Consider printing technology, material options, quality, lead times, cost, and technical support when choosing a 3D printing company.
Contents covered in this article
3D printing has become more accessible and affordable in recent years, and as a result, many companies have started offering 3D printing services. These companies range from small, local 3D printing shops to large, multinational corporations. They offer a wide range of services, from prototyping and product design to low-volume production and custom manufacturing. With the increasing demand for 3D printing, there are now many options for businesses and individuals looking for high-quality, cost-effective 3D printing services.
8 Factors to Consider When Choosing a 3D printing company?
Choosing the right 3D printing company is essential for several reasons, such as the Quality of the prints, Cost-effectiveness, Material options, and lead time. By carefully considering these factors, you can choose the right 3D printing company that meets your specific needs and help you achieve the best results for your project.
Here are a few factors to consider when choosing a 3D printing company:
Different 3D printing companies may use different printing technologies, so consider which technology best suits your project needs.
There are several 3D printing technologies to consider for product design, including:
- Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM): This popular and cost-effective technology uses a thermoplastic material and a hot end to build parts layer by layer. FDM is an excellent choice for low-fidelity prototypes and production jigs
- Stereolithography (SLA): SLA is a process that uses UV light to cure a liquid resin into a solid form, creating highly accurate and detailed parts.
- Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)Selective Laser Sintering: SLS is a process that uses a laser to fuse powdered materials into a solid form, creating strong and durable parts.
- Multi Jet Fusion (MJF): MJF is a process that uses thermal energy and a fusing agent to create parts with high accuracy and resolution.
- PolyJet: This technology uses a process that jets and cures liquid photopolymer into a solid form, creating parts with high accuracy, resolution, and smooth surface finish.
- Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS): This technology uses a high-power laser beam to melt and fuse metal powders to create metal parts with good accuracy and resolution.
The best technology for your project depends on various factors such as material requirements, desired accuracy and resolution, lead time, cost, and more. Consult with a 3D printing company to determine the most appropriate technology for your product design.
Consider the range of materials the company offers and if they can meet your specific material requirements.
There are many different 3D printing materials to choose from, including:
- Plastics – ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), PLA (Polylactic Acid), PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate), Nylon, TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane), and more.
- Metals – Steel, Titanium, Aluminium, Copper, and Brass
- Resins – Photopolymer resins and epoxy resins
- Speciality materials – Including flexible materials, conductive materials, and magnetic materials
The best material for your project depends on the specific requirements of your product, such as strength, flexibility, thermal resistance, and temperature requirements.
Quality and Accuracy
Quality and accuracy are critical factors when choosing a 3D printing company. These factors can directly impact the end product’s functionality, reliability, and appearance.
Consider the following when evaluating the quality and accuracy of a 3D printing company:
- Equipment – Check if the company uses high-end 3D printing equipment and if they regularly maintain and upgrade their equipment.
- Process control – Ensure the company has established procedures and protocols to ensure consistent quality and accuracy from print to print.
- Quality assurance – Ask about the company’s quality assurance process, including how they inspect and test printed parts for accuracy, durability, and other vital properties.
- Case studies – Look for case studies or reviews from previous customers to get an idea of the company’s track record for delivering high-quality, accurate prints.
- Samples – Request samples to physically inspect the quality and accuracy of their prints.
By considering these factors, you can ensure that you choose a 3D printing company that has the experience and expertise to deliver high-quality, accurate prints that meet your product requirements.
Lead time is an essential factor when choosing a 3D printing service company. Lead time refers to the time it takes from when an order is placed until the final product is delivered. A long lead time can impact the project timeline, potentially causing delays and adding costs. Here are a few things to consider to check whether they can meet your project deadline:
- Turnaround time – Ask about the company’s typical turnaround time for a project similar to yours.
- Capacity – Check if the company can handle your project promptly.
- Workload – Consider the company’s current workload and if they have the resources to prioritise your project and meet your timeline.
- Communication – Make sure the company has clear and open lines of communication and that they keep you informed of any changes or potential delays.
- premium options – Ask if the company offers premium options for projects with tight timelines. These are sometimes called Rush options.
Considering these factors, you can choose a 3D printing company with the capability and resources to meet your project timeline and minimise potential delays.
The cost of a 3D printing service depends on several factors, including the size and complexity of the model, the type of material used, and the turnaround time. On average, the cost of 3D printing can range from £10 to several thousand dollars. To get an accurate quote, it’s best to reach out to the company you’re interested in working with and provide them with your project details.
Cost-effectiveness: Different 3D printing companies have different pricing structures, and the cost of printing can vary greatly depending on the type of material, the size of the object, and the level of detail required. Choosing the right company can help you save money while still getting the quality you need.
Get quotes from multiple companies and compare their prices, but also remember that the cheapest option may only sometimes be the best choice.
Check the company’s customer service, including their responsiveness and helpfulness, to ensure they will support you throughout the printing process.
Technical support can be crucial in 3D printing, especially if you are new to the process. A good 3D printing company will have knowledgeable support staff who can assist you with any questions or issues.
Depending on your location and shipping requirements, consider if it is more convenient to work with a local or remote company. Considering these factors, you can select a 3D printing company that best meets your specific needs and requirements.
There are many 3D printing service companies; here are some of the most well-known ones:
- Stratasys Direct Manufacturing
- Proto Labs
- 3D Hubs
These companies offer various 3D printing services, such as prototyping, low-volume production, and on-demand manufacturing, using various technologies, including FDM, SLA, SLS, and PolyJet.