On Demand Design Engineering & Manufacturing | You3Dit

Learn with You3Dit

We believe that you should have the power to create physical objects...FAST.

The more you know about mechanical design & fabrication, the faster you can sketch, design and fabricate your projects; activating our global network of designers and fabricators to work for you!

Best way to do that is by learning. Thus we've compiled this list of valuable resources to help you get started. Good luck!

Protecting Your Inventions

DISCLAIMER: this is not legal advice. You should consult with an attorney before you make any important decisions regarding your ideas, inventions, products, etc. Much of what follows comes from through experience and in-depth conversations with experienced patent attorneys and our clients. We believe that making informed decisions will lead to better results across all facets of our prototyping and product development processes.

A great book on the subject is Patent It Yourself by Patent Attorney David Pressman. Much of what is below is directly cited from this publication which has been recommended to many folks in our community innumerable times.

Forms of Intellectual Property

  1. Utility Patents - the main type of patent, covers inventions that function in a unique manner to produce a utilitarian result.

  2. Design Patents - covers the unique, ornamental, or visible shape or surface ornamentation of an article or object.

  3. Plant Patents - covers asexually reproducible plants and is likely not relevant to anything you'd do at You3Dit.

  4. Trademarks - is any word or other symbol that is consistently attached to, or forms part of a product or its packaging to idenitfy and distinguish it from others in the marketplace. A trademark is a brand name.

  5. Copyright - another offensive right given by law, this time to an author, artist, composer, or programmer, to exclude others from publishing or copying literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, or software works.

  6. Trade Secrets - any information, design, device, process, composition, technique or formula that is not known generally and that affords its owner a competitive business advantage.

  7. Unfair competition - when one business either (a) represents or offers its goods or services in such a way as to potentially cause the class of buyers who purchase the particular type of goods or services to confuse them with goods or services offered by another business or (b) is unjustly enriched as a result of using the fruits of the other business's labor or creativity.

Making progress on patentability

  1. New, Useful and Non-obvious - this is the jargon patent attorneys and the USPTO use to describe patentable intellectual property. This is "new, useful and non-obvious" to someone of ordinary skill in the art.

  2. Teach how to make and use - any invention disclosure or patent application has to effectively and sufficiently "teach how to make and use" your invention without undue experimentation. This is sometimes called "predictable art".

  3. Application Submission Timelines - these are highly nuanced and you should consult with a patent attorney about managing this correctly. In general however, it's "first to file" in the United States and once filed, starts timelines on many other processes which you'll want to be aware of. International filing, international protection, full patent application filing deadlines, etc.

  4. Do the hard work - ideas are the absolute beginning of any product journey. Yes they're important but 99.9% of the work still remains in refining, prototyping, marketing, engineering, manufacturing, etc. Think long and hard about if you have the money, time, energy and grit to bring your product to market. If so, protecting your intellectual property is a worthwhile investment.

    Remember, if someone else develops "your idea" (which we can assure you, is happening while you read this), the hardest work is to bring that solution to market. Thus, you should thank these people by buying their product(s) because they solved the problem you had which likely catalyzed the idea in your head in the first place.

    Don't be discouraged, keep inventing, there's an unending number of problems to solve. While you focus on inventing, let us help you design and prototype.

Communicating Your Ideas

The better you can describe, illustrate or draw your idea / concept, the better you will be able to a) translate that concept into a Computer Aided Design (CAD) or b) communicate your idea to a designer. Here are some tools that can help you do that.

  1. Smartphone Apps - we use our smartphones more than we do our computers and there are several powerful smartphone apps that can help you quickly turn a picture into an informative sketch or a 3D object into a 3D scan (which can then be translated into a 3D Computer Aided Design), etc. Here are a few we recommend:

    Evernote: Skitch - allows you to take a picture and annotate it with arrows, text, etc. The customer in this job used Skitch to describe the broken part and what needed to be fixed. This is a free download.

    Adobe: Photoshop Express - Allows to quickly enhance your photos that you take and upload to you3Dit.com. Not only does it give your photos that professional and polished look, it also compresses the images so that your designs take less time to download on our page and are easier to upload as well.

