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Printing Professionals

How to Find 3D Printing Companies that Print Parts for You

Picture of Andreas Iliopoulos
by Andreas Iliopoulos
Feb 8, 2020
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Want 3D printed parts but don't own a printer? Why not turn to a professional service? Learn how to find the 3D printing company for you!

How to Find a 3D Printing Company

What Is a 3D Printing Company?

3D printing has been trending for some time
3D printing has been trending for some time (Source: Forbes)

The 3D printing “buzz” has continued to grow over the last years. Yet, even if you have the perfect application for 3D printing, the printers themselves can be quite expensive, not to mention the hassle of learning how to use one.

But wait! It’s not always necessary to get your hands on a 3D printer in order to give shape to your ideas! Nowadays, there are many companies that offer a whole spectrum of 3D printing services, and they’re almost certain to satisfy the majority of your needs.

Markforged's printing facility
Markforged's printing facility (Source: Markforged)

By 3D printing companies, one can refer to many things:

  • Large-scale 3D printing services: Professional part manufacturers who maintain and operate “printing farms” and manufacture parts to-order.
  • Small-scale 3D printing services: Enthusiasts, hobbyists, and individuals who produce printed parts on a limited or local scale.
  • 3D printer manufacturers (and distributors): Companies that sell and support 3D printing technologies, machines, and materials.
  • Designers: Companies or freelancers that do modeling work to create and optimize designs for 3D printing

For the purpose of this article, we’ll consider the first two categories – that is, large or small 3D printing services that produce custom parts. But the question remains, how do you find the right provider for your needs?

In the following, we’ll take a look at some “smart” tricks that can be used to navigate the spiderweb of 3D printing companies and services. We’ll also discuss a few example services to choose from.

For more in-depth, tailored 3D printing information, some great starting points are the dedicated basics and professional sections of All3DP.

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How to Find a 3D Printing Company

Types of Companies

Formnext
Many 3D printing companies flock to conferences like Formnext on an annual basis (Source: Ultimaker)

Knowing the types and sizes of business can be very useful to ascertain not only the quality and reliability of a company, but also what you can expect in terms of service and interactions. As in most industries, 3D printing companies can be classified into the following categories:

  • The “big names”: These are well-established companies or businesses that have become extremely popular. Their services can extend across the globe, and they have a wide spectrum of services. Sometimes this results in premium prices, but in turn, you’ll be receiving premium services and products.
  • Rising stars: These are medium companies in terms of size, coverage, and services, but they tend to be very innovative and thus have attracted a lot of attention. They can be located just about anywhere and are usually eager to please.
  • Local services: Typically serving a limited geographical area or very specific niches, these usually offer mostly jest a few basic services, which can include printing, designing, scanning, or training, with some offering equipment maintenance services, as well. These companies are numerous and can be found in most big cities. They might also operate as fab labs or makerspaces.

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How to Find a 3D Printing Company

Your One-Stop Shop: Craftcloud

CC
Craftcloud offers over 30 materials (Source: Craftcloud)

Every customer has different 3D printing needs. Perhaps you need a new prototype part to test a particular use case. Or maybe you’re a manufacturer wanting to evaluate the properties of a different material.

Regardless of the task, you’ll want the path that’s as effective and affordable as possible. To help you find that path, try Craftcloud, the 3D printing and price comparison service from All3DP.

With partners all around the world, Craftcloud presents you with the best services in terms of price and lead time, and there are no additional fees added. Quotes are generated in real-time based on your models and location.

Using the platform is as simple as any other 3D printing service, but with many more options available. You can choose from materials as common as PETG or transparent resin and as niche as sterling silver or 316L steel. And depending on the material you select, you can also request a particular finish.

Other helpful features of Crafcloud are its professional network and support staff. If your part isn’t suitable for printing, or you simply don’t have a design, experts and professional partners will help you get your design off the ground. And if you’re having trouble with the order or delivery processes, the Craftcloud team ready to assist.

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Other Ways to Source the Best Services

computer
My kingdom for a service (Source: Business World IT)

Despite Craftcloud’s global partner network and wide variety of materials, your project may require an even more special touch. Here are a few alternative ways to find 3D printing services.

Search Engines

Using the correct keywords, one can find a number of 3D printing services. For example, terms like “3D printing services+Nashville” and “3D printers in Nashville” may not produce the same results.

This method assumes that the company or individuals offering the type of services you’re looking for are established online. If not, you may need to keep digging. (Keep reading!)

