Since its inception in the 1980s, 3D printing has matured to the point of becoming a viable manufacturing process to challenge traditional modes of production. Small batch, one-offs, and functional prototyping are all seeing an upswing in cost reductions and turnaround time thanks to 3D printing. Democratizing this revolution is a vast swathe of 3D printing services.
So, without further ado, here’s our meticulously compiled list of the 3D printing services to know right now. It’s impossible to quantify which is the best without bucketloads of money to spare on orders, so as our fallback for such lists, we’ve ordered all of the services by their Alexa Traffic Rank, which is determined by web traffic and similar factors.
If you’re unsure of which print service is right for you or how exactly a 3D print service generates its prices, we’ve got you covered. Check out the jump links bulleted below for brief explainers, or get started with entry #1, Craftcloud.
|3D Printing Service||Shipping||Materials|
|Craftcloud||Worldwide||PLA, ABS, Nylon (FDM/SLS), PA 12-GF (SLS), Resin, Carbon™ Resin, Tough Resin, PETG (FDM/SLS), TPU (SLS), Polypropylene PP, Woodlike PLA, ULTEM, Steel, Aluminum, Alumide, Brass, Plated Metal, Copper, Silver, Gold, Titanium, Platinum, Wax|
|Shapeways||Worldwide||Nylon (SLS/MJF), PA 11, PA 12-GB (SLS/MJF), Resin, TPU (SLS), Aluminum, Steel, Plated Metal, Brass, Silver, Gold, Bronze, Sandstone|
|3D Hubs||Worldwide||PLA, ABS, ASA, TPU (FDM), Resin, Nylon (MJF/SLS/FDM), Nylon 12-GF (SLS/MJF), PA 12-FR, PA 11 (MJF), HST, PETG (FDM), PEKK, Stainless Steel, Aluminum, Titanium|
|3D Systems On Demand||Worldwide||ABS, Nylon, PA 11 (SLS/MJP), Polypropylene PP (SLA/MJF/SLS), Resin, Titanium, Stainless Steel, Maraging Steel, Cobalt-Chrome, Aluminum, Nickel, castable Wax|
|Sculpteo||Worldwide||Nylon (SLS/MJF), PA12-GB, PA12 Carbon, PEBA, TPU, Alumide, Resin, Stainless Steel, Aluminum, Titanium, Brass, Bronze, Silver, Plated Metal|
|i.materialise||Worldwide||ABS, TPU, Nylon (SLS/MJF), Alumide, Polypropylene PP, Resin|
|Materialise OnSite||Worldwide||ABS, Polycarbonate PC, PC-ABS, Ultem, Nylon (SLS/MJF), Polypropylene (PP), TPU (SLS), PA 12-GF, PA 12-FR, Alumide, Aluminum, Stainless Steel, Titanium, Inconel|
|Xometry||North America||ABS, Nylon (SLS/MJF), PA 12-GF (SLS/MJF), Resin, Polycarbonate PC, Ultem, Stainless Steel, Aluminum|
|Protolabs||Worldwide||ABS, Nylon (SLS/MJF), Polycarbonate PC (SLA), Polypropylene PP (SLA), Digital Photopolymer, Aluminum, Copper, Stainless Steel, Titanium, Inconel|
|Stratasys Direct||Worldwide||ABS, ASA, Nylon (MJF/SLS), PA 12-GF (MJF/SLS), PC, PEKK, PPSF/PPSU, TPE, ULTEM, Resin, Aluminum, Cobalt Chrome, Copper, Inconel, Monel, Steel, Titanium|
|Jawstec||USA, Canada, Mexico||Nylon (SLS, MJF), PA 12-GF (SLS)|
|Treatstock||Worldwide||PLA, ABS, Nylon (SLS/FDM), Stainless Steel, TPU, Titanium, Aluminum, Brass, Polycarbonate, Castable Wax, PETG, Resin, Cobalt-Chrome|
|Star Rapid||Worldwide||Titanium, Steel, Aluminum, Maraging Steel|
|WhiteClouds||No reply to our request||Nylon, Resin, full-color Sandstone|
