How to automate 3d printing quotes

News/Update
July 19, 2023
How to automate 3d printing quotes

Overview

  • What are 3d printing quotes?
  • Why should you automate 3d printing quotes?
  • How to automate quotes for 3D printing service providers?
  • How does quote generation work?
  • 3 biggest challenges of manually generating 3d printing quotes
  • 3 key benefits of generating automated 3d printing quotes

Introduction

The increasing popularity of 3D printing has garnered the interest of many people who want to try out 3D printing. With over 5.6 million results for do-it-yourself videos on YouTube and TikTok for 3D printing, the demand has never been higher. Not only for casual users for also but it has also become increasingly popular as a means of manufacturing and prototyping, with many businesses and individuals using the technology for various purposes. While 3D printing can offer significant benefits, the biggest challenge faced by 3D printing service providers today is generating quotes. This can be time-consuming and may require substantial effort. Consider that the average customer will generate over ten quotes for every order they place. This becomes a severe challenge for 3D printing bureaus that need to generate 1000s of daily quotes. In this blog post, we'll look closely at how automated quotes work and service providers and bureaus can use them to streamline their order collection process and drive more revenue.

What are 3d printing quotes?

The starting point of a 3D printing quote is the 3D model file. Factors like the material, model complexity, post-processing, and labor add to the final cost. For the 3D model, first, the model's total volume, including the generated supports, is calculated. The total volume determines much material is needed to 3D print the file. The larger the volume, the higher the cost. There are techniques to reduce the cost of 3D printing, one of them being hollowing your model, but that's a separate blog post (watch out for it). Done correctly, a 200 cm model can have less volume than a 50cm model if the 50 cm model is solid on the inside, while the 200 cm model is hollow. That is why it's extremely hard to generate any estimated quote without analyzing the 3D model file. The most common 3D printing model files have the extensions STL, VRML, OBJ, and 3MF. We'll revisit quotes in detail later in this blog post, so keep reading till the end.

Why should you automate 3D printing quotes?

Automated quotes can solve this problem by streamlining the process of obtaining quotes and making it easier for your customers to place a print order. However, as with any manufacturing process, getting a quote for a 3D-printed part can be a time-consuming and tedious task. This is where automated quote generators come in. A business operating system that can collect order details and quickly (and accurately) generate quotes can enable higher revenues. Request-for-quote (RFQ) automation tools use algorithms and pre-set parameters to calculate the cost of a 3D print based on various factors such as material, size, and complexity. Automating this process allows businesses and individuals to save time and effort, allowing them to focus on other essential tasks. Generating an automated quote for 3D printing typically involves the following steps: first, the user will upload their 3D model file. Then input information about their project, including the size and shape of the object they want to print, the material they want to use, and any other relevant details. The software or platform then uses an algorithm which analyzes all this information and uses it to estimate the project's cost. In some cases, the user may be able to specify additional preferences or requirements, such as the color of the filament, or opt for expedited delivery. Using an automated request-for-quote (RFQ) generating tool like Phasio will take care of all the steps involved.

How to automate quotes for 3D printing service providers?

If you are running a 3D printing business, one of the biggest bottlenecks in your business growth can be the time it takes to generate quotes manually. Streamlining this process, especially for lower-order value prints, can have 100s of hours per week in wasted time. For example, spending an equal amount of time processing a $20,000 order as you do on a $100 order. Businesses needed to find a way to better streamline the process for specific projects. Now, there are several ways that companies can automate their 3D printing quote process:

