Ever needed a special part made, but you don’t have the manufacturing tools to make it yourself?
Well, you don’t need your own injection molding machine or even your own 3D printer to make custom-designed 3D models. Instead, you can just use a 3D printing service.
3D printing services are on-demand manufacturing services, usually hosted on a website, where you can upload a 3D model, choose how you want it 3D printed, and ship the part right to your door. No manufacturing equipment or expertise is needed! The company handles everything from the slicing to the post-processing of your 3D printed part!
Today, there are many different 3D printing services out there, but not all of them are great options. A good 3D printing service is versatile, with many available 3D printing technologies, materials, finishing techniques, and other options to choose from. Of course, you also want a 3D printing service to be fast and low-cost!
From my many hours of research and quoting different platforms, I’ve found that the best 3D printing service is Sculpteo, Hubs, and i.materialise. These platforms all are relatively inexpensive and offer a handful of different 3D printing technologies, such as FDM, SLS, and SLA. Plus, there are tons of different material and post-processing options to choose from.
Now, if you need a lot of parts printed or are looking for a high-end 3D printing service to handle more complex orders, then I’d look to Xometry. Xometry is perhaps the most professional 3D printing service out there, with many different printing options and a high level of detail put into every order.
Read on to learn more about these epic 3D printing services and more!
Table of Contents
- What is a 3D Printing Service?
- Best 3D Printing Services
- 1. Hubs
- 2. Sculpteo
- 3. i.materialise
- 4. Xometry
- 5. Shapeways
- 6. SD3D
- 7. Protolabs
- 8. Materialise OnSite
- 9. MakeXYZ
- 10. Treatstock
- When to Use a 3D Printing Service?
- Considerations for 3D Printing Services
What is a 3D Printing Service?
A 3D printing service is essentially a company that owns several different types of additive manufacturing machines (3D printers) and uses their equipment to fulfill orders from individuals and businesses who don’t have their own machinery.
Also known as an on-demand manufacturing or on-demand additive manufacturing business, these services are usually run by big companies, but they don’t have to be; with just a few 3D printers, you can actually start your own.
This specific industry has seen considerable growth as more people utilize 3D printing in their projects.
And you may be thinking, why use an on-demand manufacturing service when you may have your own 3D printer? While owning your own 3D printer does make it easier to make custom parts yourself, it’s always nice to let a bigger, more experienced company handle the job.
Plus, if your 3D printer breaks, using an on-demand additive manufacturing service is the perfect solution for ordering a 3D printed part to fix your machine.
Another reason to use an on-demand manufacturing service is that they offer many different options, including tons of colors, plastics (and other materials), and printing technologies. So, if you want a 3D printed resin part but you don’t own a resin 3D printer, you can use one of these additive manufacturing services to get the model, as they likely have their own resin 3D printers.
On top of access to a wide variety of materials, technologies, and colors, customers can expect high-quality results from on-demand manufacturing services as these companies typically use the newest additive manufacturing technologies. Furthermore, with on-demand manufacturing services, customers have flexibility when it comes to print sizes, and they save both time and money. Some services even offer assistance with designing 3D models!
Best 3D Printing Services
Below, I’ve gone over the best 3D printing services out there!
First on our list is Hubs. This online service is one of the largest and best that exists in the 3D printing service space. Hubs ensures every one of your printing needs is met.
Given the company’s range of various manufacturing options and 3D printing technologies, customers hold plenty of flexibility over what they can commission. Manufacturing options include CNC machining and bead blasting, while 3D printing technologies include SLA, SLS, Multijet Fusion, and FDM.
In addition to the different 3D printing technologies Hubs offers, you can pick from many different materials, including PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU, Resin, and Nylon, among others. Each material even has its own color options, although it would be nice to see a larger variety of colors.
Compared to other companies, customers also have significantly more control over the manufacturing process. You can customize every part of your print and sometimes also the brand of filament. Even better, Hubs is more affordable than most other options on this list.
If you don’t know the best options for your model, Hubs will help you out with the specifications free of charge! This extra feature shows you just how many options Hubs provides its customers.
Hubs also offers an amazing user interface that is easy to follow and use. Overall, the basic function of the service allows customers to choose from numerous material, finish, and print process combinations making Hubs a great 3D printing service for FDM, resin, or SLS.
