Four Advantages Of Utilizing A Domestic Tooling Source:

Elite Mold & Engineering – Domestic Tooling Experts 

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Creating a custom STL file for your parts is one of the crucial early steps in the 3D printing process. Essentially, an STL file is a 3D model that precisely describes the surface geometry of your part as a complex structure built up from interlinked triangles.

We’ll delve further into the specifics below, but the short version is that the STL format is the most efficient way to model a 3D structure for the additive manufacturing process.

STL Files vs. CAD Files

STL files are often compared and sometimes confused with the commonly-used CAD file type. Short for stereolithography (as well as the backronyms Standard Tessellation Language / Standard Triangular Language), STL files were specifically developed for compatibility with additive manufacturing systems.

In contrast, CAD (computer-aided design) files create 3D models of parts for use on various machining systems, in metalworking, in custom molding, etc. CAD files precisely describe the surface structure and geometry of the part, but not in the most efficient terms for 3D printers (i.e. triangular tessellation).

The Basics You Need to Know About STL Files for Your 3D Printed Parts:

Modeling Each Part as a Triangular Mesh

As mentioned above, STL files describe the 3D model of your part as a collection of interconnected triangles. Analogously, the triangles are built up and linked together like tiles on a floor or shingles on a roof – except it’s a far more complex form of tessellation.

If you picture the way 3D printers deposit materials, you can maybe imagine why a structure of triangles works efficiently: the machine essentially “slices” the part into thin 2D layers as it processes instructions in order to interpret the 3D model.

A Closer Look at Those Triangles

Each triangle is defined by three vertices within 3D space. Every vertex has X, Y, and Z coordinates specified in the STL file. These coordinates essentially create boundaries for the 3D printed material once the machine is running, and ultimately reproduce the shape of the final part.

Each triangle in an STL file also has a specified normal vector perpendicular to the plane, which indicates its orientation in space. Normals are crucial for determining precise orientation of the front and back side of each triangles to ensure complete accuracy.

The Importance of Your Mesh Resolution

The quality of each 3D printed part largely depends on the resolution of the triangular mesh described in the STL file. A higher resolution results in a more accurate representation of the original model. However, the downside is that higher resolution also leads to larger file sizes, slower printing speeds / less throughput, and the potential for more manufacturing errors.

Solid and Shell Structure Parts

STL files can represent both solid and shell structures, basically for solid or hollow plastic parts. In a solid STL file, the triangles define the outer surface of the part as a closed 3D shape. In a shell STL file, the triangles represent a surface without defining the enclosed volume, which is ultimately hollow.

Manifold or Solid Surface Geometry

A proper STL file should define the surface of the part as a manifold geometry – a solid, uninterrupted surface. Non-manifold models tend to cause issues during production because the holes or gaps cannot be sliced properly by the printer.

Units, Scale, Color, and Texture

STL files do not inherently contain information about units or scale. It’s therefore essential to export the 3D model with the correct scale. STL files also generally lack information about part color or texture, so these details must be otherwise specified.

The Michigan Region’s Leading Additive Manufacturing Specialist

Elite Mold & Engineering is one of Michigan’s leading manufacturers offering custom 3D printing services. Established in 1982, we’re backed by more than four decades of delivering superior quality plastic products made in the USA.


By utilizing domestic tooling, you can benefit from improved communication with your tooling vendor. No more late-night meetings or waiting days for a response from an overseas vendor. Instead, with both parties in the same or similar time zone, you can ensure timely communication that aligns with your schedule. Moreover, this approach allows you to save valuable time and money on travel expenses for potential tryouts.

Confidentiality & ITAR

When working on a highly confidential or new design, where getting to the market first is crucial, confidentiality becomes an absolute necessity. By partnering with a domestic U.S. supplier that possesses complete in-house mold construction capabilities, you can have greater confidence in the security of your data, knowing that it will not be shared without your knowledge. This is particularly essential for government projects that require ITAR data protection, making the utilization of a domestic tooling vendor a mandatory requirement.

No Additional International Shipping or Tariff Cost

With a domestic tooling supplier, you can avoid additional charges such as international freight, customs, and tariffs. The savings on shipping costs can help offset the price differences between low-cost country tooling and domestically built options. Furthermore, by choosing domestic suppliers, you can avoid delays caused by mold transportation via ocean freight or costly airfreight shipments. Saving both time and money is made possible with a domestic tooling supplier.

Qualification All In One Place

When constructing and qualifying a mold, it is essential to possess prior knowledge of any modifications or tuning that have already been undertaken. By opting for domestic mold construction, your chosen provider can ensure that they possess a comprehensive understanding and documentation of all prior work completed on the mold. This facilitates a more efficient problem-solving process and enables effective troubleshooting of potential flaws.

Let Elite Become Your Preffered Domestic Tooling Partner

Elite Mold & Engineering has been crafting top-notch plastic injection molds domestically in the United States for nearly four decades. Our talented team of experienced designers and skilled professionals in the Tooling Department are dedicated to constructing robust, high-quality, and efficient molds tailored to meet your specific project requirements.

Discover the multitude of benefits when you choose a domestic tooling source. With our expertise, experience, and commitment to quality, we provide a multitude of key advantages that will streamline your operations. Our local presence ensures seamless communication, offering you the convenience of direct and efficient collaboration. Elite’s stringent quality control measures guarantee precision and reliability, delivering top-notch tooling solutions tailored to your specific needs. Also, by choosing a domestic source, you support local businesses and contribute to the growth of your community. Our quick turnaround times ensure that you stay ahead of the competition, enabling you to meet even the tightest project deadlines. Embrace the numerous advantages of a domestic tooling source and watch your productivity soar.