  1. Build a tool in-house: This may be a good fit for you if you have an in-house software development team and are processing over $10-15M in annual orders. A simpler starting point could be collecting order parameters in an online form, and transfer it to Excel or Google Sheets, and then manually writing the formulas needed to generate "ballpark" quotes.
  2. Use a 3D printing service: Many 3D printing service providers offer online quote generators that allow you to get a quote for your 3D printed part quickly. Upload your 3D model and specify the material and other parameters, and the service provider will generate a quote for you. Tools like Digifabster and Phasio fall into this category.
  3. Integrate an automated quote generation tool in your website: If you run a business with orders higher than ten daily orders, you should consider integrating 3D printing software with your website and your business software. The result is a streamlined quoting process that quickly generates quotes for your customers. Phasio offers an integrated storefront that embeds within your existing website in under 30 minutes. Our tool also helps you with order management and has an integrated CRM tool for covering all your business needs in one single platform.
  4. Use a 3D printing marketplace: Another option is to use a 3D printing marketplace, such as 3DHubs, PrintAWorld, or Shapeways. These platforms connect you with a network of 3D printing service providers, allowing you to get quotes from multiple sources and compare prices easily. You can then pass a quote to your customer based on this.

How does quote generation work?

Automating quote generation (RFQ automation) is a powerful tool for streamlining the 3D printing quote process. Using algorithms and pre-set parameters to calculate the cost of a 3D printed part, these programs can quickly and accurately generate quotes, saving time and effort.

Type of 3D printing technology

Depending on the technology used, like FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling), SLA(Stereolithography), SLS(Selective Laser Sintering), MJF (Multi Jet Fusion), and DMLS (Direct Metal Sintering). FDM devices are the most commonly available and affordable 3D printing technology globally, while DMLS tends to be the most expensive.

Material Used

For a quote generation tool, specifying the details of the material, like the price per gram, price per unit area, density, and available color variants allows for the generation of more precise quotes.

Precision

3D printing costs increase directly with the amount of precision required for a print. A solution that accommodates multiple precision settings will enable more accurate price quotes.

Infill

The infill defines the "fullness" inside a part for volumetric prints. It is a percentage between 0 and 100, representing a hollow object by 0% and a completely solid object by 100%.

Post-processing

This is the final step in the printing process, where the part goes cleaning, surface finishing, annealing, or a coloring process. For an accurate quote, the time and labor costs of this step also need to be included in the quote.

3 biggest challenges of generating 3D printing quotes

  1. Inaccurate manual quotes: Most 3D printing services start by using spreadsheets to calculate 3D printing costs. However, it is easy to make mistakes, such as typing incorrect numbers, putting in wrong formulas, or failing to include certain factors. These errors can be costly, especially if discovered after giving the client a quote. After all, no one like the (unpleasant) surprise of higher prices or longer delivery times. It is crucial to look for ways to minimize manual data entry, reduce the risk of human error when quoting, and avoid such issues.
  2. Long quote turnaround time: If your business frequently takes a long time to respond to requests for quotes (RFQs), it can lead to a decrease in profitability. The speed at which you can provide a quote can be critical in winning new business and maintaining good customer relationships. If you take too long to prepare a quote, you may lose business to a faster competitor or, worse, fail to meet the urgency of a new customer.
  3. Acquiring new customers: Most 3D printing service providers primarily focus on acquiring new customers and winning repeat business. One crucial factor in attracting new customers is how easily they can reach your business. Having a well-optimized website that makes it easy for people to order from you online can be an important element in increasing your revenue. While social media, email marketing, and paid ads can also help improve your business's online presence, your website and online store remain a crucial piece of the puzzle.

3 advantages of automating 3D printing quote generation

There are several advantages to using automated quote generators for 3D printing quotes. Some of the main benefits include:

  1. Time-saving: One of the most significant advantages of automated quote generators is the time they save. Rather than manually calculating the cost of a 3D printed part, you can upload the 3D model and generate a quote in a matter of minutes. This can free the team to focus on higher ROI tasks and streamline your workflow.
  2. Accuracy: Automated quote generators are also more accurate than ballpark estimates, as they use algorithms and pre-set parameters to calculate the cost of a 3D-printed part.
  3. Customization: Many automated quote generators also offer customization options, allowing you to tailor the quote to your specific needs and requirements. Such a feature is handy for unique or complex 3D printing assignments.

We hope you found this post informative in setting up your 3D printing shop. If you have any questions reach out to us directly at hello@phas.io

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