3D printing is a fun hobby. Sadly, however, due to space and money constraints, you may not necessarily print in the materials or volume that you want to. While you can get a decent 3D printer for around $200 that can print in a range of materials, it will have limitations. Even if you spend thousands of dollars on a top-of-the-line 3D printer, it still won’t be able to do everything. One of the ways to avoid these limitations is to use a 3D printing service.
3D printing services have one or more locations that have an array of printing options. You can send them your model file and pay them to print it for you. This has several benefits but also some downsides. Whether a 3D printing service is an appropriate solution for you and your project really depends on the requirements of your project.
Materials, Printing Methods, and Scale
There is a range of different methods of 3D printing that can help each print in their own range of materials. Just as you would be limited to a certain selection of materials by the 3D printer or printers you own, a 3D printing service is also limited by the printers they own. The advantage that they have, however, is scale.
As a company built around offering 3D printed parts, they have the space and money to invest in multiple printers. Across these printers, they can print standard materials and afford to purchase industrial machinery that costs significantly more. Doing so allows them to offer a more unique service.
For example, FDM and resin printers are now relatively common for 3D printing enthusiasts. A 3D printing service can offer this and the ability to print metal parts, for example, or to use different processes such as SLS, aka Selective Laser Sintering.
This allows 3D printing services to offer unique processes and materials to 3D printing enthusiasts who simply can’t afford to drop hundreds of thousands of dollars on specialist equipment for a small project. It also allows someone new to the hobby to try out the process without spending the money to get themselves a 3D printer before they know if they like it.
Scale is also an important factor here. Most people are likely to only have one or maybe two 3D printers. A company dedicated to 3D printing for hire will have many 3D printers to scale production when needed.
If you have a project that requires 100 large models as soon as possible, then a 3D printing service will almost certainly be able to complete the order and ship it to you faster than you could on your own.
Time and Price
While 3D printing services can offer great timescales for large orders thanks to efficiencies of scale, this isn’t the case for single items. When you’re printing at home, as soon as your print is complete, you have it. With a 3D printing service, it still has to be shipped to you, and there’s always the risk of damage in transit.
3D printing services can save money through economies of scale, especially on time- and space-related issues. The material costs for your print, however, remain unchanged from you printing it yourself.
You also have to pay for the manual labor of any post-processing, such as support removal, sanding, and polishing. You also have to pay for shipping, general admin, and facilitation fees. Finally, the company will also charge more than it costs them to actually make a profit.
3D printing services are a fantastic option for single prints that have requirements that you can’t reach. They’re also a great option if you need a large batch of prints as soon as possible. They do have their limitations, however, and aren’t suitable for every task. Have you had experience using 3D printing services? Let us know down below if you had a positive or a negative experience.