3D hubs is probably the first name that most people consider when they think of online 3D printing services. Indeed, 3D hubs has evolved over time into a professional online manufacturing service that includes CNC Machining, 3D printing, plastic mold injection and myriad other services offered by a global network of engineers associated with 3D hubs. But 3D hubs didn’t start out with a laser-focus on pro-manufacturing services.
- In this article, we will be taking a look at some of the best alternative online 3D printing services available for custom 3D printing jobs.
- We’ll also consider what makes these online 3D printing services tempting for the average user.
Best alternatives to 3D hubs
MakeXYZ.com is a unique proposition. The website’s primary focus is to connect users with local makers. Even the search box on the homepage defaults to location search instead of material or 3D printing technology search (which you can do by the way, just use the advanced search function).
The advantages of MakeXYZ primarily lie in its focus on local sourcing. By making sure to put local manufacturers near you in the spotlight, MakeXYZ makes it certain to reduce unnecessary freight costs, as well as to allow the customer to have somewhat of a better experience by connecting with someone nearby instead of from across the globe.
Fiverr is arguably the best way to connect directly with the right maker for CAD design and even printing and shipping. Fiverr, while not a standalone 3D printing service, it is one of the most economical ways to connect with service providers who offer such services.
You will be able to find a global market of service providers that specialize in designing, optimizing and cleaning up 3D printer files. And afterwards, you can simply search for 3D printers that would print your custom job and ship the 3D print to your address all for a transparent, decided-before-ordering price. And if you cannot seem to find the right 3D printing seller by searching, simply post a Custom job request and let the sellers contact you.
Although the service itself is still in beta, print a thing has the makings of a good marketplace that puts ease-of-use front and center. Think of it as what 3D hubs would’ve looked like, had it maintained its community roots when growing up.
Print a thing allows a seamless web user experience, whereby you simply upload an STL file or a thingiverse URL; select the technology you want to use (right now they only offer FFF/FDM and SLA) and presto! The website spits out a checkout quotation.
Behind the scenes, Printathing.com relies on networking with 3D printers around the globe to form its “supplier network”, and based on internal algorithms, printathing then assigns your 3D print to what it considers the best maker for the job.
To the user, it all appears as if you merely order something online, and then it is sent to you in real life via the magic of 3D printing and logistics.
The Make Marketplace is unique in that while it is run by Dassault Systems, a reputable name in the professional 3D design space. It still focuses on connecting customers directly with professional on-demand 3D printing and subtractive manufacturers.
As of writing, the Make Marketplace offers a selection of 119 unique service providers. The interface itself screams business instead of user-friendliness. But if you are in the market for pro-grade services but still want to have direct communication with your 3D printer, the Make marketplace may just be a good place to look.
5. Other Pro-grade on-demand manufacturing websites
Nowadays, almost all the 3D printer juggernauts run their own on-demand 3D printing websites. All these websites focus on pro-grade services, and they come with a suitably higher price per print. There is little in the way of differentiation between these services as they all tend to offer almost the entire spectrum of materials selection imaginable along with other subtractive manufacturing techniques as well.
These websites represent the club that 3D hubs is now a part of. But if that is what you are after, then we recommend trying out all of them before ordering to make sure that you are satisfied with the premium that you would pay on these services.
Craftcloud itself is not an online 3D printing service, instead Craft Cloud is an online price comparison tool that connects to an ever-increasing number of online 3D printing services. By its very nature, Craftcloud offers some of the biggest material and technology selections of any website.
While you do lose the ability to connect with individual makers, Craftcloud offers a streamlined user-interface to offer customers the lowest possible quotations for their needs.
What to look for: benefits of online 3D printing services
· Selection of materials
The first obvious benefit when using an online service, is the breadth of materials that you get to choose from.
Even if the service only offers FDM technology, the selection of filaments as well as the quality of filaments on-offer would generally far exceed what any enthusiast could practically use on their own.
Material choices range from normal PLA, to polycarbonate, nylon, ABS, metal and wood fill. Even powder metal 3D printing for engineering-grade functional prototypes. With the right online service, you can be sure to find the exact material that you want for your project.
· Availability of different 3D printing technologies
Almost all of these 3D hubs-like online 3D printing services get one thing right: by relying on a network of individuals and professionals, they are able to offer a vast range of different technologies to the customer.
It is also one of the few ways that average consumers can have access to higher-end 3D printing technologies like full metal 3D printing.
Choices ranging from FDM and SLA, to SLS, SLM, Metal-Jet printing and everything in between are actually quite commonplace now for on-demand 3D printing services. No matter your needs; with the right service and budget, you are sure to find exactly the right 3D printing technology.
· Professional print quality
Most of us are decent at best when it comes to optimizing our 3D prints for quality of print. As a rule, enthusiasts balance printing quality with the cost of filament to be used as well as having to deal with other limiting factors such as ageing 3D printers or entry-level hardware.
Online 3D printing services on the other hand, are run as businesses, so the makers are always paying attention to the quality of output of their machines since it directly impacts their bottom-lines. If you want even more consistency and accurate results, then you could even opt for one of the professional on-demand additive manufacturing services online.
As a rather safe generalization, you would be getting much higher quality 3D prints with online 3D printing services than you would at home.
What made 3D hubs great
3D hubs is a household name these days for online pro-manufacturing services. But it wasn’t always this way. Even a few years back, 3D hubs was a bustling community network that allowed 3D printing enthusiasts and makers around the world to connect with one another to satisfy their 3D printing demands.
Rewind time even just five years and there was NO alternative to 3D hubs. Not because no one else tried, but because the 3D printing community, by and large saw 3D hubs as their online home.
But then, corporate goals at 3D hubs shifted quite dramatically over the last few years. 3D hubs went from being a marketplace that connected makers and enthusiasts around the world to a curated selection of affiliated makers at first, and then finally 3D hubs became one hub of pro-manufacturing services that we see now today.
Suffice to say, this left many a 3D printing maker as well as enthusiast with a sour taste. But thankfully, with time, many viable alternatives have emerged to 3D hubs.
That’s all of them
The 3D printing world was left with a void when 3D hubs decided to change directions, but thankfully, with time and effort, the online custom 3D printing service business has never been more diverse nor healthier.