When researching entrepreneurship, it’s common to hear about trials, unexpected expenses and ugly surprises. You know they’re coming, because they happen to everyone, and yet I was still caught off-guard. Here’s the story of my first.
I am very happy with my Industrial Designer, Loophole, whom I found via a referral. Our contract stated hours and iterations for a CAD design and related files. CAD files use the extensions .STL and .STP (or .STEP). I needed .STL files to 3D print a mold which would be used to create prototypes, and .STP files used to create a mold for injection molding the final product. My contract also included a provision that my industrial designer would print the prototype mold, if his 3D printer could handle it.
Based on this inclusion in the contract, I thought it was likely I’d be getting the mold with no additional cost, and it must not be a huge deal to 3D print if my CAD designer could include it for free. WRONG! It turns out his printer couldn’t handle this print, so he got a bid for me, $4,000! The initial CAD contract was $1,500, so this was a shock. A web research yielded a possibility to print the prototype mold for about $2,000. This problem is huge because I have no idea how many prototype iterations I’ll need to get the design and fit right. Estimates for my injection molds range between $5,000 and $50,000 so you want to get the prototype right before moving to the next step.
I needed a solution. One possibility was to skip building a mold and sinter print the prototype. If you’ve never heard of sinter printing, also called SLS or Selective Laser Sintering, it’s really cool and you can check it out via this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wD9-QEo-qDk. Unfortunately, sinter printing one prototype was about as expensive as printing the mold, so that solution wasn’t viable.
I settled on purchasing my own Creatlity 3D printer for about $700, which had its challenges. But that is a story for another post! This is a picture of my very own 3D printer!
Gem of wisdom: Ugly surprises happen, be prepared to take them in stride. And my favorite mantra, if it were easy, anyone could do it.