3D Hubs is one of the largest and most popular 3D printing services available, but it’s not perfect. Explore this list of 3D Hubs alternatives to see how it stacks up against the competition.
3D Hubs is an Amsterdam-based manufacturing service providing some of the most advanced processes in the industry. It works with professional partners to deliver 3D printing, CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, and injection molding services to a worldwide market.
3D Hubs, as its name would imply, originally began as a maker networking platform, helping those looking to have something made find those willing to make it. Since then, it’s become the independent manufacturing service we know today, executing orders as the sole provider while outsourcing production to professional operations.
For a premium, users enjoy a wide range of customization options, design-for-manufacturing aids, professional production processes, and extensive resources.
If quality and selection are your project’s main priorities, with pricing and delivery lesser concerns, 3D Hubs represents a solid option. But what if that’s not the case? Who should you turn to?
There are a lot of 3D printing services out there, so who should you go to?
Craftcloud, All3DP’s 3D printing price comparison service, answers that question for you. With real-time quotes drawn from a global network of providers, you can easily find the right service and price for your needs, with no added fees.
If you know that 3D printing is what you need, Craftcloud’s wide range of partners, international delivery, and attentive customer service can help you make your final decision.
But perhaps you’d still like to know which options exist out there. In that case, let’s get started with our list of the top 3D Hubs alternatives!
As is evident from the description of 3D Hubs, a lot goes into making an excellent 3D printing and manufacturing service. So what factors should you be weighing when you pick one?
Material and Technology Selection
With the wide range of manufacturing services out there, you can get parts made out of anything from flame-retardant plastic to 3D printed titanium. Each of these comes with its own range of finishes and qualities, and each comes with its own pros and cons.
Before you decide on a 3D printing or manufacturing service, you should get a clear idea of what you’ll need out of your parts and which manufacturing technologies are best suited for your application. 3D Hubs stands out for its incredible support in this respect, but not all services do. Once you know the kinds of materials and processes you need, you can start narrowing down the many services out there.
Next, you’ll have to find the services that can produce parts to the quality that you need. Almost anybody can attempt to make a part from a provided model. What matters is how accurate, durable, and well-finished the part is, especially in the context of your specific application.
With the more popular, industry-oriented services, quality is usually top-notch. But for that, you’ll also have to pay a premium. For other services, online reviews and company websites can be very helpful in judging relative quality. The services we’ve picked are prized for their professional standards and dedication to accurate manufacturing.
Reach and Shipping
Reach is also an important factor to consider. What good is a service that won’t deliver to your location? Make sure that any service you choose can ship (promptly) to your country.
The services we’ve picked all serve a global market, just as 3D Hubs does.
Customer experience can also distinguish manufacturing services. How easy is the website to use? How clear and appropriate are the quotes? How helpful is customer support?
These are all factors to carefully consider. Having extensive resources, dedicated support services, and an intuitive website can make the difference between a suboptimal experience and a smooth one.
Materialise is a company that offers worldwide, industrial-grade 3D printing on demand. Its services come in two flavors: Materialise OnSite, targeted to industrial clients, and i.Materialise, oriented towards consumers.
Materialise OnSite has the largest fleet of 3D printers in Europe, enabling it to deliver prints even within 12 hours with their NextDay service. With its industrial orientation, OnSite has a higher minimum order quantity, but in turn opens up a world of extra materials and finishes. The service is also designed with customer support in mind, featuring direct contact with in-house engineers and offering eight languages.
i.Materialise, on the other hand, is a more consumer-oriented service. With a lower minimum order, you’re losing material choices and finishes, along with the elevated level of customer support seen in OnSite. While you won’t have engineers on the phone for assistance, you still will have access to the i.Materialise Forum and Help Center. i.Materialise still, however, does make use of Materialise’s industrial 3D printers, so printing quality is by no means lacking.
One feature that i.Materialise does boast over Materialise Onsite is its online marketplace, which is much like that of Shapeways’ above. Designers can sell designs that are printed and delivered by i.Materialise.
For both industrial clients and consumers alike, these services offered by Materialise are excellent options for quick turnaround times, especially for European orders.
3D printing materials:
Second on our list, we have Sculpteo, another 3D printing service. Like Shapeways and Materialise above, Sculpteo delivers prints from industrial-grade machines to a worldwide market.
In keeping with its competitors, Scuplteo offers a wide range of materials and a number of tools to analyze, repair, and optimize models for the best possible experience. It also offers an online marketplace for individuals to sell designs to consumers.
Sculpteo accepts numerous file formats. There have, however, been reports of the website being slow, but your experience with that will likely vary.
3D printing materials: Nylon (SLS/MJF), PA12-GB, PA12 Carbon, PEBA, TPU, Alumide, Resin, Stainless Steel, Aluminum, Titanium, Brass, Bronze, Silver, Plated Metal
Technologies: Plastic and metal 3D printing
On the 3D printing-only scene, we have Shapeways, the world’s most popular online 3D printing service. With a clean, user-friendly interface that accepts most common file formats, Shapeways brings industrial 3D printers directly to consumers. User experience is backed by access to a FAQ page, direct sales team contact, and dedicated technical support.
