Best 3D Printing Service?
You see great designs on Pinshape, but what’s the point? There’s nothing you can do with them. Or is there?
Say hello to 3D printing services!
You may be a casual shopper, wanting to find a unique gift for a geeky friend. You may be a designer who doesn’t have a printer yet, or you’d like a professional print of your design for product showcasing. Or you may want to prototype a product, and want to bring your idea to life—faster. No matter what your reason, there are 3D printing services to help you out.
We wanted to bring together a list so if you wanted to get something printed, you’d know where to go! We’ve also included a chart at the end of this post summarizing the different services, which can give you an overview. But for now, let’s start exploring your options!
Sculpteo is a printing service located in France. However, one interesting thing is that their shipping costs 6.50€ to the US, which is approximately $7 in USD. Plus, your print is usually shipped out within 3 days of your order. Talk about fast!
Alternatively, if you don’t mind receiving your order later, you can select Sculpteo’s economy plan, which reduces the cost of your 3D print by up to 30%. The tradeoff is that your print will be shipped in 8 days rather than 3.
They have some great repair tools for those who may be newer to 3D design and printing. One thing to keep in mind is that industrial 3D printers require different specifications for printing (hollowing out your models, making escape holes for powder), and luckily Sculpteo has hollowing tools to make sure the design you want is ready.
Some basic designs flaws, such as having really thin components to your design can also be identified through their checking tools.
They also offer a feature called batch control. If you’re looking to print several prints your design, this is perfect since this tool actually helps to optimize your design’s placement in production so that costs can be cut. You can see your unit price go down as you increase the number of units you order!
Shapeways allows you to upload your chosen design for printing at their industrial production centers. If you’re unsure whether your file would come out well, their checking system includes part clearance check, machine space check (they charge you lower if your design uses less machine space), and bounding box check (if your design is larger than their machine’s build size), amongst others.
Shapeways is quite large in scale, and they are able to provide cheaper prices in general. One thing to note is that Shapeways’ printing process takes longer, especially if you need to have your files reviewed by them internally.
The material count at Shapeways is pretty impressive, so if you wanted a ceramic version of your 3D design, considered it done. You can check out their other materials here.
If you’re a designer, you also have the option to set up a shop on Shapeways. They will take care of printing and fulfillment. Shapeways takes the standard price associated with your design, plus a 3.5% transaction fee, and you will get a markup (set by you) for that product.
If you’re looking to sell your 3D printed products, you may want to check out i.Materialise, a Belgium 3D printing service who also print using industrial 3D printers. They offer white label drop shipping, in which you can ship out your products with your branded packing and invoice.
You can also set up a shop on i.materialise, and they use a similar system to Shapeways, in that you take a designer’s fee on top of the production price. One note is that you must have printed and shipped one of your designs from them before you can add it to your shop. This ensures that it’s actually printable, saving less work in terms of arranging for refunds.
In most respects, i.materialise is similar to Sculpteo and Shapeways, with prices higher than Shapeways, and slower shipping times than Sculpteo. However, they are able to do very large prints with their transparent/printable resin, and they have a wide variety of materials offered.
Stepping away from traditional larger companies that offer 3D printing services, there’s 3D Hubs. Instead, you can get a design printed via a local printer close to you! How this works is that makers with printers can list their printer on 3D Hubs, then offer printing services to you.
You can either search for your nearest printer, or select a material, then be brought to a list of locations that can print in the material you want.
The neighborhood aspect of how 3D Hubs operates allows you to factor out shipping costs(but you can arrange for shipping if you really wish), but individual makers are usually not able to keep costs as low as the industrial printing services. You can also read up on reviews on individual listed printers so that you’re assured of quality.
Do keep in mind that these non-industrial grade printers may be more limited in terms of materials offered. They boast more than 20,000 printers listed on their hub, so hopefully you’re able to find one to meet your needs.
Similar to 3D Hubs MakeXYZ is also a database of printers. They both do not offer file checking, so if your selected design is not printable, it may be a little later down the communication line that your order gets returned to you with a note that says it will not print.
MakeXYZ is still about finding local printers, but there’s less emphasis about meeting up to pick up your products. You can upload a file, and they will match you with a printer or you can pick your own. You can also choose to select a printer as well.
At the end of the day, the two services are very similar, and chances are if you find a printer listed on MakeXYZ, it’ll also be on 3DHubs, and vice versa. The below chart shows Nathan Buxton’s hub, a hub that I chose based on high ratings and close proximity, which was listed on both sites. He charges the same prices.
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At the end of the day, there’s no clear cut winner as to which 3D printing service is the best. One may be more suited for you depending on the results you’re looking for, and we hope this guide helped point out some pros and cons!
Included at the bottom of this post are links to material sample kits from the three industrial printing services, which allows you to feel and see their materials before you make a design order. There are also two price checking tools, which are not 100% accurately aligned with the results we got when testing individual designs on the printing services, but gives you a rough benchmark of how much your models will cost on different sites.
Head on over to Pinshape and look for the next 3D model you may want to get printed!
Material Sample kits: