TIPS WITH TONY: Design for Manufacturability (DFM) Analysis

Design for manufacturing (DFM) analysis provides information to not only improve the design of your injection-molded part at Proto Labs, but suggests improvements that can be applied regardless of your manufacturer.

Once you upload your 3D CAD model, you’ll receive an email inside of 24 hours — typically, within only a few hours — that contains a link to your quote. Quotes are generally defined as an estimated cost for a particular service, but arguably, the most valuable information that you receive in your Proto Labs quote is our automated DFM feedback.

The manufacturability feedback addresses considerations like:

  • Draft
  • Wall thickness
  • Undercut regions
  • Thin and thick sections
  • Material flow
  • Design complexity
  • Areas that cannot be manufactured
  • Gating and ejection

Proto Labs specifically uses this information to explain wall thickness and draft based on our manufacturing capabilities to machine an aluminum mold through three-axis CNC milling. These are unique to our manufacturing process, but are great guidelines to improving your part design in general.

Customers often times will begin designing a part with no draft or wall thickness concern and bring this design to our quoting software for a quick review at the end of the day. In many cases, by the time you arrive back at work, you may have your DFM analysis waiting. You can then apply those changes, or speak with one of our experienced customer service engineers who can help explain how to simplify your design or discuss why we have capability issues with how your part is intended.

For an example of what we’re talking about, check out our sample quote in order for you to familiarize yourself with how our injection molding quotes function. Pay close attention to the second half of the quote called Review Issues as this is our DFM area that will provide you with helpful manufacturing information.

In the first tab of the DFM you’ll notice Required Changes. In this section, you will see part concerns that are currently preventing you from ordering a mold. These are issues that would need to be resolved or discussed with a customer service engineer. Common issues are non-uniform wall thickness, poor draft, undercuts, and thick and thin parts sections.


By selecting the second tab called Moldability Advisory, you will see areas of concern, but these are not required changes. But here you can review the ProtoFlow fill analysis as this is available upon request — it’s a great way to view where potential knit lines or short shots may be. The third tab (Other Information) involves how the mold is built if side-actions or inserts will be used, and show the resulting radii from our manufacturing process.

Here are a few helpful navigation tools that can be used:

  • Transparency can be adjusted from a slightly transparent model to fully colored model so you can clearly see A side (green), B side (blue) as well as any other coloring of mold components. You can also make the model completely invisible so you can see problematic areas that may be otherwise difficult to see.
  • Highlighting Issues may be turned off or on — they are on by default so you are able to see these easier. But, they can be selected off if you prefer images without the flashing or strobing effect.
  • Settings in the upper right hand corner allow you to select five different items that can help you based on your preference. You can also view this in a 3D PDF by selecting the lower left of the window if the 3D viewer is not available, or in the worst case scenario, you can view the quote in 2D (still images). This can be selected in blue next to the Review Issues wording.
  • Another helpful tool is measuring — this is something that you won’t find on the screen. Move your curser to the location or feature you wish to start measuring from and hit the “D” key on your keyboard. Now, move your curser to the next location — you will notice an X, Y, Z, XY and XYZ dialogue box that indicates the direction based on a coordinate system. In the lower left you will also see a red, green and blue coordinate system that matches the colors in the dialogue box for help on what numbers to be watching.
  • You can also measure draft. You do this in the same way as measuring dimensions, but by hitting the “F” key instead. This is a great tool for when you need to double check the draft on the CAD model without needing to open up the model in your designing software.

So there you go. If you have additional questions on your part design, please contact a customer service engineer at 877.479.3680 or Have a part that’s ready to be manufactured? Upload it now for a free interactive quote with DFM analysis.

This entry was posted in Tips with Tony and tagged , by Tony Holtz. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tony Holtz

Tony is a technical specialist at Proto Labs with more than 10 years of experience ranging from CNC mill operator to mold designer to customer service engineer. While his formal education is in industrial machinery operations, he has extensive knowledge and experience in both traditional and advanced manufacturing processes and materials. Throughout his tenure at Proto Labs, Tony has worked with countless designers, engineers and product developers to improve the manufacturability of their parts.

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