Frequently Asked Questions

The purpose of this FAQ is to define common terms regarding product development. Click a category on the right to see information on that topic

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    3D Printing Guidelines

    STL (Stereo-lithography) 3D printing preserves intricate designs from high resolution files. This printing technology is perfect for 3D models with high detail. It is also excellent for printing functional, engineering prototypes.

    We have printed investment casting molds for Jewelry and sculptures. STL printing is not recommended for large models over 150 mm or 6 in (cubed) or high UV applications.


    A watertight mesh is achieved by having closed edges, creating a solid volume, so that if you filled your geometry with water it wouldn’t leak. This creates a manifold 3D model.

    One of the best ways to do this is to check normals’ and ensure face outwards. If any are flipped, the 3D printer will recognize them as holes instead.

    Be sure to check your internal geometry for any that could have been mistakenly left behind due to booleans.

    Source: Shapeways

    Non-Manifold geometry

    Non-Manifold geometry is defined as any edge shared by more than two faces.

    This can occur when a face or edge is extruded but not moved, which results in two identical edges directly on top of one another.

    When non-manifold geometry is present in a model, printers will have trouble reading the file

    You can typically repair this in your modeling program to ensure you end up with manifold 3D printing.

    Source: Shapeways

    Additive Manufacturing

    Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is the process of synthesizing 3D object data into successive layers of material, formed using computer control to create a physical object.

    Objects of any shape or geometry can be produced from a 3D model file. FILE2FAB produces objects using professional, in house desktop material extrusion and photo-polymerization machines.

    We have produced functional and visual prototypes, jewelry, sculpture and prosthetics for a variety of customers.

    Typically we can take a 3D model file and turn it around in less than 24 hours. More complex and larger scale orders can take 48 hours or more.

    We can print in transparent, rigid or flexible materials. Functional parts can be printed in tough materials that can be used directly without molding or casting.

    3D Printing

    3D printing is the process of synthesizing 3D object data into successive layers of material, formed using computer control to create a physical object.

    Objects of any shape or geometry can be produced from a 3D model file. We can use your file or we can create one for you.

    Our designers can work with any file format. Turnaround time is typically three to four days. An express service is available for shorter time frames.

    We can handle a one off part or a low volume production run.

    We print with professional material extrusion, laser sintering and photo-polymerization machines.

    Our engineers tailor the material and printing method based on your product specifications.

    Materials are tailored for appearance or functional prints.

    Technologies: SLA – SLS – FDM

    Materials: ABS – PLA – Nylon

    3D Scanning

    A 3D scanner is a device that analyses a real-world object or environment to collect data on its shape and appearance. The data is then used to construct high resolution, digital 3D models. The collected 3D data is useful for a wide variety of applications such as reverse engineering, prototyping, product design, analysis, gaming, virtual and augmented reality, orthotics, prosthetics and preservation of cultural artifacts.

    3D scanners measure the geometry of a physical part and convert it to a digital file format. The scan can then be used to acquire a digital base model of an object that can then be further 3D modeled or printed directly to a 3D printer. scan data is processed into a solid engineering file.

    Typical workflows include dimensional and structural analysis. Reverse engineering can be used on a part that has no associated CAD or drawing data. Typically these scans are used as a starting point for a new design.

    We can perform scans in our office or in the field.

    CAD File Formats

    We can open and save the following file formats. Others are available depending on the type of software you use.

    Software Based: (Direct) Solidworks, CADKEY, CATIA, Parasolid, PTC Creo, Rhino, Solid Edge, Unigraphics/NX.

    Solid / Surface (NURBS): 3DS, IGES, STEP, 3MF, SAT.

    Mesh Based (Indirect): STL, OBJ, FBX.

    2D Vector Formats: AI, PDF, DWG, DXF.


    STL File Format

    STL File Format (Standard Triangle Language) is a file format native to the stereolithography process. This file format is supported by many 3D software packages. It is widely used for rapid prototyping, 3D printing and computer-aided manufacturing.

    STL files describe only the surface geometry of a three-dimensional object without any representation of color, texture or other attributes.

    An STL file describes a raw, unstructured triangulated surface using a three-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system. Scale information is provided by the software that created the file. Preferred units are millimeters.

    OBJ File Format

    OBJ File Format (or .OBJ) is a geometry definition file format.The file format is open and, for the most part, it is a universally accepted format.

    The OBJ file format is a simple data format that represents 3D geometry as polygons with faces defined as a set of vertices. OBJ files can contain scale information.

    Unlike STL, the OBJ format retains texture and color coordinate information. Formlabs machines do not print in multiple colors or textures information so this information is discarded on import.

    Industrial Design

    Industrial Design (ID) is the professional service of creating products and systems that optimize function, value and appearance for the mutual benefit of user and manufacturer.

