Despite 3D printers becoming significantly cheaper over the years, many individuals and companies are still understandably reluctant to purchase a printer outright. But though they cannot justify the cost based on limited use of the 3D printer, they sorely need rapid prototyped parts on occasion. Enter online 3D printing services who print your model or part for you, and mail it to you in just a few days.
For many needs, large industrial printers are required to print at such scales and with such precision. For many businesses the upfront investment does not make sense to buy one of these printers, and instead outsource production to 3D printing services.
Therefore, we have ranked the 3D printing services we recommend based on:
- Number of 3D printing technologies offered
- Variety of 3D printing materials available
- Size: larger 3D printing services are more able to handle larger batch sizes
First we explain the factors that make for a good 3D printing service, and how to determine your priorities.
Choose an online 3D Printing Service: which technologies are available?
Different online 3D printing service companies offer different options, depending on a variety of factors. Newer, innovative technologies such as CLIP and Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) are becoming increasingly available, whereas FDM and SLS are already offered by most 3D printing services.
Be aware also of whether a service is able to accommodate larger orders, for those with industrial-level needs. Some more bespoke services used to smaller orders may be less effective at dealing with large volume orders.
Choosing a Material
The most suitable material for your part or model depends on the functions you need your part to perform. If it is purely aesthetic to check for shape and design, then standard plastic filaments or polymer resins will suffice, but if you need a metal part for strenuous testing or a tough plastic part, it will cost more.
Metal 3D Printing Services
A few years ago there were far fewer options for metal 3D printer parts, requiring a DMLS, EBM or Binder Jetting 3D printer. Nowadays however most have adopted at least one of those technologies for their rapid prototyping 3D printing services.
In each 3D printing service’s description we’ve listed the technologies they offer to help you make the best decision for you. 3D printing services offered by metal 3D printer companies like Stratasys will obviously offer metal parts, whereas other companies such as Voodoo Manufacturing specialize in FDM.
3D Printing Service Cost: How much will a 3D printed part cost to make?
This one’s always tough. The answer — and the answer everyone hates to read — is that it depends, on the size of the part, material, and a host of other factors.
Some online 3D printing services have a built-in calculator: simply upload your 3D printer model, choose your material and it will calculate the estimated part cost.
You can for example upload the standard 3DBenchy STL file and compare prices across services, or alternatively upload the model you want 3D printed, choose the material you want, and see if there are any 3D printing services cheap enough.
How fast do I get my part?
Some services claim to be able to deliver overnight, and most offer special packages for very urgent rapid prototyping. Based on your priorities, you may seek out one of our recommended services with a reputation for speed.
Do I need to find a 3D printing service near me?
Honestly, not really. Almost all the 3D printing services listed here have production facilities in multiple continents and service customers across Europe, North America, and sometimes other areas. These 3D printer companies have no problem with geographical distance, so there’s no real pressure to pick a local 3D printing service.
Additionally, 3D printing marketplaces like MakeXYZ pair those who need a part printed with local makers who will print it for you — for a small fee. The company itself may not be local, but your part will still be locally printed; the 3D printing marketplace is just the facilitator and middleman.
The Best Online 3D Printing Services
Part 1: 3D Printing Marketplaces
Some of the services recommended also function as marketplaces, allowing designers to sell their designs without having to own a 3D printer. Talented designers can earn passive incomes by uploading their beautiful 3D models — for example of 3D printed jewelry designs or a miniature character — and if anybody orders it as a 3D print, the designer receives a portion of the income.
- Established: 2007
- Company based: Holland / USA
- 3D printing technologies offered: SLA, SLS, DMLS, FDM, PolyJet, Binder Jetting
Shapeways is a prominent online 3D printing service founded back in 2007 by Dutch entrepreneur Peter Weijmarshausen, and is now based in New York. However, Shapeways is not just a service but operates as an entire 3D printing marketplace, allowing 3D designers to sell the designs they create on various 3D software and receive a cut of the revenue. Shapeways then fulfills these orders by 3D printing the design and sending it to the buyer.
One of the most versatile 3D printing services, Shapeways offers a huge variety of 3D printing technologies and materials. They offer SLA, SLS, DMLS, FDM, as well as a number of color 3D printers using PolyJet and Binder Jetting technologies. You can have your designs 3D printed in standard PLA or ABS, or even steel, bronze, silver, gold, aluminium, brass, sandstone or porcelain! Overall, Shapeways is a surefire way to find whatever you’re looking for, and is a great way for 3D designers to monetize their creativity.
