Update: Shapeways has removed this from their marketplace. I'm trying to find out some more information but more than likely I won't be able to make this available again :(
A few months ago, Shapeways changed their pricing structure. This affects how they calculate the base price that I have no control over and like many other Shapeways designers, I found my models increased in price. Some by a few pounds, some tripled in price. The one that jumped out the most was the TF2 sentry level 2 parts which were 3.5 times higher than the previous price making it pretty un-affordable. Some Shapeways designers were affected so bad, that they said they were going to have to close up shop and either move to another 3D printing service or quit the game altogether as they felt it put them in an unrecoverable position.
So what changed in the pricing structure?
Originally the pricing structure comprised of a handling charge (for the entire model regardless of how many parts) and the a fee for every cm³ of material used in the model. The new pricing structure now comprises of a handling charge per part (so if in the case of the level 3 parts there is a rocket silo plus 4 rockets, that counts as 5 handling charges even though they are contained within the same file), a fee for every cm³ of material used in the model (which they did reduce in comparison to the previous fee prices) and also a fee for every cm³ of machine space it takes up.
They said these changes will allows them to print 75% of Strong and Flexible models cheaper but it seems all my models seem to fall into that other 25% where they have either not benefited or seriously been affected negatively :(
What can be done?
On the pricing structure change, nothing can be done. There have been comments from what I can see where people are in the same position as me, but the pricing structure is here to stay. Looking at this from Shapeways point of view, I'm sure this makes perfect sense because at the end of the day they are a business and they need to make sure any incoming funds outweigh outgoing.
It seems Shapeways advice on this is generally, "connect everything with a sprue, this will make everything one part reducing the handling charges". Whilst that will technically work, I feel like this is a bit of a cop out and is a backward step from a designer point of view and a consumer point of view. The purpose of a sprue in traditional casting is to provide a route for liquid material to flow through the mold and to reduce air bubbles. It does interconnect all the parts also so you don't lose things (i.e. like some Warhammer model kits) I'll give you that, but that's a minor part of why a sprue is used traditionally.
A fantastic advantage of SLS, is you can print things without sprues or other support material as they have the surrounding powder providing all the support you need. By forcing designers to add in sprues to reduce the handling costs, it means consumers then need to use tools to prepare the parts prior to assembly if it has any moving parts..
You've had your rant Psychobob, I'm bored of it. Now what?
Frankly, I'm going to add in that sprue :( As much as I don't want to, this is the only real way of reducing the prices. As things currently are, they aren't affordable. So I'll have to sacrifice the "ease of assembly straight out of the box" for "cheaper to purchase with some work out of the box needed". It's annoying as it reduces the parts handling costs, but at the same time increases the material used cost (the sprue counts as chargeable material) and the machine space costs (the sprue can't be placed too close to the model so it can be more easily removed by the consumer, this increases the space it takes up in the printer).
This means when you receive the items, the sprue will need to be cut away and then the "nubs" left behind will need to be filed/sanded away. I have of course, done my best to place the sprue connections on flat and easy to access places to make the cleanup procedure easier.
- Level 1: This will actually be unchanged. Adding a sprue only served to increased the cost of the piece no matter what I tried.
- Level 2: This is the one that will need the sprue and the extra work. The sprue will need to be cut away and the "nubs" will needed to be filed down. I have reduced this from 38 to 3 "parts". I opted to making this three instead of 1 as there wasn't a good place to add a sprue connection point on those two wire blocks without making the consumer do so fiddly and careful sanding on them. I have tried to reduce the machine space as much as possible also now that Shapeways have begun to start charging on that in order to bring the costs down more.
- Level 3: Like level 1 it will be unchanged. This too only increase the costs not to mention would make this more difficult for the end user as there are no easy flat areas to add sprue connection points without "sealing" the model which would increase the material costs.
With this the level 2 pieces should be back in the affordable range again, albeit, require a little more work when you receive the item.
Some quick notes and tips on what needs to be cut away when you receive the level 2 pack
- I strongly recommend using some cutters instead of a knife as it will be a lot safer, but it can be done with a knife too if you're careful. Again, cutters are my recommendation.
- When cutting away the sprue, cut higher up leaving more of the sprue attached to the part when making the first cut, then go back and cut the excess off from the part when it's free from the other parts. This will reduce damage to the parts giving you cleaner results (as you have greater control over the cutting).
- The image belows shows what the parts should be once the sprue has been cut away to give you a rough idea.
The rough order I recommend in cutting away the sprue is as follows:-
- Cut the sprue at the back of one of the gun barrels. This separate the gun barrel for you.
- Repeat the previous step for the remaining gun barrel
- Cut the sprue to separate the gun barrel mounting plate
- Cut the sprue to separate the canister cover
- This should leave all the bullet clips on a sprue connected to one another. Cut each of the bullet clips away
- If you followed my advice from before, you left a generous amount of sprue still on the pieces. Trim these back with the clippers as close to the surface as you can get and then finish rubbing them down with a small file or some sandpaper. The sprues were attached to flat surfaces so it should hopefully be an easy job with a bit of sand paper or small filing set. They are then ready for painting or further sanding if you want to give it a smoother finish in general
My level 2 model has been updated on Shapeways to bring the price back down which you can find from the main shop link here. This will ensure you can see all the latest versions of all the models I've made.