|Fathom||Worldwide||ABS Ultem, Polycarbonate PC, ASA, TPU (FDM), Resin, Nylon (MJF/FDM), Acrylic, Nylon (SLS)|
|3Diligent||Worldwide||ABS, Ultem, PC-ABS, Polycarbonate PC (FDM), Nylon (FDM/MJF/SLS), PA 12-GF (SLS), Resin, Aluminum, Stainless Steel, Titanium, Nickel, Inconel, Paper, Sandstone|
|Trinckle||Worldwide||Nylon (SLS), ABS, Acrylic, Plaster, TPE (SLS), Alumide (SLS), Silver|
|Voodoo Manufacturing||Worldwide||PLA, TPU (FDM), PETG, TPU|
|Beta Layout||Worldwide||Nylon (SLS), PA 12-GF (SLS), PEE, Alumide, Stainless Steel, Inconel, Cobalt Chrome|
|SD3D||Worldwide||PLA, ABS, PETT, PET+, PC-ABS, CF-PLA, CF-ABS, CF-PETG, CHETAH, PCTPE, FLEXSOLID, TPU, Nylon (SLS)|
|Kraftwurx||Worldwide||ABS Plus, Ultem, Polycarbonate PC, Photopolymer PP, Nylon (SLS), Gold, Aluminum, Stainless Steel, Bronze, Ceramic, Copper, Acrylic, Palladium, Casting Wax|
|3D Print-Au||Australia, New Zealand||Nylon (SLS)|
|ZVerse||USA||Resin (SLA/DLS), Carbon™ Resin, Nylon CE (DLP), PA 2200 (SLS), Sandstone, Metal|
|FacFox||Worldwide||PLA, ABS, TPU (SLS), ASA, Ultem, Nylon (FDM/SLS/MJF), PA 12-GF (SLS), Resin, Photopolymer PP, Stainless Steel, Bronze, Aluminum, Titanium, Maraging Steel, Cobalt Chrome, Sandstone|
|AutotivMFG||USA||Nylon (SLA/SLS/MJF), PA 12-GF (SLA/SLS/MJF), PLA, Resin, TPU (SLS), Ultem, Aluminum, Titanium|
|HK3DPrint||Worldwide||ABS, Nylon (SLS), Polycarbonate PC, Photopolymer PP, Resin|
|WeNext||Worldwide||Resin, Nylon (MJF, SLS) PA12-GF|
|3D Printing Ally||Worldwide||ABS, Polycarbnate PC (FDM), Ultem, Nylon (SLS), Resin|
Craftcloud is All3DP’s in-house 3D printing and price comparison service. A one-stop solution for placing 3D printing orders, you can save money by comparing prices from a variety of providers in real-time.
Generating instant quotes for 3D print jobs from Shapeways, i.Materialise, Sculpteo, Jawstech, Treatstock, Facfox, and more, Craftcloud dynamically offers an extensive selection of materials, prices, and shipping options.
Add in worldwide production facilities, international delivery, plus attentive customer service, and you have the complete package.
The world’s most popular online 3D printing service Shapeways offers two services. On the consumer side, you can choose from a broad array of professionally designed items, customize them, and have them printed to your specifications. Similar to other 3D printing services, Shapeways hosts storefronts for designers to sell models, printing the sales for them. Shapeways is also suitable for rapid prototyping – customers will profit from industrial-grade printers (EOS, 3D Systems) and dedicated technical support.
Shapeways’ 3D printing service can be accessed via Craftcloud.
Originally focused on 3D printing facilitated by local enthusiasts and professionals, 3D Hubs has pivoted towards offering a wide array of manufacturing processes from professional partners — suggesting the optimum method of production on a part by part basis and then delegating it to an appropriately located partner for manufacture.
Alongside dynamically updating prices based on material and location, turnaround times are also specified, making that an important variable in your purchase decision.
