General Updates

Rufous hummingbird (female nesting)

"Nesting" refers to packing multiple shapes together.

As many of you know,  you can get a much better per-part price if you put multiple parts of the same design in to a single file to upload to our instant quoting system.

I'm often asked by customers looking to order multiple parts in a single file how to correctly arrange the files together in order to get the best possible price. In the majority of cases, the answer is "don't bother". Sometimes it does make sense, though. We'll take a closer look at when you might want to pack your parts closely together and when you shouldn't worry about it.

Note that this information is current as of the date of this article, and we may update or improve our instant quotes in the future.

When nesting doesn't matter at all

Let's first take a look at a case where it does not matter how you nest the parts.

In this design, four rectangles are spread out over an area about 31.4 inches by 15 inches. If we pick one of Big Blue Saw's most expensive stock materials, Stainless Steel 304 at 0.75 inches thick, we get a single set price of $247.90.

So we pack them closer together. Now the rectangles are squished into 18x7.1 inches. The single set price with the same material as above is now... $247.90.

Finally, we'll really pack them in and get rid of almost all the space between parts so that they're now 17.5x7.1 inches. The price then becomes... $247.90 yet again. So for all of our effort to get a good nesting on these parts, we've saved no money.

When nesting matters a little

But nesting DOES matter in some cases. Take a look at these two parts within a single file. They are approxmately 11x17 inches and 1.4x8.4 inches. When you get a quote for these with aluminum 6061 in 0.125 inch thickness (one of our most popular materials),  you get a price of $97.60 for quantity 1 set or  $23.34 each set in quantity 10.

Now let's fit the two pieces together as shown here. The  price comes down to $96.80 for each set of 2 or  $22.49 in quantity 10. So you'd be saving 80 cents off of your total price in quanitity 1 or $8.50 in quantity 10.

Why did this nesting change the price when we saw earlier that packing the shapes closer together didn't affect the price? The online quoting system looks the rectangles measured horizontally and vertically which enclose the parts and uses those to calculate the amount of material needed to make your parts. If the rectangles don't overlap, you have the case we saw earlier, where the nesting did not affect the price. However, if the bounding rectangles overlap, we can probably use less material to make your parts, and thus you will save money.

Note that if nesting two parts together gives an enclosing rectangle with an area larger than the area used by the parts separately, the quoting system will add the two bounding rectangles together in order to give you a lower price.

When nesting matters a lot

With that in mind, let's take a look at an extreme example. In this case, the parts are 10.9 x 17 and 12 x 8.6 inches. When we choose an expensive stock, like 0.75 inch thick stainless steel 304, the price for 1 set is $479.10 for the separate pieces and $366.80 when the pieces are closely nested. Here, the difference is between two enclosing rectangles 10.9 x 17 and 12 x 8.6 inches  or 288.5 square inches vs. a single enclosing rectangle 11.5 x 17 inches or 195.5 square inches.

Part orientation

Here's another case where how you position the parts in your design can have an impact on your final quote. The pieces on the left and right have the same dimensions, but the one on the right has been tilted almost 45 degrees. The piece on the left has a measurement of 0.9 inches X 15.9 inches. On the right, it measures 12.5 inches horizontally by 11.1 inches vertically. When made with stainless steel 304 0.75 inches thick, the price goes from $96.90 for the piece on the left to $250.10 for the piece on the right. This is because the enclosing rectangle for the tilted piece is significantly larger, so the quoting system thinks that it will take a lot more material to make the part.

Making things easy for us

We often get e-mails from customers wanting to change their nesting in order to "make things easy" when the parts are cut, wanting to fit into a whole sheet, and the like. This usually doesn't make sense, as we cut most of our parts from very large sheets and charge you strictly for the material used. Often, the sheets we're using have already had a few previous parts cut from them, so your nesting may not fit into the stock we have available.

If you happen to make the parts too close together on an order with stock material, this isn't a problem for us, as we typically end up re-nesting anyway.

The one case where having a nesting from a customer may make a difference is if we are cutting a custom material supplied by that customer. When you're ordering this way, should know the dimensions of the material you're providing. Keep in mind that for waterjet cutting, we need a 0.25 inch margin around all edges and a 0.125 inch space between each part. For laser cutting, we need an 0.25 inch margin, and 0.03 inch spacing between each part.


  • For designs with a mostly rectangular outline, changing the nesting won't change the price at all.
  • If you can fit one part inside another, it may help the price, especially on more expensive stock materials.
  • Rotate your parts to minimize the enclosing rectangle.
  • After you order, when it's time for us to cut your parts, we often re-nest parts on stock materials.

If you haven't heard, Big Blue Saw is giving away $450 in FREE waterjet and laser cutting services in our Spring Design Contest.

I'm proud and humbled today to announce our lineup of talented, accomplished, and good looking judges for the contest.