- Price of Test Model: $
- Maximum Part Size: 420 x 500 x 420 mm
- Typical Lead Time: 3-5 days
- SLA/SLS Materials: Nylon PA12, PA12 Glass-Filled, Formlabs Standard Resin, Formlabs Tough Resin 2000, Accura ClearValue, and more.
- Finishing Options: Raw, Dyed
Next up, we have Sculpteo. This online printing service is perfect for anything to do with additive manufacturing. Anyone can upload their 3D models and select from a wide variety of materials.
Sculpteo is an amazing choice for creating prototypes, especially with the company’s strong focus on cutting-edge machinery and products, which ensures high-quality parts.
Another plus, Sculpteo’s user interface is extremely straightforward. Customers can easily adjust their print’s scale, select from a wide selection of 3D printing processes and materials, and finally select a finish and color. This service offers tons of color options for each material and different finishing options (like polishing or dyeing) based on the material you select.
Overall, Sculpteo is a great 3D printing service option all around, whether it’s FDM, resin, or other materials.
- Price of Test Model: $
- Maximum Part Size: 675 x 366 x 545 mm
- Typical Lead Time: 10-20 days
- SLA/SLS Materials: Nylon PA12, PA11, PA11 CF (Carbon-Filled), PA11 ESD, TPU, PA6, Alumide, PA12 Glass-Filled
- Finishing Options: Raw, Polished, Dyed, Dyed Polished, and more.
i.Materialise is another great 3D printing service option. It’s the best place to go if you need a 3D-printed part and don’t want to worry too much about the specifics or the manufacturing process.
I.materialise offers many choices when it comes to technologies, materials, colors, and other manufacturing specs. There are 20 different material options (including ABS, TPU, and Nylon), ten different 3D printing technologies, and over 100 possible color and finishing options.
What I love about i.Materialise is its simple ordering process. Unlike some other sites, the order system is slightly different on i.Materialise. Here, customers pick the material first and then select from 3D printing technologies compatible with the chosen material.
If you’re under a time crunch and need a part as soon as possible, i.Materialise has a rush 3D printing service– always a good option to have! This 3D printing service also has its own online marketplace. Here, you can open your own online storefront and start selling your very own prints and models.
Overall, the pricing on i.Materialise is relatively low compared to most other service options. In fact, if you’re a student or a teacher, you can get 10% off!
- Price of Test Model: $
- Maximum Part Size: 650 x 560 x 330 mm
- Typical Lead Time: 6-20 days
- SLA/SLS Materials: Nylon PA12, Priority PA12, Polypropylene, Standard Resin, Transparent Resin, and more!
- Finishing options: Raw, Dyed, Spray Painted, Polished
Xometry’s 3D printing service is extremely efficient, but that’s not the only reason why it’s one of the largest services out there. With many Fortune 500 customers, Xometry proves to be a great option for professional clients. Regardless, Xometry also lends its services to individual users through its online on-demand service.
This 3D printing service is great for those who want to save money and time when using 3D printing services. Xometry immediately configures all the manufacturing specifications to the lowest cost and lead time. But don’t worry; you are more than free to change the specifications to your liking.
In fact, Xometry gives its customers lots of control over the manufacturing process given its many 3D printing technologies (FDM, SLA, SLS, etc.). You don’t need to worry about any color or material limitations either, as each technology has tens of different compatible colors, materials, finishes, and more!
Xometry also includes additional services that you can use. The 3D printing service has inspection services that provide extra confirmation that your part comes out well. They also have a service to add tapped holes in your prints which is great when creating functional assemblies.
If you’re in a rush, you can get your print in only one business day with the printing service’s expedited shipping. Regular shipping usually takes about five business days which is still relatively fast.
Overall this service is great for big projects and companies. Xometry ensures great overall quality to any ordered part. Ordering may be overwhelming due to the many options, but it gives customers tons of control over what they want in their prints.
- Price of Test Model: $
- Maximum Part Size: 610 x 915 x 915 mm
- Typical Lead Time: 1-7 days
- SLA/SLS Materials: Accura ABS-Like Resin, Accura Xtreme Resin, Somos Taurus Resin, Nylon PA12, PA12 Glass-Filled, PA11, PA11 Aluminum-Filled, and many more!
- Finishing options: Raw, Hole Tapping, Nickel Plating, Vapor Smoothing, Media Tumbling, Part Assembly, and more!
Internationally well-known and one of the largest on-demand 3D-printing services, Shapeways does it all. Whether it’s 3D printing, CNC machining, or urethane casting, Shapeways offers many choices regarding manufacturing specifications and materials.