3D Systems is one of the original developers of additive manufacturing technologies, with decades of experience contributing to it being a leading manufacturer of industrial printers today. In addition to developing additive manufacturing systems, the company offers its own high-quality online manufacturing service, 3D Systems On Demand. Split into various branches, including subtractive manufacturing, Quickparts Rapid Prototyping is the company’s 3D printing service
Here you can take your pick from 3D System’s broad array of printers and materials, producing functional test parts in as little as 24-hours. Extensive technical documentation helps you detect design flaws and choose the right material for your project.
Like Shapeways and i.materialise, Sculpteo is an online 3D printing service that allows anyone to upload 3D models and have them fabricated in a wide variety of materials. In keeping with its competitors, Sculpteo also allows individuals and professionals to open up an online storefront and sell their designs to the public.
Sculpteo’s stable of professional services positions it as a comprehensive partner for batch production, prototyping, and design validation. A number of online tools, including analysis and repair, plus optimization help you to get the most out of your print.
Sculpteo’s 3D printing service can be accessed via Craftcloud.
i.Materialise is a company that works with industrial clients to produce prototypes and 3D printed products. But for the general public and individual designers, Materialise offers an online 3D printing service called i.materialise.
Much like Shapeways above, i.Materialise also hosts designer-run shops, allowing creatives to sell their wares as physical items, which are then fulfilled by i.Materialise
i.Materialise’s 3D printing service can be accessed via Craftcloud.
OnSite is Materialise’s online 3D printing service for industrial clients. With one of the largest fleet of 3D printers in Europe, OnSite is an excellent choice to create high-quality rapid prototypes within a short timeframe. Accordingly, you will find a wide range of printing technologies, materials, and finishes at your disposal. Rush services are available for a handful of materials, with lead times as short as one working day possible.
In addition to the online 3D printing service, OnSite offers its expertise in selecting the technologies, materials, and finishes appropriate for the project. Its in-house designers and engineers are also happy to assist you in optimizing your 3D files for 3D printing.
Website: Materialise OnSite
Effectively a software company, Xometry, leverages a US-wide network of manufacturing partners to offer instant quotes that are filterable by production method, material, and lead time. With customers including Fortune 500 companies, the system brings together those in need of custom parts quickly, and workshops frustrated at unorganized inquiries that lead nowhere.
In addition to 3D printing services, users of Xometry can have parts CNC machined, wrought from sheet metal and injection molded.
Founded in 1999, UK-based Protolabs started as a software platform connecting mills and presses, automating the workflow for creating injection molded parts.
Since then, the company has expanded into a robust manufacturing offering that includes a 3D printing service alongside CNC machining and its original specialization, injection molding.
Two pillars of the company’s work revolve around offering rapid prototyping facilitated by design analysis tools and quick turnarounds, and on-demand production fulfilling low-volume runs and use cases such as aluminum bridge tooling
One of the leading manufacturers of industrial 3D printers, Stratasys, also offers a high-quality 3D printing service. Fittingly, Stratasys sports a dazzling assortment of materials, which are explained in detail on the company’s website.
This online 3D printing service is aimed at professionals in engineering, medicine, and industrial design fields. Another neat feature of its online quoting page is the ability to create and edit styles (consisting of the printing method, material, finishing, and surface treatment) that can be applied to successive projects.
Specializing in the 3D printing of nylon, and CNC-machining of steel and aluminum, Jawstec offers a tightly focused and professional service. HP certified using said company’s Multi-Jet Fusion additive manufacturing system, Jawstec claims to offer superior post-processing of MJF parts.
Similarly, care for quality is offered across the company’s other wares, with post-processing to order a differentiator between Jawstec and other services.
Jawstec’s 3D printing service can be accessed via Craftcloud.
Treatstock is another web service that bundles the forces of 3D printing services all over the globe. Its instant quote system is very well designed, filtering out unsuitable provides as you choose the key criteria of your quote (such as international shipping, product application, and desired technology).
The second hat this online 3D printing service wears is that of a 3D model selling platform. Treatstock invites artists to open storefronts and upload their designs for customers to purchase and order 3D prints. What is more, Treatstock features a handful of apps on its website, enabling the creation of braille labels to make life easier for the visually impaired, plus relief 3D images based on photos.