    Instagram: Layout - This app does a nice job quickly combining multiple photos into one crisp, squre photo layout.

  2. Hand Sketching - (6:30)

    This nice short video from producttank Hand sketching prior to CAD will save you a LOT of time because 1) it is likely something you already know how to do, 2) it's much easier to change a sketch than a CAD model and 3) it allows you to quickly communicate your ideas to the client. This ~6 minute video has several tips for improving your sketching skills.

  3. Regular Sketching - (2:34)

    Download and print our You3Dit #Sketch2Solid paper here so you can help our designers have all the right views to best transform your idea into a 3D CAD design.

  4. Digital Sketching - (3:12)

    If old fashioned paper and pencil just isn't your thing, there are many digital apps to help you sketch. Here is a quick video describing some of them and how to get started. (coming soon)

  5. Clay Mockups - (2:30)

    Once you have your sketch concepts finalized with your client, it will help your CAD modeling out immensely if you can make a clay mockup to scan and import to your favorite CAD tool in order to trace.

  6. Product Requirements Document (PRD) by Bolt.vc w/You3Dit Updates

    This great PRD template from Bolt.vc will help you understand what information is needed to fully enable designers, engineers, fabricators, prototypers manufacturers and so forth to build your concept. While not an essentiat step to get started, it can be quite effective in communicating your ideas to others (as you've likely been thinking a lot about your product and things are "obvious" to you...but not necessarily obvious to others)

  7. Technical Feasibility Report Template by You3Dit Inc.

    Based on published formatting from MIT, this Technical Feasibility Report helps us help our clients make the best decisions possible about bringing new hardware product ideas to life.

  8. Engineering Drawings - (23:58) by InfinityMFG

  9. Communication tool throughout the design and fabrication process

    Acts as a contract between the designer and the manufacturer

    Establishes acceptable part quality

    Determines the manufacturing process

    Determines the inspection methodology

    Typically includes: Title Block w/Part Name, Company Name, Material, Designer Name, Inspector Name, Drawing number, Finish, Number of pages, Revision Block, General Tolerances, Scale, Date, Part Features, Part Dimensions, and more.

  10. Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerancing (GD&T)

  11. Communicates design intent and function for design, manufacturing and part inspection. More precise description of part features and focuses on feature-to-feature relationships. Governed by ASME Y14.5-2009 documentation, it's a combination of rules, methods, symbols and language that supports the effective communication of engineering specifications to manufacturers, fabricators and inspectors. Review the following links below to get up to speed and get your designs production ready.

    Part 1: GD&T Overview, 15:53, by InfinityMFG

    Part 2: Gauges, Dimensioning and Errors, 27:15, by InfinityMFG

    Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerancing Resources (SAE, ETI)

    Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerancing Skills Survey (Requires Flash)

Design Fundamentals

Take a look at any of the following resources to help you become a better designer in the world of 3D...not just for digital fabrication.

  1. Prof. Alexander Slocum's 'Design FunDaMentals'

  2. Prof. Michael Ashby Materials Selection in Mechanical Design. Link to educational resources

  3. You3Dit Template for Ashby Materials Selection Process. Link to Google Doc Template, Link to PDF

  4. Download a PDF of all the Asbhy Charts. Ashby Charts PDF

  5. Design for X Rules. Review and Contribute

Design File Repositories (*.stl, *.step, *.iges, native files)

Sometimes the best design is one you don't have to create yourself. Here are some CAD modeling repositories where you can download, share and browse CAD files. These sites are ones we use frequenly to source files and then remix as necessary.

  1. Thingverse.com - is just like it sounds...the internet of things. Hosted by the folks at Makerbot Industries, this platform is likely the #1 source for 3D printable CAD files.

  2. Autodesk Fusion360 Gallery - is a gallery of all CAD models generated using Autodesk Fusion360. Not all are downloadable, but several are and it accelerates your engineering development if don't have to design existing products from scratch simply to use them in an assembly or as a reference feature in your design(s).

