3D Printing Services When You Do Not Have A 3D Printer

No 3D Printer? Use one of these affordable service bureaus

3D printed ceiling tile
TJ McCue

One of the things that I routinely hear from artists, makers, creators of all types is that they do not want to invest in a 3D printer, not yet. They want to get started slowly and test a few printers. Well, the best way to go about that is to use what is known as a 3D Printing Service Bureau.

There are many local 3D printer service bureaus, all around the USA and the world. Many times, these 3D Printing Service companies are small operations that cater to the local community, especially local business owners. Some of them got started as CNC Machine operators or, in one case I recently encountered, as a traditional woodshop where the craftsman was making kitchen cabinets. He saw an opportunity to create very intricate trim with a 3D model and then created a new 3D printer service business.

A hidden bonus of using a 3D Printing as a service is that you often find someone who got into 3D printing to solve a problem, fell in love with the idea and is now quite expert at it. So, you get more than an office copy shop where you go in and press a button – you find someone who can help you troubleshoot areas, if you need it, where your 3D model is not printing properly, for example.

I met another fine craftsman who does detailed and ornate ceiling tiles, among other residential restoration work. His company started using 3D printing, as a way to improve the quality and speed of their work, and their business has gone through the roof, no pun intended. Check out their work: Aztec Scenic Designs. 3D printing can help you jumpstart a new business and you do not need a 3D printer in your home or shop to do it. Even if your intent is to print for your hobby, you can find affordable service businesses if you do not want to purchase a printer. 

Service Bureaus. 

  1. PartSnap 3D Printing and Product Development
  2. Redeye -- Rapid Prototyping & 3D Printing Service Bureau
  3. Shapeways - 3D Printing Service and Marketplace – think of this as the Etsy for 3D printing. I have visited their New York headquarters for an in-depth tour as well as met many of the artists, or Shapies, as they like to be called. It is an excellent way to go for new and experienced artisans.
  4. Proto Labs : Fastest Provider of CNC Machined and Injection Molded Parts. This company recently acquired and is expanding its own 3D printing services. They have one of the best online ordering systems and processes that I have seen.
  5. Laser cutting and engraving – design, make & build your own products with Ponoko. While you might not think of a laser cutter as a 3D device, depending on how you plan and cut your creations you can make something 3D.
  6. 3D Hubs: Local 3D printing services and 3D Printers
  7. Custom furniture, home decor, and unique jewelry made for you by the most talented makers in the world | CustomMade