Treatstock’s 3D printing service can be accessed via Craftcloud.
Star Rapid offers a wide range of prototyping services for professionals and ambitious hobbyists. The website includes detailed information on the available additive manufacturing technologies and finishing services.
Besides 3D printing, other techniques offered by this 3D printing service include plastic mold injection, CNC machining, pressure die casting, and vacuum casting. So, this company is a candidate in case your needs go beyond rapid prototyping, with rapid tooling and low-volume manufacturing all a possibility. Also, the case studies are a worthwhile read and demonstrate what this company is capable of achieving.
WhiteClouds is quite possibly the largest full-color 3D printing service in the world and is highly focused on B2B with its 3DyourPLAN, 3DyourMAP, and 3DyourSCAN service fronts. It cooperates with retailers and brands to create personalized action figures, medical models, and topological and architectural scenes for professionals and consumers alike.
Its high-quality prints are produced on 3D Systems and Stratasys printers. WhiteClouds has set up 3DPedia, a glossary of terms connected to 3D printing. While WhiteClouds has a form to place orders, 3D prints are usually ordered and distributed through its affiliated retailers like Sandboxr.
Oakland-based online 3D printing service Fathom offers a wide array of 3D printing technologies and services dedicated to rapid prototyping, product realization, and batch production.
Initially, a reseller of PolyJet machines (later Stratasys PolyJet), Fathom expanded to offer industrial-grade machines from other providers, scaling the service side accordingly.
Today Fathom leverages a number of fabrication tools, including 3D printing, alongside design and engineering services, training programs, and providing staff for running in-house operations.
Though it’s possible to upload STEP, IGES and STL files to request a quote, Fathom’s On-Demand Digital Manufacturing platform is the fully-featured aspect to the website, allowing for the upload of a wide number of file types and giving an easy overview of quotes and orders.
3Diligent is a professional manufacturing network that, once signed up, allows businesses to post jobs and requirements. 3Diligent then leverages its wide network of partners (spanning manufacturing techniques and technologies beyond 3D printing) to bid and complete the job.
When requesting a quote, you state your budget, select the material, the process, and other requirements of your project. If you are unsure which material or process is suitable for your design, the vendors can decide for you.
3Diligent also offers a knowledge center that provides concise information on printing methods and materials, as well as a series of videos that explain the order process.
In addition to being a 3D printing service, Trinckle offers a marketplace to buy 3D printed goods, tools to check the structural integrity of your model (thereby saving time and money), plus detailed guides on the pros and cons of each material.
In recent years the company has developed a professional web-based automation system for the parametric design (and printing) of custom parts. Dubbed Paramate, the platform gives infinite flexibility for businesses to offer customers a bespoke part service, and industrial clients the ability to design and produce on the fly.
Voodoo Manufacturing is based in Brooklyn and lends its 3D printing service for individual prints as well as for large-scale production. So far, their portfolio has included projects such as printing off collectibles for popular TV shows and gear for a high-fashion show.
All prints are made using a massive fleet of MakerBot 3D printers. As of February 2018, Voodoo Manufacturing offers a large-format printing service powered by an array of Rais3D N2 Plus 3D printers — allowing for print jobs up to 60cm tall.
It’s possible to generate a quote for SLS 3D prints online using Beta Layout’s price calculator, but the company’s specialty comes in complementary technologies for functional prototypes using PCBs and enclosures. Perhaps most tantalizing of the company’s offerings are 3D mechatronic integrated devices — printed objects with integrated circuitry.
Based in Germany, with several offices around the world, some services of Beta Layout’s have yet to make it to the US.
For those in need of 3D printed parts, pure and simple, online 3D printing service SD3D provides a convenient instant quoting tool. Parts can be ordered in four levels of quality to meet the needs of every stage in the design process — from rough, low-resolution drafts to ultra-fine pieces with barely perceptible layer lines. The prints can also be used for casting parts; this can come in handy when you want to produce prototypes on a small scale.
