3D printing basics

How to 3D Print Without a 3D Printer

printing service
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No access to a 3D Printer? No problem. Choose from a selection of 3D printing services or 3D printer networks to take care of the job.

Let’s say you want to get something 3D printed. If you don’t yet have a 3D printer of your own, or don’t know someone who has one, there are still several options open to you.

Firstly, you can send your 3D model to a number of 3D printing services, and they will take care of printing and delivery. Also, three of the services listed in this article do more than just 3D print your models. They also have a selection of ready-to-print models, one of which might be an upgrade to your own 3D model.

Secondly, you can crowd-source for someone near your location who has a 3D printer and is offering to create your printout. In this article we present a network of 3D printer owners, together with a kind of search engine that lists companies and individuals owning a 3D printer, so you can find someone in the vicinity.

Printing services

i.Materialise, Sculpteo and Shapeways

Shapeways - a 3D printing service plus online shop
Shapeways – a 3D printing service plus online shop

i.Materialise, Sculpteo and Shapeways are the three biggest 3D printing services.

They can print 3D models (STL file format) you have uploaded, and they also have a selection of models designed by other users that you can have printed for a fixed price set by the designer. You can get gadgets, accessories, jewelry, fashion, art, games, home decoration, and more.

Each of these services have partnered with 3D designers to be able to offer their products exclusively. Some of the more popular designers are present on several of these platforms.

The three providers offer a vast choice of printing materials – from plastics to precious metals, depending on the model selected and on the material choice of the designer.


Meltwerk only prints white objects
Meltwerk only prints in white plastics

MeltWerk is a German service provider offering prices up to 85% lower than the prices by other providers.

To be able to offer the best price possible while providing the highest quality, MeltWerk (and the 3D printing company trinckle 3D) have optimised their production process and focused purely on what 90% of their customers have requested: plain white Polyamide (PA12) produced through selective laser sintering (SLS).

With that in mind, if you only need to have your model printed in white, the choice is clear.

Unlike Shapeways, Sculpteo and i.Materialise, however, MeltWerk only prints 3D models provided by its customers and does not (yet) have a catalogue of 3D printable things you can order. There’s one drawback, though: They only deliver within Europe.

3D printer networks and communities

3D Hubs

3D Hubs, the world's largest 3D printer network
3D Hubs, the world’s largest 3D printer network

3D Hubs is a global network of 3D printer owners that connects customers (people who need something printed) and printer owners (in 3D Hubs speak “hubs”). At the time of publication, there are over 19,000 printers worldwide in the network.

Customers upload a 3D model (STL file format), select a hub and the material, place the order, and either have the printed product delivered or pick it up at the hub.

You may also browse the local hubs list and filter or sort by distance, rating (by customers), print resolution or response time. Every hub specifies what printer it has and what materials can be printed.


Makexyz also aims to link people who need something 3D printed to people owning a 3D printer — or to CAD designers.

On their website simply enter your city name or postal code in the search field, and you’ll be presented with a list of 3D printer owners (including place and printer) near you. Every printer owner has his own page on makexyz through which you can contact him.

Alternatively, upload your STL file and have it printed from a nearby service provider recommended by makexyz.