Dec 26, 2018

Can I Try 3D Printing Before Buying a 3D Printer?

There are many options to try 3D printing before you buy. In fact, the experience you gain may help you make a better choice when you are ready to purchase.

Many 3D Printing Options

Welcome to 3D printing! Source: misawa.af.mil

Most people don’t print their own wedding invitations or business cards — it’s better to find someone with the equipment and expertise to do such jobs for you. The same is true for people getting started with 3D printing. This article will introduce some of the many options for trying 3D printing without a 3D printer.

Public or School Library

Demonstrating the 3D printer at McAllen Public Library. Source: Flickr

Many public or school libraries offer 3D printing to community members for a nominal fee (to cover the cost of printing materials). In many cases, they’ll also allow you to watch while your object is being printed.

Hopefully you can even use some computers to design your part or download models from sites like Thingiverse. In that case, look out for staff who can offer assistance.

If your local library offers such services, this is probably the most economical option, since libraries are supported by your tax dollars.

Fab Lab or Maker Space

A maker space offers more hands-on opportunities with a variety of tools. Source: Flickr

A great alternative to a library is a fab lab or maker space. While a library is likely to be less expensive, a fab lab or maker space is likely to offer more hands-on opportunities. They’re more likely to allow you to operate the printer rather than simply watching, so you can gain a better appreciation of 3D printing and become better prepared to shop for your own 3D printer.

3D Printing Clubs or Meetups

Members of Portland 3DPLab Meetup Socialize and Share. Source: Matt Johnson / Twitter

3D printing club or meetups offer the opportunity to meet and learn about 3D printing with a variety of people with varying levels of experience. You’re likely to meet people with similar interests who already own 3D printers, and you may find opportunities to share.

For even more information on meeting 3D printing enthusiasts, check out our article How Can I Connect with Other People Doing 3D Printing?

Social Media

Become a part of the community through social media. Source: Twitter

You might be surprised to discover that one of your friends or coworkers already has a 3D printer. If you choose an interesting project, perhaps they would be interested in helping.

On the other hand, you might have something to trade: lessons in your favorite craft or hobby, help with a home project, or other bits of knowledge. Try posting your request to social media.

Service Bureaus

A large production 3D printer. Source: Flickr

A final option is to use one of the many service bureaus that will custom print and ship your models to your door for a nominal price. Service bureaus often offer options available only on high end printers, such as printing using specialized materials. To find the best service for your needs, check out All3DP’s Price Comparison Service.

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License: The text of "Can I Try 3D Printing Before Buying a 3D Printer?" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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