This 3D printing service is great for consumers, professional customers, and hobbyists alike. The Shapeways ordering system is similar to that of i.materialise, where customers select a material before selecting any other options or specifications.
Shapeways offers a huge selection of material to select from, ranging from PLA to resin and even numerous metals. Once you select a material, Shapeways provides you with the materials’ compatible 3D printing technologies to select from.
Not only does Shapeways offer its 3D printing service, but like some other services, Shapeways hosts numerous storefronts for people to sell their own models. Consumers can choose from numerous professionally designed models, make them their own with different customizations, and have them printed.
Pricing falls in the mid-range for Shapeways compared to other printing services. Regardless, Shapeways is definitely worth it, given the company’s manufacturing quality and overall reputation as a 3D printing service.
- Price of Test Model: $
- Maximum Part Size: 762 x 762 x762 mm
- Typical Lead Time: 3-10 days
- SLA/SLS Materials: Nylon PA12, PA11, TPU, TPE, Polypropylene, Accura Resin
- Finishing Options: Raw, Full-color Painting, Processed, Premium Processing, Smoothing
SD3D is a very convenient 3D printing service for many customers. The company is geographically distributed and has an automated 3D printing network which allows for quick turnaround times on large orders.
This 3D printing service is great for producing small-scale prototypes but also offers many mass production options and cast urethane production capabilities (making duplicating parts very fast).
SD3D offers a variety of printing technologies and services. Services include product design, 3D printing, urethane casting, rapid prototyping, 3D scanning, and injection modeling.
Different color options are available based on the selected 3D printing material. However, SD3D can’t print in multiple colors. Post-processing options include vapor finish for ABS or clear coat finishes.
The ordering process is simple on SD3D. When selecting print specifications, SD3D offers both a simplified mode and an advanced mode. In the simplified mode, all you have to do is select a material, color, and finish. The advanced mode allows you to take more control over the manufacturing process and decide on print technology, material, color, finish, and infill percentage.
With these options, SD3D is great for printing simple 3D printer parts. Before submitting their order, customers can select from four levels of quality. Anywhere from rough/low resolution to ultra-fine settings.
If you’re stuck or a beginner in the 3D printing field, SD3D will help you design your project. They have an entire design staff on board just to help with people’s projects. Whether it’s electrical, mechanical, or printing a part, SD3D does it all!
- Price of Test Model: $
- Maximum Part Size: 609 x 914 x 609 mm
- Typical Lead Time: 3-7 days
- SLA/SLS Materials: ABS, PLA, Nylon, T-Glase, PET+, Carbon Fiber ABS, PC-ABS, TPU, etc.
- Finishing Options: Raw, High-Temperature Annealing, Soluble Support, XTC Sealant
Based in the United Kingdom, Protolabs is an industrially-focused manufacturer. Protolabs now also offers CNC machining and 3D printing services from initially starting as an injection modeling company.
Protolabs’ 3D printing service offers many different technologies, such as SLS, DMLS, PolyJest, and others, giving customers the flexibility to order exactly what they want. But it doesn’t just stop there! You have many options to choose from when it comes to materials, colors, and finishing options. Based on the print technology you select, you can choose from specific materials.
The ordering process isn’t as straightforward as other 3D printing service sites and is also a little bit lengthier. Before being able to upload your model, you need to make an account and start a project. From there, you can select the printing technology and material.
Regardless of the extra step in the ordering process, Protolabs gives its customers a lot of control over specifications and the part manufacturing process. This makes Protolabs perfect for complex and detailed orders.
Protolabs has its own material comparison guide, which is great to check before ordering a print. The guide allows anyone to filter materials by the manufacturing process and get full details on a material with the provided data sheet.
With their excellent quality in prints, Protolabs’ 3D printing services are worth it in the long run.
- Price of Test Model: $
- Maximum Part Size: 800 x 400 x 540 mm
- Typical Lead Time: 5-15 days
- SLA/SLS Materials: Accura ABS-Like Resin, Accura Xtreme Resin, Carbon ABS-Like Resin, True Silicone Resin, Nylon PA12, PA12 Glass-Filled, PA11, Polypropylene, and many more!
- Finishing Options: Raw, Standard Finishing, Natural, Custom
Next on our list is Materialise OnSite. The service is part of the Materialise group and offers its own 3D printing service like i.materialise. While i.materialise is more focused on consumers, Materialise OnSite is the place for professionals who need rapid prototyping and manufacturing.
