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3D Printing Services Overview
Nowadays to 3D print something is easier than you can imagine. You may want to 3D print for several reasons – you may need to replace something broken or you want something unique. You don’t even have to own a 3D printer. With the great variety of 3D printing services and places it is really easy. You just have to send models, sketches or pictures of the items you want to have 3D printed. After they are ready they will be shipped to you. In this article we are going to cover the most prominent 3D printer services.
You may not even think of that, but many local libraries possess a 3D printer. Libraries are no longer places for books only. Some of them offer 3D printing service, though there may be certain limitations concerning the number and size of items to be printed, the materials used or something else. Anyway check out if that is available in your local library or, if not, check another regional branch. As a rule libraries offer either low-cost or free 3D printing. These places are worth visiting.
Shapeways, New York-based service, surely belongs to the range of the leading 3D printer services in the world. It is the place where people can sketch and upload their files and designs, and Shapeways does all the 3D printing. The service appeared in 2007 and was a spin-off of Royal Philips Electronics. Originally it appeared as a facility for those who are interested in 3D printing but don’t have the proper equipment. Two years later its headquarters moved to NY. There offices can be found in Seattle and Eindhoven. All you have to do is to upload a scheme or a model that you want to get printed, choose the material and the number of items you need and pay for it. Prices depend on the materials from which you want the prints. You may choose between precious metals, stainless steel, plastics and you can also choose the color. Shapeways became a success mainly because of the ability for 3D designers to sell their products online. It is one of the ways for designers to make profit. Shapeways in its turn does customer service, manufacturing, distribution and the financial part. As a customer you can go to shapeways.com and view lots of pages of products of attractive designs. For your convenience all the products have been separated into several categories, like jewelry, gadgets, art and others. Shapeways is especially valuable because of its flexibility for those who are not well familiar with 3D printing. Users especially appreciate Shapeways for the quality of the products.
Ponoko resembles Shapeways in some way. But it uses a bit different approach. They use a network of manufacturers from the whole world. Customers upload their designs and note when they want them to be printed. Ponoko will find the nearest suitable manufacturer. Manufacturers connected to Ponoko use СNC millingmachines and laser cutting techniques, apart from 3D printers. Users often call this 3D printing service “on-demand manufacturing”. It means that the company does not produce a range of products, but rather a customer states when a product is to be produced. The prices depend on what you need to print and the kind of material, the lowest starting from $5. This service works fast, so ordering designs, turning them into real items can take a couple of hours. Users appreciate this 3D printing service for such services as conversion and prototyping. So you can have the item prototyped in any way you wish it. Ponoko takes care of your orders and make them look according to your specifications. Before sending the item to you, they’ll let you make sure everything is all right. Ponoko offices can be found in the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States and New Zeland.
MakeXYZ is not a 3D printing service, it’s rather a service that connects people who have 3D printers with those who need something 3D printed. Printers may belong either to individuals who are willing to 3D print for others or to local businesses. There are various ways of how it works. First, you may let MakeXYZ do all the work for you: they send your file to the printer, have it 3D printed and send the item to you. Or else you may use this service just to find business in your community and talk to them directly about the job. You may have a look at their database to choose the printer you need. They have printers that use all kinds of various materials. So it’s possible that in your community there is someone with the printer you need. Users find the service attractive because it is easy to find there the printer you need and connect to the local 3D printer services. It is easy to use their 3D printer directory – just type your zip code and here we go.
Sculpteo is an international 3D printing service located in France. The founder of the service Eric Carreel told Forbes that nowadays people buy items that are produced in huge numbers at factories, but this will change soon, and we will buy specific things that are 3D printed specially for us. How does it work? Customers go to sculpteo.com, choose the design and buy a 3D printed model. Sculpteo in its turn prints and sends the print to you. On the website there are huge amounts of products available – from vases and art pieces to jewelry and miniatures. Sculpteo appeared in 2009. A couple of years later they launched their 3D Batch Control, which allows users change the size of the 3D printing file after it has been uploaded.
Based in Belgium, i.Materialise 3D printing service belongs to Materialise 3D printing company. On this service designers can add their3D modeling files, which will then be available for users to 3D print. All the items are separated into groups, like games, gadgets and others. This 3D printing service is also a lab, where users can add their own 3D printing models, scale them and choose the color and material. If you don’t feel like designing things, you are welcome to use the creation corner. There is a 3D modeling service available, where professional designers offer their help in designing 3D printable files. Sometimes you may feel like buying a model but you would like to add something to it (like text totems). In this case there are several apps available with which you can add your stamp. Jweel app is one of them, which helps you to design jewelry extremely accurately. Go to i.materialise.com to check it out.
3D Hubs is an Amsterdam-based network of thousands of 3D printers available in 140 countries. The idea of the website is simple – to provide ability to 3D print something even if they don’t have a 3D printer. Nowadays nearly 1 billion people can have anything 3D printed using a 3D printer within 10 miles from their house. Users add their files, choose the suitable location, and have the item printed. 3D Hubs can be found all over the world, the majority being located in Europe and the United States. The task of 3D hubs is to make sure that all the operations between the customers and the Hubs are carried out in a proper way. It connects people from all over the world. Usually the order is ready in two days.
3D printer services are also available in India. That is Imaginarium. The service is famous for being a large Rapid Manufacturing and Prototyping Centre. They have been on the market for 30 years and you can print with them numerous products, including architecture, foundry and automotive products. If you can clearly imagine what you want to print, Imaginarium is for you. It works with SLS, SLA, 3D printing techniques and Vacuum Casting machines.
Rapid3D is a 3D printing service for South Africa. With this service users can print their own models and, what makes it especially valuable, you may buy a 3D printer from them. The company appeared in 2004 – long before 3D printing became popular. The first printer that the company bought was a ZPrinter310. At first the idea was to found a bureau service in ZwaZulu Natal, but things changed and the company became a 3D Systems agent in South Africa. The service is also available for those who want to try 3D printing before buying a 3D printer themselves. For those who are currently in South Africa you can try two kinds of 3D printers – a Project 3500 Plus, which is suitable for making parts from hard plastic, and ZPrinter 650 – a full-color printer.
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