Social Media

There are a large number of smaller 3D printing services that decide to do business through social media, namely Facebook. Searching on the media platform itself is the best way to find these services, after which you can establish contact to work out the fine details.

Although this method can certainly work, it has the drawback of being time-consuming. Also, all of the comparisons between different services has to be done manually.

Word of Mouth

There isn’t much to say about this method. When a business has a good reputation, it can easily spread from one satisfied customer to another.

This can be a very effective method in smaller communities, however, it has two major drawbacks. First, it can be prone to personal opinion or experience. Second, it’s difficult to do any comparison with other services.

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i.Materialise

The i.Materialise main webpage
The i.Materialise main webpage (Source: i.Materialise)

i.Materialise is a Belgium-based online 3D printing service with a large selection of 3D printing technologies on offer. Their reach is truly global.

Their model of production is rather straightforward:

  1. A customer uploads his or her 3D model.
  2. The website or support team guides them through the desired material, quantity, and finishing details
  3. The price is provided and, if it’s agreeable, the order is placed

Their selection of materials is huge! They even offer prints in metals like aluminum, titanium, or steel as well as precious metals, including brass, bronze, copper, gold, and silver.

Other interesting features of i.Materialise include design services, training in several aspects of 3D printing, a marketplace of 3D printed objects created by their in-house designers, a community blog and forum, and tons of information regarding their materials, methods, and other relevant details.

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Sculpteo

Sculpteo's homepage
Sculpteo's homepage (Source: Sculpteo)

Sculpteo originated in France, but they have production facilities both there and in San Francisco. Apart from these plants, they have offices located throughout major European countries. Recently, they were acquired by the German giant BASF.

They offer an online 3D printing and laser engraving service and their own software platform, called Fabpilot. Their interface for uploading models is one of the best, and they provide some nice extra features during the analysis stage of uploading a model. Chief among its features is the live preview function.

Their technologies span a large range of materials. Each is accompanied by loads of information, including design tips tailormade to the specific material and application, 3D printed samples, and various available finishes. They also offer many training services, in case one needs to dive a bit deeper into a specific area of additive manufacturing.

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Shapeways

The welcome page of Shapeways
The welcome page of Shapeways (Source: Shapeways)

Shapeways is a US-based company that offers 3D printing services worldwide. Originating in the Netherlands, this company started as a spin-off from Philips, later setting up a production site in the US and moving its HQ there.

Apart from the classic services of 3D design and 3D printing, they also offer an online marketplace for aspiring designers to sell their models, all of which can be directly sent to directly to the printing service. They have a partnership with ZVerse, which offers 3D design as a service, through which even clients without particular 3D design experience can start realizing their own designs.

They currently offer around 50 materials with a variety of printing technologies. The presentation and analysis of the materials are excellent, and this greatly helps the less-experienced customer to choose.

Throughout the ordering process, they offer plenty of links to helpful knowledge articles, or their sales team if the information provided is insufficient.

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Xometry

Xometry's opening page
Xometry's opening page (Source: Xometry)

Xometry is another US company with an impressive portfolio of services addressed to both business and retail clients. They provide instant quotes and boast a large number of production facilities in various locations throughout the US, though they also serve international clients worldwide.

For services, they offer CNC machining, 3D printing, sheet metal processing, urethane casting, and injection molding. They also provide training, a marketplace of tools and supplies, and various materials for manufacturing. As with the other services, there’s plenty of helpful information provided for each of their materials and offered services.

Besides their huge repertoire of manufacturing techniques, what really stands out is their quoting engine, which is efficient, robust, and includes some nice features, especially during the analysis stage.

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3D Systems

3D Systems' on-demand manufacturing service
3D Systems' on-demand manufacturing service (Source: 3D Systems)

3D Systems is the creator and the inventor of SLA technology, the original 3D printing technology. Their headquarters are in the US, but they do cover all of the major global markets.

They offer a large spectrum of services, including hardware and software support. In this, they mainly focus on the concepts of digital factories and on-demand manufacturing, which are best-suited for business clients, but the non-business client is certainly not excluded.

Their ordering system is a bit of a mixture. It requires a login (thus prior registration) before one can request a quote. They also offer the possibility of hiring a professional designer to help you design your projects optimized for 3D printing.

Their selection of materials is very large, including various metals and castable waxes, plastics, and even some materials for dental work.

(Lead image source: Pick 3D Printer)

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License: The text of "How to Find 3D Printing Companies that Print Parts for You" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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