Where to get your models 3D printed

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Where to get your models 3D printed

Postby d12dozr » Thu May 15, 2014 11:57 pm

There are many options to get your Sketchup model 3D printed. Owning your own printer is the most convenient and cheapest way. With your own printer, you are limited to only a handful of materials, usually some kind of plastic, and you'll need to learn 3D printer operation and perform maintenance when it breaks down.

Using a print service is another way to get things printed, and is perhaps a better choice when starting out, or just when you want better print quality. You'll get a wide variety of materials, and someone else takes care of the actual printing. Here's a list of the materials available from one print service, Shapeways:
Shapeways Materials.JPG

Print services come in several flavors

There are a few varieties of print services, listed loosely in order from cheapest to most expensive.
  • Crowdsourced - where you work directly with the printer owner
  • Print service with optional shop platform - automated system to order professional parts and/or sell your designs to the public
  • Specialty print service - professional engineers assist you printing your design on their pro machines

Many desktop printer owners are available through crowdsourced services. The service helps you find a printer, you email them a file, and then meet them to get your part or have them ship the part to you. The benefits are working locally and usually at good prices. Some crowdsourced services include:

Print services with a shop platform are going to be your best price for professionally made parts. These automated systems allow you to upload a model to the service, choose a material, and order the part. Making & shipping the finished item takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. If you wish to sell the printed part to the public, you can add a markup to your cost, and the print service will take care of order fulfillment and pay your markup for each item sold. You do need to know the materials and respective design guidelines well to get the most out of the system. Some of these services include:

Specialty print services have professional machines and will give you the most personal help throughout the process. They'll often have specialty machines and printing materials not available on the cheaper services. Some of these print services can be found via the crowdsourcing sites linked to above.
  • GPI Prototype
  • Solid Concepts - these are the guys that 3D printed the all metal 1911 pistol
  • Google search "Rapid Prototyping" to find more

Minimizing costs
Something to keep in mind is that prices are generally charged by model volume. Realize that doubling print size actually increases the volume by 8x (see following image), so you'll want to optimize the model for the material you're printing in.
Volume Comparison.png

High detail plastic has different requirements than laser sintered nylon, which is modeled differently than ceramic or stainless steel. Too much material and you'll pay more than necessary - too thin of walls and the part will crumble.

One way to optimize the model is to punch holes in the model, making the model just a skeletal structure. With 3D printing, model complexity is free, which is just the opposite in other types of manufacturing where complex models increase machine time and are expensive to make. Here's an example of a complex lattice structure that is relatively cheap to 3D print.


I encourage folks to add your favorite places to get things printed, especially local services that others may benefit from. 3D printing newbies are welcome to ask questions!
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Re: Where to get your models 3D printed

Postby Mike Lucey » Fri May 16, 2014 12:50 pm

Marcus, thanks for this, very informative.

I would add that Mcor, the Irish based company that produces the IRIS and Matrix are expanding across the world of 3D printing with recent deals in Turkey, Texas, Australia and the US. It looks that there will be Inear many places soon.

http://www.mcortechnologies.com/mcor-ir ... australia/
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Re: Where to get your models 3D printed

Postby d12dozr » Fri May 16, 2014 1:38 pm

Mcor has a very interesting printer. Here's one of my models made in paper on their machine. Feels almost like wood.

They are expanding their presence like you mention, but as yet there are few services that offer Mcor printing to the public.
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