Shapeways is unique in that it offers more than just a 3D printing service; it also features an online marketplace, where consumers can buy models that are uploaded and sold by designers. Shapeways then prints the parts and delivers them to your door.
For consumer audiences interested in 3D printing, Shapeways is an attractive option for its user-oriented website and industrial machinery.
Materials: Nylon (SLS/MJF), PA 11, PA 12-GB (SLS/MJF), Resin, TPU (SLS), Aluminum, Steel, Plated Metal, Brass, Silver, Gold, Bronze, Sandstone
Technologies: Plastic and metal 3D printing
US-based Xometry is another well-established player in the manufacturing service space, offering services including 3D printing (in plastic and metal, of course), CNC machining, and injection molding, among many others. Their list of clients includes the likes of General Electric, BMW, and NASA. Given that, you’re likely in good hands.
Xometry’s network of over 3,000 manufacturers across all 50 US states means that, even if you throw a massive order at it, you can still expect quick turnaround and quality parts.
One interesting new feature is Xometry’s finishing services network, where clients can be connected to multiple different world-class finishing suppliers to find the most competitive price.
Materials: ABS, Polycarbonate, Nylon 12 (Filled and Unfilled), Ultem (1010 and 9085), Aluminum, Copper, Stainless Steel, Brass, Acetal (Delrin), Acrylic, PEEK, Polypropylene, PTFE, Titanium, Zinc, Urethane (Rigid and Flexible), PLA, PVC, PET, TPE, TPV
Technologies: Plastic and metal 3D printing, CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, urethane casting, injection molding
Next up is 3D Systems On Demand, a manufacturing service from industrial 3D printing giant 3D Systems. One of the original developers of additive manufacturing technologies, 3D Systems has, like 3D Hubs, substantial knowledge and experience in 3D printing. Add worldwide CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, urethane casting, injection molding, rapid molding, die casting, and investment casting, and you have a worthy competitor to 3D Hubs.
3D Systems On Demand stands out for its wide range of materials and finishes available. A perfect example is their Appearance Model service, which produces true-to-life replicas with stunning aesthetic accuracy. Extensive documentation for design tips and material choices, along with the option to directly contact each manufacturing team, helps you navigate the dizzying number of options.
3D Systems On Demand is a top-tier, versatile 3D printing and manufacturing service for professional audiences.
3D printing materials: ABS, Nylon, PA 11 (SLS/MJP), Polypropylene PP (SLA/MJF/SLS), Resin, Titanium, Stainless Steel, Maraging Steel, Cobalt-Chrome, Aluminum, Nickel, castable Wax
Technologies: Plastic and metal 3D printing, CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, urethane casting, injection molding, rapid molding, die casting, and investment casting
Stratasys is another leading manufacturer of industrial 3D printers and has created its own Stratasys Direct manufacturing service. Like 3D Systems On Demand, this service is backed by a wealth of 3D printing experience and a dazzling range of materials, all of which are clearly explained on its website.
Alongside 3D printing, Stratasys Direct offers CNC machining, urethane casting, and injection molding. To help you make the most appropriate design choices for each of these technologies, Stratasys offers a thorough Design Services program and direct contact with engineers. Online quoting is greatly simplified with the ability to create and edit custom styles (specific configurations for manufacturing parameters) that can be saved and applied to future projects.
Stratasys Direct offers impressive material selection, production quality, and customer service for professional applications.
3D printing materials: ABS, ASA, Nylon (MJF/SLS), PA 12-GF (MJF/SLS), PC, PEKK, PPSF/PPSU, TPE, ULTEM, Resin, Aluminum, Cobalt Chrome, Copper, Inconel, Monel, Steel, Titanium
Technologies: Plastic and metal 3D printing, CNC machining, urethane casting, and injection molding
UK-based Protolabs began in 1999 as a quick-turn injection molding service, but it has since expanded its repertoire to include plastic and metal 3D printing, CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, urethane casting, and insert molding. This all accessible through a simple and intuitive web interface for a smooth experience.
Like 3D Hubs, Protolabs has an extensive Resources page, with detailed design tips for all of the manufacturing technologies, and even for specific machines, that it provides. Design analysis tools also help ensure success. Customer support is available, should you need additional assistance.
Since it ventured beyond its original specialization of injection molding, Protolabs has become a solid and versatile choice for industrial on-demand manufacturing.
3D printing materials: ABS, Nylon (SLS/MJF), Polycarbonate PC (SLA), Polypropylene PP (SLA), Digital Photopolymer, Aluminum, Copper, Stainless Steel, Titanium, Inconel
Technologies: Plastic and metal 3D printing, CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, urethane casting, injection molding, and insert molding
There you have it: Our top six alternatives to 3D Hubs in 2019.
We hope that, in exploring this list, you’ve found some helpful services and learned a thing or two about 3D printing and manufacturing services.
(Lead image source: 3D Hubs)
License: The text of "2019 Best 3D Hubs Alternatives" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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