- Company based: Belgium
- Established: 1990
- 3D printing technologies offered: SLA, SLS, FDM, MJF, PolyJet, Lost Wax Casting, metal 3D printing
i.materialise is a 3D printing marketplace similar to Shapeways, and is part of Materialise NV. Based in Belgium, Materialise have over 25 years experience in the 3D printing sector. Like Shapeways, 3D designers can use i.materialise to list and sell their designs, and pick up a portion of the revenue of any sales; whilst . In addition, i.materialise also offer their online 3D printing service in which you can simply upload your model, choose your material, and pay to have the 3D model printed and shipped to you.
Like Shapeways, i.materialise offers a huge variety of 3D printing technologies including SLA, SLS, FDM, Multi Jet Fusion (MJF), PolyJet, Lost wax printing, and metal 3D printing technologies. You can also choose between plastics such as ABS and PLA, a variety of resins, polyamide, bronze, silver, gold, titanium, steel, brass and rubber, for your 3D printer model.
- Company based: USA
- 3D printing technologies offered: depends on local users, though many FDM, SLA, SLS and PolyJet vendors
MakeXYZ is an online 3D printing service and marketplace, proclaiming democratization and camaraderie between makers. Like 3D Hubs’s business model when they started, in addition to being able to simply upload your 3D file and order a print, owners of their own desktop 3D printers can register and sell their services to do the printing. This means that anybody with a 3D printer can start making money performing 3D printing services.
Therefore, MakeXYZ doesn’t print your model, but will link you to a trusted printer who will — MakeXYZ’s software gives you a price based on size, technology, and material used, and facilitates the sale between buyer and seller.
Despite not operating any of their own 3D printers, the MakeXYZ online 3D printing service lists FDM 3D printers, SLA 3D printers, SLS 3D printers, and PolyJet on their site. They’re mostly based in the UK and USA, and offer materials including PLA, ABS, Nylon, TPU and resins.
- Founded: 2004
- Company based: USA
- 3D printing technologies offered: Depends on material chosen
Kraftwurx is an online 3D printing marketplace and service similar to Shapeways in that it allows budding 3D designers to publish their 3D printer models online for others to buy in their chosen material.
This Texas-based company has over fifteen years 3D printing experience, having pioneered their Digital Factory service along with their goals of minimizing waste and empowering designers and engineers all around the world. They also focus on collaboration across a variety of mediums, shown through their social manufacturing pages, portraying a company keen to maintain a genuine feel of community.
Part 2: Best 3D Printing Services
The second part of our 3D printing service recommendations feature pure services that will print anything you need, but do not offer a marketplace for designers to sell their designs on. Many businesses use these online 3D printing services for fast delivery of key rapid prototypes, parts and many other applications.
- Company based: France
- Established: 2009
- 3D printing technologies offered: CLIP/DLS, MJF, SLS, Binder Jetting, DMLS/SLM, PolyJet, lost wax casting, FDM
Founded back in 2009 in France and now with offices in San Francisco, Sculpteo specialize in 3D printing and additive manufacturing in the cloud. Offering Carbon 3D’s CLIP (DLS) technology in addition to SLS, Binder Jetting, DMLS, and PolyJet; you have an abundance of choice for technologies. Moreover, Sculpteo’s online 3D printing service offers materials including PA11 & PA12 varieties, resins, aluminium, steel, bronze, silver, brass, and more.
Overall, Sculpteo is a great online 3D printing service for Europeans and North Americans looking to get their models 3D printed quickly and to a high standard.
- Company based: USA.
- Established: 1999.
- 3D printing technologies offered: SLA, SLS, DMLS, MJF, PolyJet.
Another 3D printing service with a rich and long history in manufacturing, Protolabs has been around since being founded in 1999 by Larry Lukis. Originally set up to offer low cost injection molding and CNC machining, Protolabs has also offered 3D printing services since 2014.
These 3D printing services include SLA, SLS, DMLS, MJF and PolyJet technologies to meet customers’ need across plastic, resin, and metal 3D printed parts. Moreover, Protolabs offer special materials – such as elastomers – among others to service the needs of many different consumers. This versatility has clearly been successful, with Protolabs posting record revenues and a valuation of over $2 billion.