Aimed at the needs of designers and consumers alike, Kraftwurx is an online 3D printing service that offers a plethora of materials (including precious metals). It also lets 3D designers showcase their talent and set up web stores that build on Kraftwurx’s infrastructure.
The industrial printers used by Kraftwurx are from 3D Systems, Stratasys, EOS, and others. Kraftwurx’s 3D printing facilities are spread over 125 locations across the globe, cutting delivery times and costs for shipping, freight duties, and tariffs. What is more, Kraftwurx is a strong supporter of social manufacturing: you can post a project that artists and designers can join and contribute toward.
Australia-based online 3D printing service 3D Print-Au places its 3D printers at the disposal of customers in Australia and New Zealand. Because of its pricing structure (charging for the bounding box rather than the material used), it claims it will beat the competition’s quotes.
This 3D printing service also promises to provide superior quality as every uploaded model is inspected before sending it off to the 3D printer. Also, 3D Print-Au accepts low volume production orders.
Founded in 2013, ZVerse is a print on demand service that offers solutions for every phase of the 3D print lifecycle, from ideation and development to 3D design and printing. Using their patented LAYR technology, the company also develops 3D content creation and production apps for small and large-scale businesses. In cooperation with Carbon™, they provide Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) based on 3D printing.
ZVerse’s 3D printing service can be accessed via Craftcloud.
Offering a wide variety of manufacturing services, FacFox is one of China’s leading on-demand print services. The company tailors its services to several industries, including architecture, medical, retail, and design.
A simple online interface lets you quickly upload models, which will then be checked for printability (and automatically repaired if not) before payment. Live tracking of the print’s progress is a nice touch, and competitive international delivery often makes it a cost-effective alternative to some of the perhaps better-known services on this list.
FacFox’s 3D printing service can be accessed via Craftcloud.
Autotiv has been the 3D printing source for more than 1,000 companies, also offering multiple services besides 3D printing. Such as additive manufacturing, injection molding, or urethane casting. They utilize excess manufacturing capacity from qualified suppliers around the world as well as automated in-house manufacturing workflows, allowing them to make custom parts more efficiently. With Autotiv’s instant online quoting platform, you can choose from 5 different 3D printing technologies. Plastics, elastomers, and metals in SLA, FDM, SLS, DLS, and Polyjet are available. They also provide file repair and preparation, materials consulting, and project management.
AutotivMFG’s 3D printing service can be accessed via Craftcloud.
Hong Kong-based online 3D printing service HK3DPrint mostly produces prototyping architectural models, shipping them worldwide. This 3D printing service also offers cost-effective, low volume production.
The website also sports a quick instant quote system and helpful documentation on 3D printing technology in general. Unique colors and finishing are available on request.
Look out for the regular price specials on materials. Especially relevant for customers in the Hong Kong area, HK3DPrint offers a next day service.
WeNext is a Shenzen, China, based company specialized in high-demanding resin and nylon prints.
Founded in 2014, the company soon became the largest internet manufacturing service platform in the Asia-Pacific region with over 130.000 customers. With their competitive international delivery – expedited within 24h – the company is now targeting the worldwide market. It poses as a cost-effective alternative to some of the perhaps better-known services on this list.
WeNext’s printing service can be accessed via Craftcloud.
Hailing from Eden Prairie, 3D Printing Ally prides itself on operating at the place where additive manufacturing was born in the 1980s. Its founder is an aerospace manufacturing professional, and as a result, the company has a firm grasp of the art. Although with a wide variety of additive manufacturing machines spanning numerous technologies and materials at its disposal, 3D printing Ally is well placed to serve a number of different industries’ requirements. The 3D printing service website boasts a very convenient instant quoting system and useful information on the available printing technologies and materials.
You’ve got a model you need printing. We’ve got the list of print services up for the task. A simple case of clicking around and trying them out, right? WRONG.
There are a plethora of factors to consider when weighing up the print services and bureaus out there. Here, to help you hone in on what matters, are the primary considerations to keep in mind when choosing which 3D printing service to use.