Materialise OnSite offers a wide range of printing technologies, materials, and finishes. With 26 different materials options, there are over 3000 combinations of color and finish combinations. There are also many technologies to choose from, including metal 3D printing, Polyjet, FDM, and multijet fusion (least expensive).
The service is an amazing choice for creating high-quality rapid prototypes. Prototypes usually deliver in about 1-5 business days. If you need a print quickly, Materialise OnSite offers rush services that deliver prints in 2 days and as quickly as 12 hours.
Materialise will require you to make an account before being able to order. But after making your account, the process is relatively smooth from there. Upload a design, select a technology, material, finish, and you’re good to go!
Although Materialise OnSite is on the pricier side compared to other 3D printing services, it’s a good option for projects. If needed, Materialise will guide you from start to finish. They will provide you with a dedicated project engineer who can help choose the perfect specifications for your final product.
- Price of Test Model: $115 (this is the minimum order value; the test model came out to $29 alone)
- Maximum Part Size: Not specified
- Typical Lead Time: 1-5 days
- SLA/SLS Materials: ABS, Polypropylene, PA 12, PA-GF, Resin, ProtoGen White, Poly1500, Taurus, etc.
- Finishing Options: Raw, Standard Finishing, Natural, Primer
MakeXYZ is another great 3D printing service option, especially if time is your main concern. Prints come to your door in about five days! Even with such a speedy service, MakeXYZ also offers overnight shipping speeds. This is great for quick and lengthy projects that are time-sensitive.
Fast shipping is made possible as there are printers in hundreds of cities around the globe. Make XYZ operates a bit differently than the other services on the list. The 3D printing service pairs each customer with 3D printers and CAD designers, which allows for speedy prints. The service is comparable to Uber where individual people sign up for people’s orders and complete the listed task.
MakeXYZ is not as versatile in its 3D printing technologies and materials in comparison to other services. MakeXYZ offers FDM, SLA, SLS, and PolyJet 3D printing only a few materials. While you may not have as many options for your parts, MakeXYZ still offers most of the basic options like PLA, ABS, nylon, TPU, and high-detailed resin.
Regardless of the limited available materials, MakeXYZ offers services like CAD designers, 3D scanners, CNC, and other printing tools. Even better, the service offers discounts for universities!
MakeXYZ has an extremely simple user interface, so ordering parts isn’t too much of a hassle. It’s great for beginners who don’t know a lot about 3D printing. Overall, MakeXYZ has quick delivery times, an easy ordering process, and is a great option if you don’t want to worry about the specifics of how your model is made.
- Price of Test Model: $
- Maximum Part Size: Varies (shouldn’t be a problem for most parts)
- Typical Lead Time: 9-15 days
- SLA/SLS Materials: Nylon PA2200, Nylon Glass-Filled, High-Temperature Composite, TPU, TPE, Standard Resin, Flexible Resin, Tough Resin, and more!
- Finishing Options: Raw, Painted
Lastly, Treatstock delivers quality parts quickly and safely. Similar to MakeXYZ, Treatstock is a hub for both consumers and manufacturers. Except, with Treatstock, customers get to select the manufacturer after selecting their part’s print specifications.
Having the option to choose the manufacturer definitely makes this service stand out from other services. Each manufacturer on Treatstock costs a different price based on their experience. Customers can look into each person to make sure they get exactly what they are looking for from each 3D printing service.
Treatstock offers various services, including manufacturing services, 3D Design/Scanning, Urethane Casting, and CNC tuning. Specific manufacturing services include 3D printing, CNC machining, cutting, and HD prototyping.
Treatstock’s interface is easy to use and makes it simple to get your parts made. If you’re working with your own designs, all you need to do is upload your design file and select a manufacturer and other specifications. If you don’t have your own design, you’re able to browse through Treatstock’s catalog of 3D models or even hire a designer to create the design you’re looking for.
If you’re having trouble selecting a material, Treatstock has a “Need help?” button which provides all the material descriptions and even a pros/cons list! Overall, Treatstock is not too expensive compared to other services and is a great option (especially for beginners).
- Price of Test Model: $
- Maximum Part Size: Varies (shouldn’t be a problem for most parts)
- Typical Lead Time: Depends on the manufacturer (12 days)
- SLA/SLS Materials: Resin, Nylons, TPU, TPE, PLA, Polycarbonates, ABS, Special Resins, High Detail Resins, etc.
