.

Start a Project

Once signed in, you’ll arrive at your PROJECTS page. Welcome—it’s good to have you here. High five. Ready to start a project? Just hit CREATE A NEW PROJECT. From there you’ll be asked to name your project: insulin pump, metal bracket V2, aero heatsink_01, for example. Once you’ve named your project, click to CREATE A NEW QUOTE. Finally, select your service: injection molding, CNC machining, or 3D printing.

Upload a Part

Pretty easy so far, right? Now it’s time to upload one (or multiple) 3D CAD files, which you can do by browsing your saved files or simply via our drag-n-drop interface. We accept these file formats:

  • IGES (.igs)
  • STEP (.stp)
  • SolidWorks (.sldprt)
  • PTC Creo (.prt)
  • Parasolid (.x_t and .x_b)
  • ACIS (.sat)
  • AutoCAD (.dwg, 3D only)
  • Autodesk Inventor (.ipt)
  • CATIA (.CatPart)
  • Compressed folders (.ZIP) can contain any combination of the above model file types
  • Our 3D printing service can also generate a quote from a Stereolithography (.stl) file.

Configure Your Part Quote

Now that you’ve uploaded your CAD file/s to your project, just hit CONTINUE to start configuring your part with details like material selection, part quantity, finish, service-specific options, and things like ITAR requirements and special instructions. You’ll notice as we move through the new platform that everything from upload to configuration is much more intuitive, and much faster. When you’re all set, just hit ANALYSIS. You’ll receive an interactive quote with free design analysis often within 20 minutes Grab a coffee and check a few emails—we’ll be right with you.

Review Your Order

How was that coffee? Awaiting in your inbox will be an email from Protolabs that allows you to jump back into your project to REVIEW & ORDER your quoted parts. You now have real-time pricing and design analysis based on your selections. If you want to adjust part quantity and shipping—no problem. Updated pricing will be reflected in your quote. And with 3D printing, you can see instantly how changes in additive materials and resolution levels impact pricing.

New to the platform is a Receive By calendar; just choose the date you want to receive parts and see any cost implications. You also get complete shipping costs and tax provide at checkout, not after. This means no hidden fees so your quote is an accurate and trustworthy delivery on cost estimates. You can even share your quotes with colleagues or procurement teams. It’s a beautiful thing. But before checking out and ordering parts, we need to visit the heart of our platform—the automated design analysis.

Design Analysis

Simply stated, our design analysis provides feedback on the geometry of your CAD file to improve manufacturability. And in our new platform, design analysis has been enhanced to provide even more clarity on any design decisions. This analysis and any resulting design adjustments, in turn, can reduce manufacturing time and production costs. But hey, in some cases, your design may have no critical manufacturability issues. No required changes. Not even any suggested changes. You nailed it. But in other instances, you may need to make some tweaks. Within your quote review, you notice small green, yellow, and red icons at the bottom of your specific part quote that vary depending on the attention needed. Green? You’re good to go. But if you see yellow or red advisory icons, you’ll need to hit the VIEW ADVISORIES button to review the design feedback. We look at things like draft, wall thickness, hole features, and many other variables depending on the manufacturing service your using, and highlight features that are potentially troublesome. Any recommended changes are optional, but nonetheless, still recommended to improve manufacturability. Any required changes means you’ll need to update your part geometry based on the feedback and upload a new CAD file to proceed with your order. In some cases with parts that will be injection molded, for example, we may even provide a proposed revision that you can accept (or decline) to accelerate the ordering process. Still have question on our design analysis? Don’t worry, check our blog post that goes on a design analysis deep dive.

Checkout

When you’re part design is optimized and any modifications addressed, and your pricing and shipping details are in order, just hit CHECKOUT NOW in the REVIEW & ORDER page. Plug in shipping (add reference number, drop ship address, export docs) and billing info (pay with CC or PO), confirm the details, and hit COMPLETE ORDER. Depending on your chosen ship date, parts can be sent out in as fast as 24 hours and in your hands soon after.

That’s a quick look at how a pretty straightforward quoting and ordering process would work, but there are many other features, intricacies, and benefits found throughout the platform. Things that have been engineered to improve your entire buying experience. Things around organization and collaboration that we want to touch on before wrapping up.

Organisation + Collaboration

Organisation and Collaboration

If you enjoy a neat, clean, and orderly user interface, we’ve got some some good news—this is your section. Now that you have an account and have started creating projects, requesting quotes, ordering parts, you can organize your account by projects and build a parts library. So much better than sorting through piles of different quotes.

Have more parts to upload for quoting? As touched on earlier, you can load and configure multiple parts from multiple services—molding, machining, 3D printing. Again, this helps maintain order. Have an expired quote? No worries. You can easily access quotes that have expired and immediately re-price them.

We also retain any CNC toolpathing information from past orders so you can reorder and receive precise, consistent parts every time. How about revision control? That is tracked and stored so design versioning is much easier to access.

Searching for quotes and orders is painless via the search bar inside your PROJECTS page and with your Order History. Accessing any of the aforementioned design analysis that has been provided on quotes is seamless—find it right within your corresponding project. Supplying your own resin—you can even manage those directly within the platform.

We all know that teamwork makes the dream work so let’s close with a few collaboration tools now available to you. We’ve added a FORWARD QUOTE function lets you easily share quotes with collaborators like colleagues, managers, and procurement teams. Collaborators can adjust turn time, materials, finishing, and other options to see real-time pricing impact. You can also easily forward quotes to co-workers, collaborators, or whoever needs to be lopped in.

There you have it. If you’re a returning customer—thank you for your business. We know a new platform can sometimes take a bit of adjusting but hopefully the transition is smooth from our old system to new interface, and you find it just as user-friendly as we tried to make it. If you’re a new customer who has ordered from other manufacturing platforms before, you’re in for a treat.

Upload a part now, or check out a sample quote if you’re not quite ready.