- You can view our full list of the most valuable 3D printing companies.
- Company based: USA.
- 3D printing technologies offered: FDM.
The new kid on the block in the world of 3D printing services, Voodoo Manufacturing offers large-scale FDM 3D printing. Larger 3D printed parts can be made in sections – or blocks – and assembled together after printing. Voodoo Manufacturing makes use of over 200 FDM 3D printers including printers by Makerbot and Raise3D.
Based in Brooklyn, New York, Voodoo offers just fused deposition modeling, but does it well. Voodoo Manufacturing offer just three 3D printer filaments – PLA, two types of TPU and PETG – specializing in order to offer an effective manufacturing process including automation to provide the best possible service to customers. There’s a reason they’ve already served over 2,000 customers.
- Founded: 2013
- Company based: Holland
- 3D printing technologies offered: FDM, SLA, SLS, MJF, PolyJet, DMLS
3D Hubs was founded to serve as a bridge between those who needed a part 3D printed, and those with a 3D printer and spare capacity. This has proven hugely successful, and 3D Hubs has since received over $11.5M in investment to grow their services.
The difference between other 3D printing services and 3D Hubs is that 3D Hubs link buyers and sellers in a marketplace similar to Etsy or eBay. This supports local hubs and businesses, and also means 3D Hubs don’t need to spend money on hundreds of 3D printers. Though they have refocused on more industrial clients — prompting considerable backlash — 3D Hubs appear to be performing strongly.
- Founded: 2014
- Company based: USA
- 3D printing technologies offered: FDM, SLA, SLS, DMLS, MJF, DLS/CLIP, PolyJet
Despite only being founded around five years ago, Xometry’s boldness in being one of the first services to incorporate innovative new 3D printing processes such as HP’s MultiJet Fusion and Carbon’s new DLS / CLIP technologies shows great ambition. Xometry show no signs of slowing down either, having secured over $50M in investment back in May, taking the total backing they’ve received to an incredible $113M.
The company now offers the widest variety of 3D printing service options of any company we researched, as well as offering other services such as injection molding and CNC services. Their adoption of innovative 3D printer manufacturer Carbon’s machines portray a company striving to be perennially cutting edge, so we shall have to see how Xometry perform going forwards.
Quickparts by 3D Systems
- Founded: 1983
- Company based: USA
- 3D printing technologies offered: SLS, SLA, ColorJet
Quickparts, part of 3D Systems, is another major rapid prototyping online 3D printing service. 3D Systems has a reputation for being a leading industrial 3D printer manufacturer, and use their versatile range of 3D printers to cater to your every need. These include Selective Laser Sintering, Stereolithography and ColorJet 3D printers.
Focused on a more industrial clientele, Quickparts offers four distinct 3D printing services: fast-turn prototyping; advanced prototyping; low-volume manufacturing; and appearance modeling. This suite of tools and options performs a variety of services, helping companies get the custom parts they need at the lowest prices.
- Company based: USA.
- 3D printing technologies offered: FDM, SLA, SLS, MJF, DMLS/SLM, PolyJet.
Stratasys is one of the largest and most valuable 3D printing companies in the world, so it is inevitable that they would move into the online 3D printing service space. Like Quickparts with 3D Systems, Stratasys can rely on their industrial 3D printer systems to produce parts on demand. As a result, Stratasys Direct offer DMLS, FDM, SLS, Multi Jet Fusion, PolyJet, and Stereolithography.
Beyond being a 3D printing service, Stratasys Direct also offer CNC milling and injection molding. They offer over 20 different materials across the 3D printing technologies offered, serving clients from the aerospace, medical and transport sectors.
- Company based: UK
- 3D printing technologies offered: SLS
3DPRINTUK is an online 3D printing service that serves the UK and Europe, providing high quality SLS 3D printing using their Formiga SLS 3D printers. Whereas most other services offer three, four, or even five or six different 3D printing technologies, 3DPRINTUK prefer to focus and master one technology, Selective Laser Sintering.
Simply upload your STL file go through the product criteria (choosing your color, etc) and get your nylon 3D model delivered to you a few days later. They even offer a healthy student discount for if you’re trying to get a prototype made for a student project!