There is a surprisingly diverse array of materials available to 3D printing technologies, making even the most discerningly specific of jobs a possibility. From difficult gold parts created using 3D printed molds for investment wax casting to flame-retardant casings printed in impossible shapes — the limitations become less by the day.
This means really, the onus is on you, your 3D model, and what exactly you need it to do. Working prototypes will need to stand up to testing reflective of their end-use while engineering jigs and fixtures will need to be durable enough to survive on the shop floor without distortion or wear. All crucial considerations made simpler by many print services allowing you to select a material from a drop-down menu.
Pay close attention to any tool-tips or material indexes a print service offers. There you’ll be able to see detailed information about the properties of a material and typical use cases.
Those with professional use and stringent mechanical and chemical requirements for their part in mind would do best to consider the larger print services that have highly visible partnerships with other corporations and/or offer design services of their own. Chances are their material offerings, and support will be better than smaller operators.
Not to diminish the little guy, just the probability suggests that will be the case.
Those less interested in having a part perform in a specific way, needing just a physical object in hand, have the luxury of choice. Any print service can physically realize the model — with material considerations gone, it’s down to cost, scale, time and, possibly, certifications and confidentiality.
Another factor that will limit the number of useful 3D print services you can turn to is their ability to handle batch production. It’s well and good to find a print service with the right material, but if it can’t handle 1,000 pieces of that thing you need by next week, then this is moot.
Some services, such as Brooklyn-based Voodoo Manufacturing, specialize in batch production. Utilizing a scalable farm of printers to achieve large jobs quickly, the steps necessary to accomplish this are greater than the straightforward click+upload pipeline you commonly find for on-demand print services. Replaced instead with direct feedback and quotation, this will be a necessary step no matter the service you use to ensure all considerations and demands are met.
When using a 3D printing service for low-volume batch runs, be sure to check that the service you have in mind is equipped to deal with the number of prints you need. Some print technologies a service lists can be indicative of this, with selective laser sintering one particular printing tech suited to batch optimizations.
The factors affecting the final cost of a 3D printed part are myriad.
You have some little power to influence the cost of the parts you order, be it through using a 3D print service that is local to where you need the printed piece to be and being flexible with the materials you use.
Another valid strategy to scope out the best price for 3D printing would be to create quotes with many print services, comparing and adjusting parameters until you achieve an acceptable price. However, this comes at a significant cost in time and frustration. Who wants to acquaint themselves with the intricacies of a dozen file upload systems, material selections, and checkout pipelines? Not we.
Where cost is a factor, 3D printing price comparison services and those that operate as hubs come into their own. For example, you could spend half an hour configuring quotes from the top three print services for a given material, or turn to a service such as All3DP’s own Craftcloud, upload the model once, select the material once, and see prices and shipping estimates for multiple services in one step.
A simple one, this. You needed your part yesterday, and the closest thing to a time machine is an additively manufactured piece on the express train to tomorrow. Fortunately, some 3D printing service providers offer rushes on jobs should you not be too picky about the material it prints in.
One such provider, Materialise Onsite, is tailored to the concept of rapid prototyping, with a history of next-day shipping going back to the late nineties. Such services are, of course, bound by physical limitations such as geography, so pay attention to the location of the service you use if the time of the essence.
Much as the location of the company printing your part can negatively impact on the shipping cost, so too can it increase the time it takes to reach you.
Those in a hurry would do best to opt for services that guarantee quick turnarounds and fast shipping. Otherwise, try to stay as local as possible.
As with the factor of cost, a 3D printing service price comparison can come into its own here, helping you pick the service that offers the quickest turnaround when the cost matters less than having it in hand, like, now.
It’s a natural assumption that most 3D printing services operate with the intent to foster trust with their users — who are uploading potentially sensitive models, after all. Most are quick to declare that in uploading your file for manufacture, you are granting a non-exclusive license giving the company the provision to fabricate your model. However, there are occasions where you, as the user, need airtight confidentiality regarding the files you are uploading. To that end, a print service willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement is your friend. Few print services are upfront about their readiness to sign such documents, but digging around a given service’s FAQ page or user forum usually yields an official stance on the matter.