Valerie Hill

Valerie Hill is the current Director of the Dragon*Con Robotics and Maker Track. She has judged and helped organize many of the combat robotics competitions in the Southeast. Valerie is a graphic designer involved in the print industry, specializing in freestanding displays.

Shane Matthews

Shane is listed as inventor or co-inventor on more than a dozen patents with others pending. Best known for his work on the Nerf AirJet brand, Shane also has helped to develop manufacturing processes for lithium ion batteries. He is a mentor and coach to inventors through the My Inventor Club, which he established here in Atlanta. See more at

Marc DeVidts

Marc is the CTO and co-founder of Double Robotics. Launched in 2012, Double has sold thousands of telepresence robots and has been featured in dozens of TV shows, including NCIS Los Angeles, The Good Wife, The Colbert Report. Marc has also been an avid BattleBots builder since the age of 17, taking 2nd place at his first event, the 2002 inaugural BattleBots IQ high school tournament. Since then, he has continued to build robots and interesting gadgets, including the LED suits for the Black Eyed Peas and the LED Mau5head for Deadmau5.

Charles Guan

Charles is the mastermind behind the assortment of megalomechanical creations on, including robots, vans, and silly electric vehicles. He is an instructor and mentor for undergraduates in Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also the co-founder of Equals Zero Designs, manufacturers of innovative products for hobbyists, students, and amateurs in mechanical and mechatronic design, including the highly anticipated, soon to be released RageBridge 2.

Megan Kober

Megan works with smart, interesting people at Alii Healthcare, where her title is Manager of Everything. Alii has created Bond, an app to instantly connect patients to ER physicians via video connection. She is also a registered dietitian and blogs at

If you haven't entered our Spring Design Contest yet, it's not too late. Just click on over to before March 13 to enter. And be sure to remind all your friends to vote for you!

Spring Design Contest

Big Blue Saw is giving you the opportunity to show off your finest plans for creations to be made with waterjet cutting. The best design will receive a $300 gift certificate from Big Blue Saw for waterjet or laser cutting. Second place gets a $150 gift certificate. The theme for this challenge is "SPRING".

Read more about the Spring Design Contest and enter to win FREE waterjet cutting services from Big Blue Saw.

motorcycle oil tank

Congratulations to DJ Kasch, winner of Big Blue Saw's first photo contest. His photo of a motorcycle oil tank emerged victorious with 78 votes to 64 for the 2nd place entry. (We'll have more on the runner up soon.)

DJ is in the middle of a custom motorcycle build in collaboration with Handmade Industries of Salt Lake City, Utah. The frame is a chopped Harley Sportster, and DJ models all of his custom parts in SolidWorks before fabrication.

I'm also quite pleased that the waterjet cut parts in the photo were created by Big Blue Saw. When I talked to him on the phone, DJ told me they're "right to spec" from the SolidWorks drawing.

Future contestants take note: he won the contest by using the contest Share button and asking all of his friends to vote for him on Facebook. It spread so that DJ's friends were asking THEIR friends to vote for him.

You can catch some glimpses of the bike in progress on DJ's Instagram feed, as well as the Handmade Industries feed.

We've been hearing from our customers a lot recently about DraftSight, a 2D CAD design tool that is available for free from Dassault Systèmes. It has all the features you need to get started with creating CAD drawings for Big Blue Saw. It's available to download and use for free from the Dassault website for use with Windows, Linux, and Macintosh.

Here is a very brief, very basic tutorial on using DraftSight to create drawings for Big Blue Saw.

Step 1: Start DraftSight

Start DraftSight from the Start Menu, desktop icon, or however it works on your system. You'll see the main DraftSight window as shown below.

DraftSight window

Step 2: Choose the rectangle tool

The left hand toolbar shows a variety of drawing tools. In this tutorial, we'll be creating a simple rectangle. Click on the rectangle tool.

DraftSight rectangle tool

Step 3: Draw a rectangle

Click in the drawing area to define one corner of the rectangle.

DraftSight rectangle start

Then move the mouse and click on the diagonally opposite corner to define the other corner of the rectangle.

DraftSight rectangle end

You now have a CAD drawing of a rectangle.

Step 4: Save the file

Choose "File | Save As" from the menu.

Enter the file name in the appropriate box. Next, choose the file type from the drop down list. Here we're choosing "R2013 ASCII Drawing (*.dxf)". You want to pick one of the "ASCII DXF" file types for use with Big Blue Saw. enter the file name, choose file type

Click the "Save" button to complete saving the file. Congratulations! You now have your first DraftSight CAD drawing ready to use with Big Blue Saw's online quoting system.

Once you use Big Blue Saw to turn your rectangle design into a real part made out of metal or plastic, you could use it as a spacer, shim, bookmark, backing plate, or divider. It's not much to look at, but now that you've gotten started, you can play around with DraftSight and see its tools for making other shapes.

Want to know more? Let us know in the comments!