Since 3D printing exploded in recent years, many budding designers took to their computers to create extraordinary designs on their 3D software tools. Not all of these designers owned 3D printers however, and so 3D printing services stepped in to offer them low cost 3D printing.
Now in 2018 there are a huge variety of 3D printing service and marketplace options out there. We therefore researched to rank the best online 3D printing services, based on criteria such as amount of 3D printing technologies offered, variety of 3D printer materials available, price, and more.
3D Printing Service: which technologies are available?
Here is a graph of the top 6 3D printing service options with the 3D printing technologies offered. This doesn’t give a holistic picture however of quality overall, but it is useful to know.
|Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)||YES||YES||NO||YES||YES||NO|
|Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)||YES||YES||YES||YES||NO||YES|
|Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)||YES||YES||YES||NO||NO||YES|
|Binder Jetting (BJ)||YES||NO||YES||NO||NO||NO|
|Multi Jet Fusion (MJF)||YES||YES||NO||NO||NO||YES|
1 – Shapeways
- Established: 2007.
- Company based: Holland / USA
Shapeways is a very well-known online 3D printing service founded back in 2007 by Peter Weijmarshausen in Holland, though the company is now based in New York. However, Shapeways operates slightly differently to most online 3D printing services, allowing 3D designers to sell their designs created in various 3D software. Shapeways then fulfills these orders by 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, PolyJet, and Binder Jetting 3D printing services. In addition, you can have your designs 3D printed in a variety of plastics such as PLA and ABS, or even steel, bronze, silver, gold, aluminium, brass, sandstone, or porcelain! Overall, Shapeways is a surefire way to find whatever you want, and is a great way for 3D designers to monetize their creations.
2 – i.materialise
- Company based: Belgium.
- Established: 1990.
i.materialise is a 3D printing marketplace in a similar vein to Shapeways owned by its parent company Materialise NV. Based in Belgium, Materialise have over 25 years experience in the 3D printing sector. 3D designers can use i.materialise to sell their designs and pick up a portion of the revenue of any sales. 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 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, a variety of resins, polyamide, bronze, silver, gold, titanium, steel, brass, rubber, and more for your 3D model.
3 – Sculpteo
- Company based: France.
- Established: 2009.
Founded back in 2009 in France to specialize in 3D printing and additive manufacturing in the cloud, Sculpteo has since grown massively. Offering Carbon 3D’s CLIP technology in addition to SLA, SLS, Binder Jetting, DMLS, and PolyJet, you won’t need to worry about choice. Moreover, Sculpteo’s online 3D printing service offers materials including PA11 & PA12 varieties, resins, aluminium, steel, bronze, silver, brass, and more. Sculpteo is a great online 3D printing service for Europeans looking to get their models 3D printed quickly.
4 – Protolabs
- Company based: USA.
- Established: 1999.
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 have since expanded to offer 3D printing services too 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, as Protolabs announced revenues of over $344M in 2017 and now employ over 1,000 people worldwide.
5 – Voodoo Manufacturing
- Company based: USA.
The new kid on the block in the world of 3D printing services, Voodoo Manufacturing offers FDM 3D printing of potentially unlimited sized pieces. This is because 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 Makerbot and Raise3D printers.
Based in Brooklyn, New York, Voodoo doesn’t try to offer every 3D printing technology under the sun – it offers just fused deposition modeling, but does it well. Voodoo offers just two 3D materials, PLA and TPU, but is specialized as to offer an effective manufacturing process including automation to provide the best possible service to customers. There’s a reason they’ve served over 2,000 customers already.
6 – MakeXYZ
- Company based: USA.
MakeXYZ is an online 3D printing service which differs slightly from the other services listed in this article. In addition to being able to simply upload your 3D file and order a print, owners of their own personal 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 will give you a price based on their software which analyzes the model you upload, and facilitate the sale. 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, resins, and more.