Another factor, albeit a less tangible one for you as the end-user, is ISO:9001 certification. An increasing number of 3D printing companies are adhering to the stringent checks and auditing that comes with ISO:9001. This means little for the actual production of your part; instead, think of it more as an indication that the company is committed to ensuring a high level of standards across the breadth of its organization.
One natural benefit to think of here would be, for example, if a 3D printing service also offered CNC milling at its second location on another continent. Maintaining ISO:9001 means that the management, service, customer care, and manufacture quality of parts coming from both sites are on par with one another. Leading to greater interoperability between different entities, it’s an assurance of commitment to excellence. Better organized companies will inevitably lead to a better experience for you, the customer.
There are other more niche requirements that few 3D print services offer. One such example would be International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) compliance, a requisite for any step in the supply chain of “defense articles” as specified on the United States Munitions List. On our list above, Fathom declares itself as ITAR registered, making it a viable option for engineers working with “defense articles.” On the other hand, a large 3D printing service such as i.Materialise openly reserves the right to reject such models.
When you upload your 3D file to a 3D printing service, you will get a quote – either instantly or by email. However, not all these services are transparent as to how a 3D printing service calculates its prices.
Below, we have compiled a list of the most important factors that determine how 3D printing services calculate their prices. Some of them are obvious to anyone who as a 3D printer at home, while operational processes of a given 3D printing service provider can also affect the price.
It’s no leap to say that an item printed in PLA will cost significantly less than the same item in sterling silver. Ideally, 3D printing services publish a list that reveals how much a certain amount of the available materials cost. Your price, or rather, the price of material required for your job, is calculated by multiplying the material cost by the volume of the 3D file.
But other factors must be considered to understand how 3D printing service providers calculate their prices. For one, usually, parts are not printed as solid pieces. Instead, in FDM parts, a certain percentage of infill is used to balance strength and cost.
What is more, many 3D files with overhanging parts require support structures to be printable at all. The material spent on these supports must also be factored in to calculate 3D printing service prices.
Although 3D printing services are highly automated and use sophisticated software to facilitate every stage of production, there is still a lot of manual labor involved. For instance, after printing, the parts are cleaned, sorted, and packaged. The final cost of a printed item reflects these labors, a part of the “service fee” that is charged per item or order.
Another factor that must be considered to understand how 3D printing services calculate prices is finishing; the dying, polishing is post-processes that help to get the most out of your 3D prints. However, since they are often done manually, they will increase the final cost.
What 3D printing services also include in their calculations of 3D printing service prices are costs involved with maintenance. This includes initial printer investment, electricity, depreciation, and failed prints. These are the sort of costs wrapped up into a “service fee.” Another way that 3D printing services cover these costs is by charging a minimum price in case an order is below a certain value.
When setting up the print, it is sometimes possible to tweak the printing speed by adjusting the layer height. Parts with bigger layer-heights will cost the printing service less time, and you can save a lot of money. So, by tweaking the resolution of your part, you can determine how 3D printing service prices are calculated.
The same applies to the amount of infill. Printing solid parts does not only increase the material cost, but also the time needed for printing.
In processes like SLS, the biggest driver of 3D printing cost is neither material nor labor, but machine space. 3D printing services stack models from various orders together to print as many parts as possible in one build. Hollow parts can sometimes accommodate smaller parts. This process makes 3D printing more cost-effective for 3D printing services. In turn, they pass on the part of the money they saved. So, the shape of your 3D file can directly influence how 3D printing service prices are calculated.
Of course, it takes someone to deliver the finished piece to you. Companies like Shapeways, Sculpteo, and i.materialise are usually working with local subcontractors. The 3D printing file gets transferred to them; the file is then 3D printed and after successful completion – gets shipped.
It makes sense to take a look at shipping costs, as they can differ – some 3D printing services charge up to 100 percent more than others for handling and shipping.
(Lead image: Voodoo Manufacturing)
License: The text of "2019 Best Online 3D Printing Services (Fall Update)" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.