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3D Printing Service Cost – How to Compare Prices

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by Melanie Griffin
May 26, 2019

3D printing services let you design beyond your own setup without overstepping your budget. Keep your wallet closed and your imagination open!

3D Printing Service Cost Printing Services 101

3D printing services take your designs and produce them on their own 3D printers.
3D printing services take your designs and produce them on their own 3D printers. Source: TechCrunch

Not everybody can afford their own 3D printer, so a number of companies have added 3D print-on-demand services to their offerings. 3D printing services let you send in your design and get a fully realized 3D printed model back without needing your own equipment. 3D printing companies open access to everyone who wants to experiment with the process.

Even if you do have your own setup, 3D printing services can still be useful. If you’d like to experiment with size, materials, and intricacies, 3D printing services let you try more varieties than you could possibly fit into a single setup. So if you’ve got a desktop 3D printer but have always wanted to think bigger, or if you want to see what an unusual kind of polymer prints like without investing in it yourself, 3D printing services have your back.

How do they work? Although the details of timing, price, and ability will differ depending on the service you choose, all 3D printing services follow these general steps:

  1. Create your design either on a personal CAD program or on the 3D printing service’s site.
  2. Send in your design once you’ve chosen which service you’d like to use.
  3. Choose your materials based on which are offered by the service you chose (each service will offer different materials).
  4. Wait for your 3D model to arrive! The 3D printing service will print your design, post-process it, and send it to your doorstep.

It really is that easy!

3D Printing Service Cost Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Service

3D printing services offer a variety of printing styles from the same company.
3D printing services offer a variety of printing styles from the same company. Source: McGill Library Blogs

Using a 3D printing service is a great solution to a lot of roadblocks you may come across in your 3D printing experience. But it’s not the perfect answer to everything. Here’s a handy guide to the pros and cons of using a 3D printing service.

Advantages

  • Try out new materials without incurring waste. Even just buying a new kind of filament can be a major investment. Some of the more advanced and unusual materials, like wood, glass, and metal, take considerably more time and money to make work. If you only want to use them for a special project or two, a 3D printing service will give you access without throwing away extra cash or leftover materials.
  • Get better layer resolution and detail work. If you can’t afford a 3D printer that gives you the level of detail you need for your object, a 3D printing service can help. They give access to their professional grade machines at a fraction of what it would cost to upgrade your own rig.
  • Size up. 3D printing services let you play around with the size of your objects, as well. Large-scale 3D printers come at large-scale pricing, so it lets you have a taste, without forking over the big bucks.
  • Pay less for one-time needs. In the same vein, if you’re not 3D printing objects on a regular basis, a 3D printer service will be much more cost-effective than buying your own equipment. Its one-and-done price structure lets you clearly budget for each print.

Disadvantages

  • Inability to adjust as you go along. One major perk of 3D printing is being able to adjust your design and printing methods as you go along if you see that something is not going as planned. 3D printing services unfortunately don’t offer that. Once you send in your design, you can’t check in on it with your own eyes until it’s done. That means in order to not waste your money you need to invest considerable time in the design so you can be sure to get your money’s worth on the first try.
  • Wait time means you have to plan further ahead. 3D printing services take away another clear advantage of 3D printing by making you wait for your final object to be shipped back to you. Desktop and other 3D printing services near you give you your object right away, but you have to factor in extra time if you use an online 3D printing service.
  • Price per print adds up when you want to print a lot. 3D printing service costs can easily outpace the price per print of a desktop or other personal 3D printer if you use them often enough. How long this takes depends on the specific service rates of what you’re doing. But in general, any sort of mass manufacturing you want to 3D print will be more price efficient on your own machine.

3D Printing Service Cost Things to Consider

Using unusual materials such as glass will add to your 3D print system cost.
Using unusual materials such as glass will add to your 3D print system cost. Source: 3D Printing Progress

3D printing services costs will depend on a number of factors. Your choices for each of these will determine exactly what you shell out:

  • Size: The size of your model is a direct factor in cost as it means more raw material, a longer print time, and an increase in shipping costs. Specially, large-scale 3D printing service costs can be significant. It’s often more viable to try a print out before fully investing in your own machine. However, because the machines are expensive, it is also expensive to use one. Large-scale 3D printing service costs can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
  • Materials: Filaments of ABS and PLA, two of the most common 3D printing materials, are much cheaper than higher-end raw materials like copper, glass, or carbon polymers. The good news is that it’s still a great deal for you compared to buying the material yourself, especially if you only need it for a single or limited project.
  • Intricacy: Does your object need to be solid or hollow? Does it have any areas that will needed printing support tresses? Does it use more than one color of filament? These are all factors that will affect your 3D printing service cost.
  • Shipping: Just like anything else you order on the internet, shipping times are directly related to how much you’re willing to pay. Priority mail or flash shipping can add up surprisingly quickly, especially if you’re getting a bulky and/or heavy print. Many 3D printing services ship around the world, too, so if you’re worried about international mail rates, find a 3D printing service based in your country (or at least your hemisphere).

3D Printing Service Cost How to Get the Best Value

Check on what kind of materials a 3D printing service has by checking its website and user forums.
Check on what kind of materials a 3D printing service has by checking its website and user forums. Source: 3D Sourced

The best way to find the 3D printing service cost for your project is to do a little research. That will ensure you get the best value for your money without wasting any or risking major disappointment when you get your result. Luckily, the internet is full of advice about 3D printing services:

  • Right here at All3DP: Everybody at All3DP is passionate about 3D printing and has experience we want to share. We have many articles related to 3D printing service cost:
  • 3D printing forums: User-based tech forums have a plethora of first-hand experience with 3D printing services that you can use to your advantage. Since customers don’t have any incentive except informing others about their experiences, they’re quick to point out flaws and gaps in service that the official websites may not mention. Forums also give you the advantage of having a conversation with fellow 3D printers for helpful tips when choosing a service.
  • Price quotes: 3D printing services offer personalized cost quotes. You can go as far as uploading your design, choosing a material, and letting them know your shipping address without committing to pay so you can see the full cost.

Below, we’ll highlight a few 3D printing services that are especially cost-effective.

3D Printing Service Cost Available Services

Image of: Available Services

Here are a few 3D printing services that keep your costs down and their quality up:

  • Craftcloud: All3DP has its very own top-of-the-line 3D printing service cost comparison service that does the shopping for you. You upload your design to the Craftcloud site, choose your material and color, and then pick which offer you’d like to use from our large variety of 3D printing partners. Save up to 50% with us!
Get It 3D Printed
Product image of Craftcloud

Craftcloud – 3D Printing & Price Comparison Service by All3DP

Save up to 50% by comparing prices from the leading 3D printing services. Simply upload your models, place your order, and leave the rest to us. Thanks to our partners, we provide worldwide manufacturing and delivery.

  • Cosine: These guys offer a great variety of services, but their cost-efficient large-scale 3D printing is what makes them stand out. Look through their gallery of completed projects to get an idea of what they’ve done and what’s possible with them.
  • Proto Labs: Want the best variety of materials on a budget? Proto Labs has you covered. They’ve also got a variety of machines that can take care of whatever 3D printing service you need.
  • i.Materialise: If you need to 3D print something as soon as possible, i.Materialise does it without compromising your quality. Their 2-day priority printing still gets you access to their full offerings, like finishing services (e.g. polishing, dyeing, and gold plating) and over 100 color combinations.

Feature image source: Sculpteo

License: The text of "3D Printing Service Cost – How to Compare Prices" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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