UPDATE: we have released our list of the best 3D printers with meta-rating calculated using ratings from four reliable sources (3D Hubs, Pinshape, Amazon and Make). Find out which are the 20 top rated 3D printers currently on the market!
3D printing is cool, but it’s not so easy and requires a good dose of technical knowledge. You also have to tackle a quite steep learning curve before achieving consistently good results with your prints. Oh and also, you’ll need a 3D printer. All that comes with a price, and the final bill can be quite hefty.
Many makers resort to online 3D printing services or local 3D printing bureaus to print their creations. In a few clicks, these 3D printing services allow you to get a quote for your 3D model and get it delivered to your door. They also offer a wide range of materials and finish quality, something out of the reach for the regular desktop 3D printer owner. If you only need to 3D print one object or if you have specific needs in terms of material or print technologies (let’s say you need to 3D print in metal for example), then using a 3D printing service can save you money and time. Indeed, while you will probably never invest in a $500k laser-sintering metal 3D printer, you may be able to afford a single print ordered through a 3D printing service which uses this specific machine.
We have listed for you some of the best online 3D printing services available today, from the centralized 3D printing production centers to the decentralized networks of local 3D printing bureaus and 3D printer owners. No more excuses, 3D printing is just a few clicks away!
1. Best online 3D printing services
This online 3D printing service from the Netherlands has grown a lot in the past years, to become a major global 3D printing service. In addition to accepting more than 40 files format, i.materialise also offers some useful additional services such as file fixing or 3D modeling consultation in case you need some help with your 3D model.
Here’s another Dutch-founded 3D printing company which became one of the most famous 3D printing brands after raising $30m in 2015 to “redefine the way products are made”. Although the company is mostly marketed as a 3D printing marketplace where designers can sell their creations, the bulk of Shapeways revenue actually comes from their 3D printing bureau operation.
The French startup followed the track of its rival Shapeways and is now a VC-backed company operating worldwide, with offices in Paris and San Francisco. Sculpteo mainly targets professional users and offers a wide range of 3D printing materials.
Other notable online 3D printing services
Headquartered in Houston, Kraftwurx has been in the digital manufacturing field for more than 10 years. The company was launched in 2006 and offers to 3d print your objects in more than 85 materials.
The US company Ponoko believes in a “on-demand” world where users would stream objects and 3D print them locally, kind of like a “digital Ikea combined with a Star-Trek replicator”. Their added value? A team of designers who can help turn your 2D designs into actual objects using a comprehensive range of fabrication techniques beyond 3D printing, for example laser cutting and engraving.
This 3D printing service bureau has chosen a low-cost approach: they partnered with several other 3D printing services to tap into their excess capacity and offer low prices to their customers.
2. Decentralized 3D printing services and 3D printing platforms
The famous startup from the Netherlands is probably the closest thing to the “Uber of 3D printing”. Indeed, 3DHubs applied the principles of the shared economy to 3D printing, allowing 3D printers owners worldwide to join their network and monetize their 3D printers by fulfilling print orders from local customers. A smart and successful approach which led to the creation of the first and rapidly growing decentralized 3D printing service.
Freelabster is a collaborative 3D printing platform which connects those who need 3D printing with 3D printer owners. The French startup, launched in July 2016, quickly build up its network with thousands of makers now offering 3D printing services through Freelabster.
This Switzerland-based 3D printing platform connects professional users to more than 345 3D printing suppliers, covering the full spectrum of technologies and materials.
The French start-up follows the same strategy as 3DHubs but focuses on the enterprise market. 3DClicShape connects local 3D printing bureaus to B2B customers through their platform, currently only available in France.
Based in Austin, this 3D printing startup offers a service similar to 3DHubs. Users can upload their 3D model to get an instant quote, or directly contact a 3D printer owner near them.
3. 3D printing price comparison services
This German startup lets you compare in real-time prices from several 3D printing providers, offering a wide range of 150+ materials.
The famous 3D printing news site launched its 3D printing price comparison service in 2015, allowing users to compare prices from the three main online 3D printing platforms (i.materialise, Shapeways and Sculpteo). Simple and efficient.
Founded in Canada, 3DPrintler offers a great user experience through a sleek interface, to easily compare prices from a variety of 3D printing bureaus. Their choice of 254 materials is particularly impressive.