  3. McMaster Carr Product Page CAD models - is a source to purchase myriad mechanical parts, supplies and materials. But an unknown--yet great feature--is the ability to download CAD models of most of their components and in the native CAD file. Autodesk Fusion360 even has a function built into their "Fusion360>Design>Insert" drop down menu.

  4. Grabcad.com - is a source for CAD files generated using a number of software platforms. Not all of these files are easily 3D printable nor will you have access because it's possible you don't have the software to open the files themselves. That being said, it's another great community to browse other design files, get ideas and possibly share your designs.

  5. 3D Content Central - is a repository of 3D CAD files exclusively for use in Solidworks.

  6. Yeggi.com - is a search engine for 3D printable design files. References sites like Thingiverse and others.

  7. 3D EXPERIENCE Part Supply Marketplace - a part design repository; mainly for the Solidworks / Dassault Systems product families.

  8. Pinshape.com - has a bunch of 3D CAD files that you can download for free and for purchase. They were bought by FormLabs.

Computer Aided Design--or CAD--is the process of transforming an idea or concept into a three dimensional model on your computer. This is an essential skill to have in order to create you own digitally fabricated parts. There are MANY different software packages that help a range of designers construct their simple, technical or artistic CAD models.

If you want a quick primer on the variety of CAD tools out there in a fun--yet very familiar--way... Read this blog post by Yin who compares CAD tools to your favorite automobiles.


  1. Autodesk Fusion 360
    Autodesk Fusion 360 is a very powerful program which is not only an entry-level CAD program but it also has many advanced features that enables anyone to do professional-grade CAD design. Some amazing features are (but not limited to):

    1. Snap a picture with a scale reference and model directly off of the photo
    2. Photo-realistic rendering
    3. CAM tools built into the software
    4. Collaborative online experiences, easy sharing for design reviews and more
  2. TinkerCAD.com
    TinkerCAD is great for simple 3D CAD design. While not an engineering-grade software per se, it is a browser-based Software as a Service (SaaS) which makes installation a snap (i.e. you don't install anything, you just go login via a web browser). TinkerCAD also makes it very easy to import *.stl files downloaded from sites like Thingiverse and then modify them the way you want. Double-check the licensing on each model / file you download from their site.

    Short entry-level tutorial

Engineering-grade CAD

  1. Autodesk: Fusion360

  2. Autodesk: Inventor

  3. Onshape.com

  4. SolidWorks

Artistic CAD

  1. Autodesk Maya

  2. Blender

Architectural CAD

  1. Revit

3D Scanning

3D Scanning is the process of importing the physical geometry of an object or space into a three dimensional CAD model.


  1. LaserDesign Scanning Services

Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing, AM) General Overview

Join the 3D Printing Gurus Slack Channel

The following resources are some we find particularly helpful for both beginners and advanced users of 3D Printers and the relevant software.

External 3D Printing Resources:

  1. Professional Online Education w/MIT: Additive Manufacturing for Innovative Design and Production on edX.com

  2. Beginner-level Online Education w/Kacie Hultgren: 3D Printing Expert - General Overview hosted by lynda.com

  3. Podcast: 3D Printing Today - Podcast - All things 3D Printing

  4. Newsletter: 3Ders.org - Curated newsletter for 3D Printing

External 3D Printing Suppliers:

  1. Matterhackers.com - Ultimaker, Lulzbot and other great brands of printers can be purchased at Matterhackers.

Pre-processing / File Preparation: Slicing

This is one of the key steps to preparing files for 3D Printing. The software presented below helps a user transform their "STL" file (a CAD file type specifically for 3D printing) into a series of 2D layers--or slices--so that GCODE can be generated and fed to the desktop manufacturing tool selected to construct / print the part.

Open-source Slicing Software (Free or mostly free)

  1. Cura: Produced by Ultimaker in the Netherlands, Cura is the go to slicing engine for many Desktop 3D printers on the market. Most recently, they've enabled remote desktop printing, web-based printer management and more.

