Frequently Asked Questions

FDM 3D Printing FAQs

What is FDM 3D Printing?

FDM stands for Fused Deposition Modeling which is one of many different additive manufacturing (a.k.a. 3D Printing) processes. An FDM machine works sort of like a CNC machine, but picture a hot-melt glue gun instead of an end mill. In other words, it dispenses melted material, which immediately hardens (or “cures”) upon contact with the build tray. The FDM builds parts in layers, starting with the base layer and adding material until the part is complete.

What can an FDM model be used for?

FDM models are great for engineering testing and checking the functionality of your part. The material used in an FDM machine can match that of your final product, i.e., ABS, polycarbonate, and nylon. For a more "polished" looking prototype to be used for sales presentations and the like, an SLA would be better.

What are your size constraints for FDM models?

The size of the build platform on our FDM machine is 14"x 16"x 16", but if your part is larger than that, we can print it in pieces and assemble it all together using proven techniques. We also work with partner printing providers who have larger platforms.

How do you determine the price of an FDM model?

The most important factors in determining price are the volume of the part (how much material is needed) and build time (how long it will take the printer to build the part). Part structure can effect both and can be minimized or strengthened depending on your needs.

Do I need a CAD file to order an FDM model?

Yes. The FDM uses a CAD-generated STL file to determine the data for each layer of the model. Broadview can convert files from most any CAD platform free of charge. If needed, our engineers can repair your file or turn your 2D sketch into a full 3D CAD model (for an additional fee).

What materials can you print using FDM?

Our FDM machine can print parts in ABS M30, ABSi, ABS M30i, ABS ESD7, ASApolycarbonatePC-ABS, PC-ISO, PPSF, Nylon 12, and ULTEM 9085. Each material serves a different purpose. For material specifications, please click on the material name. If you need help deciding which will work best for your project, please get in touch and we'll be happy to help!

What colors can you print using FDM?

Our standard colors are black for ABS M30 and Nylon 12, or white for Polycarbonate. We can source different colors in ABS, but it would likely increase your lead time by a few days–options are: natural, white, dark grey, red, and blue.

What tolerances can your FDM print to?

Accuracy can sometimes depend on your part's geometry, but usually we can meet an accuracy of +/- .005 inches or +/- .0015 inch per inch, whichever is greater.

What finishing options are available for an FDM?

All FDMs are finished the same way. We simply remove any support materials and pack it up for shipping. If you need a nice surface finish, you might consider ordering an SLA part.

What do you mean by “support material”?

When you are 3D printing a part, the liquid material always needs to land on some sort of surface–it is not possible for the material to be suspended in mid-air (not yet anyway). The FDM builds a support structure in those empty spaces using a different material which gets dissolved in a solution after the part comes off the machine.

What is your typical lead time for an FDM model?

As a rapid prototyping shop, our goal is to have your part ready in less than 3 business days. If you need it in less than 3 business days, we can usually accommodate you. We will always specify a delivery date when we quote your project, and inform you immediately if we run into issues.

SLA 3D Printing FAQs

What is SLA 3D Printing?

SLA is short for Stereolithography and it is one of several additive manufacturing (a.k.a. 3D printing) processes. An SLA machine uses a laser to cure molten resin into a solid part, one layer at a time. The molten resin comes in a large vat with a honeycomb-like tray upon which the part is cured. As the laser cures each layer of resin, the tray moves down into the vat to get a fresh layer of resin for curing. At the end of the build cycle, the tray comes back up out of the liquid and reveals your completed part.

What can an SLA model be used for?

SLA models are perfect for use as sales samples, trade show displays, and custom display pieces. The surface is easy to work with, which makes them ideal for various finishing processes. Once finished, your model will look and feel like your final, post-production, finished product.

Although SLAs are not quite as strong as FDMs, they can still be a good option for form and function testing in certain situations. The clear SLAs may yellow a bit over time, but the industry is working to correct that.

What are your size constraints for SLA models?

Our SLA build tray is 13.75” x 13.75” x 15.75”, but if your part is larger than that, we can usually print it in pieces and assemble it together using various techniques.

How do you determine the price of an SLA model?

The most important factors in determining price are the volume of the part (how much material is needed) and build time (how long it will take the printer to build the part). The Z height of your part makes the biggest difference in build time. Finishing processes also contribute to the cost.

What finishing options are available on an SLA?

The options are endless. We can match any surface finish or texture you want. Some common finishes are:

  • Standard - remove supports, sand to 220, bead blast

  • Mold Ready - remove supports, sand to 320, remove exterior build lines (smooth surface)

  • Painted - remove supports, sand to 320, remove exterior build lines, paint in any color (color matching available)

  • Engineering Clear - remove supports, sand to 320, remove exterior build lines, apply clear coat

  • Aesthetic Clear - remove supports, sand to 600, remove exterior build lines, seal with clear coat

What materials can you print using SLA?

Our SLA prints with a synthetic plastic resin. We currently carry Accura Xtreme White and Accura Clearvue, which is translucent. We also offer Somos Perform, which has a high heat tolerance and low viscosity, making it perfect for making temporary injection mold tooling.

What do you mean by “support material”?

When you are 3D printing a part, the liquid material always needs to land on some sort of surface–it is not possible for the material to be suspended in mid-air (not yet anyway). The SLA builds a very thin support structure, similar to scaffolding, which is easily broken away after the part is finished.

