The world of 3D printing is only growing – and quickly!
If you’re ready to jump into your own designing and prototyping, but aren’t ready to invest the time, money, and space required of in-home 3D printing, you have plenty of options for outsourcing the actual printing.
We are outlining the types of 3D printing services that exist, covering the most popular, though there are dozens of these services that exist globally. We list important factors like materials, printing methods, and bonus factors. And if you need a refresher on printing technologies, check out another blog of ours - 9 common printing methods.
The standard model for outsourcing 3D print jobs is uploading your design, getting a price and delivery quote, and waiting for the product to arrive on your doorstep. We share four popular services along these lines, but you’ll be surprised with a couple brick-and-mortar options that may exist in your area, as well.
Overall, the companies we researched offer a range of price points based on material and finish, design, and processing time. These are difficult to estimate until you can share a specific design with the company in order to get a price quote. Know that there are very affordable entry-level costs for beginner designs.
Without further ado, here are our recommendations for third-party 3D printing services.
This Dutch start-up was formed in 2009 and today houses its primary printing locations, called “Factories of the Future” in Queens, New York, and Eindhoven, Netherlands.
Started in France in 2009, Sculpteo now has several locations, including one in San Francisco. Their app and Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud integration allows for print ordering directly from smartphones.
This publically-traded company was founded in Belgium in 1990, so they are serious about their experience. They tend to be a bit more professional, with major business partnerships, but hobbyists can take advantage of their experience, too.
Materials and finishes: 20 materials options; 100+ color and finish options, including gold plating and polishing
This option works differently than the previous companies, who print your design and ship it to your door. Instead, 3D Hubs is a network of more than 6,000 3D printing locations worldwide. In fact, they claim that 1 billion people have access to a 3D printer within 10 miles of home. Their goal is to reduce the waste, time, and inventory associated with shipping from one location – with an aim to change how we rely on goods.
Before you head off into the wide world of online options, you may want to check out your local libraries and community colleges. We’ve found a lot of these institutions offer innovation and digital learning labs that provide access to different types of 3D printers. Some offer a limited number of free print jobs with your library card or really affordable options for those enrolled in the community college.
Across the U.S., UPS Stores are beginning to offer 3D printing at select locations – simply access your CAD files and head in!