  2. AstroPrint: a browser-based 3D printer control software leveraging Raspberry Pis to control your 3d printers (similar to OctoPrint but with commercial applications).

  3. Repetier Host: Repetier also has 3D printer control options as well in addition to doing slicing.

  4. Octoprint: a browser-based 3D printer control software--is also now enable Cura slicing of *.stl files.

  5. KISSlicer: Was used by Repetier but seems to be falling out of widespread use. Know otherwise? Let us know! https://www.materialise.com/en/software/software-solutions-for-data-preparation?you3dit

Professional-grade Slicing Software (Not free, $$$-$$$$)

  1. Simplify3D: A step up from hobby slicing software. Many people like the ability to choose breakaway support locations, advanced slicing features and more.

  2. Materialize Magics: An industry standard for folks who work in production additive manufacturing for build prep, nesting, and other advanced features.

Open-source or free *.stl file editors or file repair tools

  1. Autodesk: Meshmixer - is a great program when you need to repair or modify a *.stl file. Not all *.stl files are created equal and many times your designs are not "manifold" which means the slicers will have trouble interpreting the design and you'll run into problems printing.

  2. Netfabb - is a free and also paid service to repair *.stl files for improved 3D printing.

Fabrication / Prototyping

This is where your idea comes to life with the help of a desktop manufacturing tool. Where 0s and 1s convert into bits. There are several digital fabrication techniques that are available to our users and they are: 3D printing --OR-- Additive Manufacturing (AM), desktop CNC and laser cutting.

Polymer Additive Manufacturing

3D Printing (Join the 3D Printing Gurus Slack Channel)

  1. Learn how to use a Makerbot Replicator 1

  1. Learn how to Setup and Use a Printrbot Simple Metal

    Control your 3D Printer Remotely

  1. Astroprint.com - allows you to control and manage your 3D printer via the cloud (requires hardware such as a Raspberry Pi). Like the "iPhone" of cloud 3D printing.

  2. Octoprint.com - just like Astroprint, allows you to control and manage your 3D printer via your home network (requires hardware such as a Raspberry Pi).

  3. Instructions on how to setup Octoprint on your Printrbot - authored by our founder, Chris.

Laser Cutting (Join the Laser Cutting Gurus Slack Channel)

  1. Looking to laser-cut a box? Try this free web application called Boxmaker

  2. What about laser cutting gears? Try this free web application called Gear Template Generator

  3. Want to build your own laser cutter? Check out Lasersaur.com

Desktop CNC (Join the CNC Machining Gurus Slack Channel)

  1. Shapeoko2 and Inventables

    Winston Moy is amazing and has wonderful videos on his YouTube Channel

  2. OtherMachine Co. and the Other Mill

Prototype to Production

So you brought your idea to life with You3Dit and you want to take it to the next level? Here are some resources you can use to learn more and get started on the right foot.

  1. Dragon Innovation

    www.dragoninnovation.com - These folks are pros at turning your prototype in to a production-ready design. They help with design for manufacture, sourcing, BOM / CAGS and many other issues related to manufacturing and hardware business. Based in Boston, MA.

  2. Bolt.io

    www.bolt.io - This is a seed-stage VC that helps entrepreneurs transform their hardware vision into a reality. Based in San Francisco, CA.

  3. Lemnos Labs

    www.lemnoslabs.com - Another hardware venture fund looking to help hardware entrepreneurs be wildly successful in business. Based in San Francisco, CA.

  4. Underwriters Laboratory (UL)

    www.ul.com - When your product enters someone's home, it has to work safely in myriad conditions. Leverage UL's vast library of certifications / standards to help you design better.

    http://productspec.ul.com/index.php - Having trouble identifying what parts are UL certified? Look no further than UL's Product Spec guide to help you generate lists of parts tested and certified to meet UL's quality standards.

Create a You3Dit Design project

Create a You3Dit Fabrication project

Missing something?

Of course we are! Help us add to this growing list of digital design and fabrication resources

  1. Send us a resource at info@you3dit.com

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