    Industrial designers develop products and systems through collection analysis and synthesis of data guided by the special requirements of their client and manufacturer.

    Industrial Designers prepare clear and concise recommendations through drawings, models and descriptions. Industrial designers improve as well as create, and they often work within multi-disciplinary groups that include management, marketing, engineering and manufacturing specialists.

    Source: IDSA

    Low Volume Manufacturing

    FILE2FAB’s Additive Manufacturing process creates cost effective, low volumes of end use parts on demand. Designers, engineers and artists turn to FILE2FAB for advanced additive manufacturing of professional grade parts with incredible speed.


    • Get to market quicker by having digital direct runs made in a matter of days versus weeks.
    • Perfect for products with volumes from ten to hundreds of units.
    • Minimize lost opportunity cost and shorten manufacturing time for your product.
    • Test your manufacturing process with a low volume run prior to mass production.
    • Per part cost is more competitive than injection molding.
    • Dramatically shorten your supply chain.
    • Produce and inspect locally vs internationally.
    • For complex part geometries that would be impossible to mold our process produces functional parts.
    • Eliminate inventory and shipping delays by fabricating parts on-demand.

    SLA: Printing

    Formlabs machines print upside down starting from the base and ending at the top of the model. Once the print comes off the printer, the model is detached from the build platform, given an IPA (90% Isopropyl Alcohol) bath, then UV cured to harden the resin completely.

    Once cured and cleaned in water the print is removed from the support structure with a combination of cutters, razor blades and files. Some pits and stubble typically remain on the model where the support structures were attached. Sanding, filing and resin filling take care of the majority of these blemishes.

    In cases where a model is too large to print or has a complicated structure, it is broken into separate parts and printed. Resin can be applied to the connecting surfaces of parts and UV cured creating a bond between the components in an assembly.

    Painting is the final step in creating fully realized prototypes. The Formlabs resin can be sanded, primed, painted or plated to create a realistic looking product model.



    SLA: Preperation

    PreForm prepares models in several minutes allowing quick upload to the machine for printing. Using PreForm we orient, support, duplicate and layout the model for optimal results.

    The model is oriented on a slight angle on the X,Y and Z axis to build a solid support structure and produce a proper print. A support structure is generated manually. Each point is placed in a position where the model needs it.

    Once the supports generate, a base is added to ensure accuracy and allow for removal of the part(s) once completed. The printers require the use of supporting structures which attach to the elevator platform to prevent deflection due to gravity and to hold cross sections in place.

    SLA: PreForm

    The Formlabs machines used by FILE2FAB are 3D printers that can build any volume shape using a series of slices created with the Formlabs PreForm app.

    Preform is a free app from Formlabs. It features a very simple to use interface and prepares files for Form2 printers

    The STL file is brought into the app as a mesh with scale defined by the software that created it. If there is an issue with the mesh PreForm alerts the user and tries to repair it by cleaning up small discrepancies like filling holes or moving vertices so they coincide. Most times these repairs are sufficient to produce a watertight model, but if unsuccessful the print can’t be sent to the printer.

    A successful mesh is visually presented within PreForm and the user can scale, orient, position and generate support for the model. The options chosen can be seen automatically on screen. PreFrom allows for the selection or resin type and Z height (resolution). Depending on the type of resin used, print Z thickness can be chosen from one of three categories. 0.100 mm, 0.050 mm, and 0.025 mm.

    SLA: Post Processing

    Once printed models must be post processed. Excess resin is removed, the model requires additional UV curing, the support structures must be removed. From here models can be sanded and painted.


    Urethane & Silicone Parts

    Urethane and Silicone molding (USM) is a cost and time effective alternative to 3D printing and injection molding. Tooling can be created in weeks, not months, at a fraction of the cost. Parts have identical color, feel and durability characteristics those that are injection molded. Finish and detail is much higher than 3D printed parts.

    Batches of parts can be created from a single mold. Multiple molds can be bonded together to create larger parts than the build volume of a 3D printer. Each mold can be used to manufacture hundreds or thousands of parts with the durability of finished products.

    SLA: Print Times

    Print time is determined by printer model, resin type and Z height. The machine needs to be fed a series of closed polygons corresponding to a specific Z-value.

    The Z value is the slice height for each layer as the build platform moves vertically during a print. Choosing a layer thicknesses of 0.100 mm provides a faster though less precise build. Layer heights of 0.050 mm and 0.025 mm provide greater levels of detail with a corresponding increase in print time.

    Once the operations are completed to the model, and the print command is issued, PreForm generates a series of closed 2D contours that reflect the options chosen by the user. Each slice is sent to the printer wirelessly.

    Once received by the printer, each contour is filled in with solidified resin as it is cured with UV light from a laser in the base of the machine. Once a layer is printed, the build platform moves vertically along the Z axis until the last layer is printed.

    An average sized model with a 0.025 mm layer height can have several thousand layers and require 12 or more hours to print.

