CloudDDM Found a Winning Formula by Keeping Printing and Shipping Activities Closer

CloudDDM gets an advantage over its competition by keeping its factory close to the shipping hub of its partner, UPS.

CloudDDM gets an advantage over its competition by keeping its factory close to the shipping hub of its partner, UPS. CloudDDM gets an advantage over its competition by keeping its factory close to the shipping hub of its partner, UPS.

CloudDDM printed parts 3D-printed parts from CloudDDM

Anthony Graves once headed the marketing operations of HSMWorks, a popular CAM program for CAD users. After the company was acquired by Autodesk, he stuck around for a few more years to oversee the transition. But in 2015, he joined a new startup, CloudDDM, offering highly automated, app-driven 3D printing services. The former evangelist for subtractive manufacturing now finds himself singing the praises of additive manufacturing (AM).

CloudDDM’s competitive advantage is its location. The company’s 3D printing factory is located right on the UPS Supply Chain Campus in Louisville, Kentucky.

A typical 3D printing service provider would have to finish printing the part, package it, and get it ready for the shipping company’s last pickup for next-day delivery, usually around 6-7 PM. Simple 3D printing jobs can take one to a few hours, but complex print jobs can take 6-8 hours, essentially the whole day. This makes it a challenge to fulfill rush orders for customers who need their parts the next day. But not for CloudDDM. The “end-of-the-runway factory” gives CloudDDM roughly an extra 6 hours or working time per day, Anthony explained.

“In our system, when someone presses the Order button on the app, the job starts printing within a minute,” said Anthony. “Even if a print job takes 8 hours, we can still get it delivered the next day. Because we’re located in the UPS World Port [the shipping hub], as long as we can get the printed part loaded on the plane around 1 AM, we can get that part to the customer on the same day.”

CloudDDM’s target market is low-volume production of end-use parts or prototypes. Speed is a desirable feature for prototypes, as critical engineering decisions are usually on hold until the prototype can be tested to satisfy the design requirements.

According to Anthony, CloudDDM keeps “a series of machines running continuously 24-7.” The highly automated setup allows CloudDDM to run its operations with just one full-time employee per shift. Anthony said, “The print jobs are automatically routed to the first available printer. The jobs are automatically queued. The employee’s job is (1) to make sure the printers are online, running, and loaded with enough material; (2) to inspect the printed part and make sure it’s sent to the right recipient.”

The automation does require a good-quality 3D file as the starting point, Anthony pointed out. During upload, CloudDDM’s software interrogates the submitted geometry for fitness for 3D printing. If the uploaded file contains characteristics that can cause 3D-printing failure (such as walls that are too thin), the customer gets an alert to fix the file. CloudDDM’s operations are up and running in the U.S. The company plans to service Canada soon.

The current default file format for 3D printing is STL, but Anthony said he sees 3MF, championed by Microsoft, as a promising alternative.

“The box literally travels less with CloudDDM,” said Anthony. With its operations right in the heart of UPS World Port, CloudDDM eliminates the trip from the shop to shipping facility. The reduction of fuel usage in fulfillment, Anthony pointed out, makes the 3D printed parts from CloudDDM “greener.

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Kenneth Wong

Kenneth Wong is Digital Engineering’s resident blogger and senior editor. Email him at [email protected] or share your thoughts on this article at

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