- Finishing Options: Raw (none listed)
When to Use a 3D Printing Service?
Whether to use a 3D printing service really depends on what you’re looking for and the materials you have. If you don’t have access to a 3D printer and want to print a part, a 3D printing service is a great option. Why buy a printer just for one part or a small project?
Even if you have access to a 3D printer, there are many reasons why 3D printing services could come in handy and result in better-printed parts.
As we already talked about, 3D printing services have access to a wide variety of materials, technologies, colors, and finishes. On top of this, service providers are usually working with the newest technologies. All these options ensure customers get exactly what they are looking for.
In addition to different materials and technologies, printing services also offer numerous finishing options, making your final part look nothing below perfect. 3D-printed parts can be sanded, polished, and painted, among other things. Services will guide customers through what they offer depending on the material.
Using a 3D printing service is a great option for time and budget purposes. You can save money in the long run by ordering a part instead of buying all the equipment/filament you need to create that same part. 3D print services also save time, considering you don’t have to worry about setting up and maintaining the printer while items are being printed. But definitely keep an eye on each 3D printing service’s lead time!
You can also have more flexibility when it comes to print sizes using a 3D print service. Services are great for larger prints considering that printing services operate numerous 3D printers.
Finally, some 3D printing services even help when it comes to creating a 3D model. While it’s usually expected to have a model ready to be printed, some services will help clients to develop a model from scratch. (3D design and 3D print services, ex. Sculpteo)
Considerations for 3D Printing Services
When selecting a 3D printing service, whether it’s for an individual project or mass production for a company, there are important components to consider.
It’s definitely important to keep in mind what materials are available at different 3D printing services. Most services have basic materials like PLA across the board. But if you’re looking for a more specific material, definitely research beforehand. Also, colors are often limited to certain materials.
If you’re looking specifically for a resin 3D printing service then make sure to check out our related article.
Most 3D printing services are capable of printing any size you want within typical 3D printing ranges. But for bigger projects, definitely make sure to pay attention to the maximum part sizes for each 3D printing service.
Depending on how quickly you need your print, it’s important to keep in mind the lead times of each service. Many 3D printing services offer rush services for increased costs. But if your print isn’t time-sensitive, typical lead times shouldn’t be too bad.
Print quality is especially important when it comes to selecting a 3D printing service. You don’t want to order a part to be professionally printed, and it comes out worse than expected!
While it’s difficult to evaluate the print quality of a specific 3D printing service, checking customer reviews (make sure they are real first) can help! Also, you can check for any documentation about printing precision and accuracy on the service’s website.
Each 3D printing service also varies in price. There’s not really a typical price for ordering a 3D printed model because there isn’t a typical size of a model.
To evaluate the pricing of each service, I used the same 3D model across all of the on-demand manufacturing services I reviewed.
The 3D model displayed below is a pretty basic part with a few detailed features.
It’s worth noting that the price bullet point in each of the sections shows the minimum price of ordering this test model. As such, you can use the price bullet point from each section to see which services are more budget-friendly.
Overall, 3D printing services are a terrific way to get custom-made, 3D printed parts to your door without having to hassle with the actual production of the part. Just sit back, relax, and upload the 3D model you want to the service’s instant quote tool! It’s just that easy!
Of course, not just any 3D printing service is good, and there are many overpriced and low-quality options out there. The options in this list have all been heavily vetted and have thousands of positive customer reviews to back them up.
Of all of the 3D printing services I tested, my favorite was Sculpteo. The platform has a super easy-to-use interface, which made the whole part ordering process a breeze. And the prices were decently low, while I still had tons of different options for printing technology, material, post-processing, and even shipping speeds.
I also really liked Shapeways, Hubs, and i.materialise. Similar to Sculpteo, all three of these options were pretty budget-friendly and offered tons of different manufacturing options (technology, material, etc.).
If you’re looking for the least expensive parts, though, then Treatstock is the option for you. Treatstock aggregates many their global network of smaller-scale, on-demand 3D printing services and shows you which one is the least expensive based on your printing parameters (e.g. material specifications). It’s super easy to use and saves you a bunch of money!
And, if you have a complex or very large order, then I definitely recommend using Xometry. Xometry is easily one of the largest on-demand 3D printing services out there, with literally tens of different 3D printing technologies available, from FDM and SLA to selective laser sintering and binder jetting. While their prices are a bit higher than some of the other options out there, the quality of parts made by Xometry is immaculate and is perfect for any professionals out there.