    SLA Printing

    Stereolithography (SLA: also known as Optical Fabrication, Photo-Solidification, Solid Free-Form Fabrication, Solid Imaging, Rapid Prototyping, Resin Printing, and 3D printing) is a form of additive manufacturing technology used for creating models, prototypes, patterns, and production parts in a layer by layer fashion using photopolymerization, a process by which light causes chains of molecules to link together, forming polymers.

    Formlabs Machines print objects from the ”bottom up” by using a vat with a transparent bottom, and focusing an ultraviolet (UV) laser upward through the bottom of the vat. Form2 printers start a print by lowering the build platform to touch the bottom of the resin-filled vat, then withdrawing upward one layer thickness.

    The UV laser then writes the bottom-most layer of the desired part upward through the transparent vat bottom, and the photopolymer hardens selectively where the laser strikes. Then the vat is “rocked”, flexing and peeling the bottom of the vat away from the hardened photopolymer; the hardened material detaches from the bottom of the vat and stays attached to the rising build platform, and new liquid photopolymer flows in from the edges of the partially built part.

    The UV laser then writes the second-from-bottom layer, the vat rocks again, the newly hardened material peels again, the build platform is raised again, more liquid photopolymer flows in, and the process repeats for each layer in the desired part.

    The advantage of this bottom-up mode is that the build volume can be much bigger than the vat itself, and only enough photopolymer is needed to keep the bottom of the build vat continuously full of photopolymer.

    Often a depth of only a centimeter or two of liquid photopolymers is adequate to print tall, thin structures.

    Source: Wikipedia

    STL Printing

    FILE2FAB prints on Formlabs Stereolithography (SLA) based 3D Printers. These printers use resin tanks that are exposed to UV light through a precision laser.

    The laser cures the resin layer by layer as the model is built in the z axis. Print speed is faster than Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers since the model is built layer by layer using light rather than a mechanical process.

    SLA prints have amazing resolution and unlimited design restrictions. They display fine details, sharp edges and a smooth finish. Available standard colors are limited to black, white and grey and transparent.

    Functional resins for engineering prototypes, and investment casting are available. A flexible material is also available in grey.

    SLA prints are ideal for printing intricate designs. Layer heights from 0.1 mm, 0.05 mm and 0.025 mm are supported. Layer height determines print time. Print time is proportional to layer height with smaller heights providing more detail.

    Z Resolution

    Z Resolution refers to the layer height of each print in microns. Finer layer heights result in much higher levels of detail, but print times increase due to the smaller movement of the work plane.

    Structured Light Scanning

    We provide precision structured light scanning services for 3D scanning and object digitization. Our scanning work-flow uses a non-contact process so that parts do not need to be modified in any way. This has been an advantage for customers looking to preserve objects without damaging them.

    Structured light scanners use ultra-high resolution cameras to create a massive point cloud of data. Our software then compares millions of these points and generates a precise and accurate virtual model that can be imported into a variety of CAD programs for further work and analysis.

    Our software expertise allows us to reverse engineer the virtual part into a manufacturing ready CAM file. Scans are typically 0.001 of an inch in accuracy. Our scanners capture a denser point cloud making them more accurate than traditional laser scanners. Our scanning projects range from small to large plastic and metal parts, sheet metal forms, molded parts, sculptures and intricate prototypes.

    Check out our Scanner Specifications for detailed info.

    3D Scan Workflow

    Scan to Mesh > Mesh Conversion > 3D print.

    Mesh data is very accurate creating extremely high resolution mesh files.

    Taking these large, raw mesh files and dropping them into a 3D printing application can be tricky.

    In almost every scan conversion we do for engineering projects like this we import the mesh data into CAD. From there we can create solids and surfaces that are extremely accurate with a much smaller file size.

    Once the solid data is generated from the mesh, any number of modifications can be made. The file can then be sent to a 3D printer or print service to be printed without any issues.

    The final files are yours exclusively. If needed they can be taken to any product engineer for modifications.

    Here is our suggested workflow

    High resolution 3D scan to mesh. OBJ, STL, or suitable file format.Import mesh and create solid model(s) from mesh contours and details.

    Produce production ready files for high resolution 3D prints.3D print an appearance prototype for inspection.

    Factors that can affect the pricing are print material selection, print time, engineering time for any modifications to the project.

    We can generate an exact quote once we have a more detailed conversation about the project.

    Reverse Engineering

    Reverse engineering is the process of extracting geometric information from a physical part and producing it digitally.

    The process involves 3D scanning or physically measuring a part, then analyzing it in engineering and design software.

    When source files, original parts or manufacturers are no longer available, we can reverse engineer them.

    Once the digital file is created, we can add features or make unlimited changes to the design.

    Our customers use reverse engineered files for manufacturing, competitive research, analysis, education and preservation.