Do I need a CAD file to order an SLA model?

Yes. The SLA uses a CAD-generated STL file to determine the data for each layer of the model. Broadview can convert files from most any CAD platform free of charge. If needed, our engineers can turn your 2D sketch into a full 3D CAD model, or repair your CAD file.

What tolerances can your SLA print to?

Accuracy can sometimes depend on your part's geometry, but usually we can meet an accuracy of +/- .005 inches or +/- .0015 inch per inch, whichever is greater.

What is your typical lead time for an SLA model?

As a rapid prototyping shop, our goal is to have your part ready in less than 3 business days. If you need it in less than 3 business days, we can usually accommodate you depending on your finishing requirements. We estimate delivery when we quote your project, and inform you immediately if we run into issues.

Urethane Casting FAQs

What is your urethane casting process?

We start with a master model of your part. This could be an original part that you need to replicate, or more commonly, we use a 3D printed SLA based on your CAD data. For a replication, we would remove any paint or flaws on the surface. In the latter scenario, we would usually use SLA technology to print the master and sand it down to remove any imperfections and create a smooth surface. Once the master is prepared, we build a wooden box (in two halves) large enough to fit the part, leaving a margin around it. We then pour molten silicon into one half of the box and press the part down into it. We allow the silicon to cure and then pour the second side. When both halves of the mold have cured, we remove the wood, and proceed with the casting process using our new mold.

Our master molders mix up the material to suit the customer's needs (durometer, color, etc.). Once it's mixed, they have to get it into the mold quickly before it hardens. To do this, the two halves of the silicon mold are clamped together, and a syringe is used to shoot the material into the mold at specific points. The mold is then placed in a pressure pot to cure.

When your part is ready, our model makers carefully remove it from the silicon mold and clean it up, removing any flashing, and finish it to your specifications.

What if I don't have a physical part or a CAD model?

No problem! Our engineers can turn your sketch into a 3D CAD model. Or for more complex parts, we partner with a company that can scan a physical model to create the CAD data, which then has to be refined before sending to the printer.

How many parts does one urethane casting mold yield?

The answer to this question depends on many factors. We can usually get about 50 parts from one mold, but sharp edges and deep undercuts can cause the mold to wear faster. Surface texture can also adversely affect the longevity of a mold. Really simple molds can sometimes yield more than 50–it just depends on the design.

We can also build multiple cavities into your mold to increase yield. We keep all of our masters on-hand too, just in case you ever need to order more.

What are the size constraints for cast urethanes?

The only factor limiting the maximum size of a cast urethane is the size of our pressure pots, but we can usually glue smaller parts together using 2-part epoxy. Our two largest pressure pots allow for a mold that is 30" x 20" or one that is 45" x 18". Keep in mind that molds need about a 1" margin on all sides.

On the flip side, cast urethane features can be pretty small. For example, a fingerprint in the mold would show on a final part (our molders would never allow this to happen). Minimum wall thicknesses should be between 0.02" and 0.04" depending on the design of the part. For things like logos and lettering, we usually tell customers that there should be a minimum of 0.050" between features, and the radii should be at least half of the overall height of the feature–the larger the better.

How long does the urethane casting process take?

Again, this depends on the design of the part, but we typically can provide first shots within 4 to 8 business days. Once we have a mold ready for your project, it only takes a day or two to shoot parts (depending on the quantity and design). We estimate delivery when we quote your project, and inform you immediately if we run into issues.

What finishing options are available for cast urethanes?

Finishing options for urethanes are endless. We can cast clear or tinted lenses that will pass optical testing, add texture or paint, etc.

What considerations need to be made when designing for cast urethanes?

Any part that can be injection molded can be cast in urethane. If you are planning to translate your design into another production method, you should follow those guidelines. 

CNC Machining FAQs

What is your CNC Machining process?

We are a prototype machine shop. That means we quote projects differently from many other CNC shops. We usually provide a cost estimate, which can change as we get into the project

What if I don't have a Drawing?

No problem! Our engineers can turn your sketch into a 3D CAD model and/or dimensioned drawing. We can also scan a physical part to create preliminary CAD data which we can then turn into a usable CAD model and drawings.

Do you offer any Quantity price breaks?

We specialize in cutting custom or prototype parts, and or small batches. Rarely do our clients see significant cost savings with increased quantities due to the highly technical and manual nature of our shop setup.

What is your lead time?

Depending on the size and complexity of your order, we can usually turn projects around in 3 to 4 weeks.

Engineering Services FAQs

What CAD Platforms do you run?

We specialize in Pro-Engineer/Creo, SolidWorks and AutoDesk Inventor. Depending on your project, we can convert files between platforms as needed.

Do you provide full time engineers via contract?

Yes. Our engineers are available to work full time on-site or remotely from our office–whichever works better for you. And they always come with CAD stations and licenses.

Do you take on full development projects from start to finish?

Yes. We can assign as many engineers to your project as needed and work as a team to help you launch your product.

Do you contract to hire?

Unlike many contract firms, we try to hire engineers who prefer to hop around on different projects and want to be part of the Broadview team long-term. However, our engineers do get hired by our customers on occasion. If that happens, we are happy to negotiate a finder’s fee that works for everyone.

 

Still have questions?

Visit our contact page to get in touch with one of our helpful staff.