An Introduction to 3D Printing Services

Did you know that you don’t need to own a 3D printer in order to get started with 3D printing? Desktop 3D printer prices may have reached consumer levels, but paying $800 – 1500 for a new technology that you have never worked with before is just too expensive for some of us.


True, there are all these incredible DIY 3D printers out there for less then $800, but let’s face it: not everyone who is interested by 3D printing is a tinkerer and/or good with tools or skilled (or patient) enough to dabble with these kits. This is especially true for total beginners with no background at all in tinkering. There still exists the possibility to go to a local makerspace, hackerspace or any similar (maker) communities, where you will be likely to find 3D printers in action as well as some help and advice. While this may be a popular choice for US-based citizens, those solutions do not exist (or if they do, just in a limited way) in other parts of the world. In short: not everyone is able to have access to such communities.

But do not despair – there is a solution to get started with 3D printing, without needing any of the above. The only things you do need is a healty bit of curiosity, the will to experiment and play a bit around with some software and just a few dollars to spend.


3D Printing Services for Consumers

The solution to your problem are the so-called 3D Printing Services. Basically, 3D printing services are service providers which will do the printing for you. You just need to create your object with a 3D software and send/upload the digital file to the website of a 3D printing service like Shapeways, i.materialise, Sculpteo or Ponoko. The services offered exceed by far the possibilities of a desktop 3D printer, as these companies do use a variety of printing technologies and professional machines to create three dimensional objects from your designs. For example, you will not be limited to printing your objects in plastic, but you may ask to get your object finished in ceramic, steel, plaster or even wood. Now, this sounds interesting and opens a whole new realm of possibilities….

The use of professional printers will also enable you to create more complex objects with a far better resolution then any of the actual desktop 3D printers in existence today. Another advantage of using 3D printing services is that you can start immediately, without losing any time either on building, calibrating, fixing or otherwise maintaing your printer.

It is not difficult to see all the numerous advantages when using such a service – otherwise extremely expensive prototypes, costing many thousand of dollars, can be realised for just a fraction of their price. Actually, we are witnessing the emergence of a number of new businesses, which all require the services of such 3D printing companies. The advantages are clear as architects, creators, designers, or fabbers like yourself are able to experiment with a lot of materials for a fraction of the price of a limited production run. It is a whole new world which is opening before us, thanks to these 3D printing services. And who knows, you may even see an opportunity here and create such an innovative business in this extraordinary field of 3D printing.

The present introduction will be completed by a series of posts in which we will talk in more detail about :

  • A review of 3D printing services available today. In this post, we will focus on certain 3D printing services and analyse what they have to offer.
  • Fun weekend projects for absolute beginners in 3D printing. This is the fun part, where you can play around and start your first projects, even without having a 3D printer. If you want to start immediately, you can already check out our article on Two Simple Ways to Get Started in 3D Printing Today.

If you wish to get more information on 3D printing services, make sure to check out 3D printing services resources page.

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