Top Shapeways Alternatives for High-Quality 3D Printing Services

After Shapeways? [Source: Fabbaloo]

Shapeways is no more. Where should you go for 3D printing services now?

Last week the news fell that Shapeways had declared bankruptcy. The company had been one of the pioneers in providing advanced 3D printing services to consumers and small businesses, but evidently could not compete with a growing ocean of alternative providers.

The bankruptcy occurred quite suddenly. Many industry watchers believed something had to happen, given the incredibly dramatic fall of the company’s valuation in the past two years. However, no one knew what the hammer would fall. It did last week, but without any particular notice to customers. Some customers were even caught with outstanding orders.

In spite of the company’s sudden failure, it did have quite a few customers using their 3D printers to produce parts for their own operations. All of these customers now have to select alternatives for producing their parts.

There are two ways forward for these parties: obtain your own 3D print capabilities, or select an alternative but similar service.

The former approach, getting your own equipment, is actually a decent option for many. This is because the quality of 3D printers has dramatically increased in the past two years, and it’s now possible to reliably print polymer parts of high quality and at high speeds.

However, obtaining your own machine is not an option that every Shapeways customer could pursue. One of the reasons Shapeways existed was that they provided access to more advanced 3D printers that offered more interesting materials, like metals or nylons that are difficult or impossible to print with your own setup.

Because of that, many Shapeways customers will have to migrate to alternative services.

Migrating From Shapeways

It turns out there are dozens and dozens of alternatives that could be considered. However, all of them are somewhat different from each other and Shapeways, so you will have to do a bit of an investigation to find the right option for your application. Here are some questions to ask:

What 3D printing processes are offered? SLM? DMLS? SLA? MJF? The services offered are based on the equipment in their workshop and must match your needs.

What specific materials are offered? This varies widely, and just because a machine supports a particular material doesn’t mean the vendor offers it.

What is the minimum job size? Some of the providers are new to the small-run game and have minimum order prices.

Where are the parts produced? In some cases the providers are overseas, which could introduce notable shipping costs, particularly for heavy metal parts.

What level of security is provided? Some designs might have to be kept secret, and you’d want to know what features the vendor offers in this regard.

What is the typical turnaround time? Some vendors might be quite busy and have longer lead times. The delivery time must be compatible with your needs.

What quality guarantees are offered? Some services outsource the work to others, so the quality may vary from job to job.

What is the cost of the job? It seems that costs can vary considerably for the same parts between providers, so be sure to obtain multiple quotes.

Shapeways Alternatives

That all said, here are some that you might consider. Honestly, there are many, many more, so consider this list a starting point. There are very likely small providers in your local area that provide services, but they can be difficult to locate. The following are all major services providing national and/or international reach. Presented in alpha-order:

3D Vikings: 3D print service specializing in servicing Etsy providers.

AFORGE: High-end service capable of metal 3D printing and much more.

Craftcloud: Streamlined 3D print service by All3DP offering a variety of capabilities and instant quoting.

Fathom: Manufacturing partner offering many different 3D print technologies and other making methods.

Fictiv: Manufacturing service for prototyping or production offering many making technologies.

Forecast3D: Full spectrum of manufacturing solutions by GKN Additive.

ForeRunner3D: Michigan-based service offering SLA and investment casting capabilities.

i-SOLIDS: Texas-based service providing instant quoting for multiple 3D print processes.

i.Materialise: Long-time Belgian 3D print service offering a wide range of metal and polymer materials.

IN3DTEC: China-based prototyping and on-demand production service with many different technologies and materials.

IndoMIM: International injection molding service that offers some 3D print processes

PCBWay: Popular Chinese PCB manufacturing service now also offers some 3D print capabilities.

Protolabs: Massive manufacturing service offering many services, including 3D printing (formerly 3DHubs)

QuickParts: Long time manufacturing service offering SLA, SLS and DMP printing.

RexRoi: On demand part printing in FDM, SLA, SLS< MJF and SLM.

Sculpteo: long time 3D print service that is well regarded and owned by BASF, so they are unlikely to disappear as Shapeways has done.

Slant3D: US-based High volume 3D print service with an enormous print farm.

Streamline3D: MJF 3D print service handling production runs of 1-5000 parts.

Tempus3D: Canadian 3D print service offering a variety of plastic and metal capabilities.

UnionFab: Chinese manufacturing service offering almost all 3D print technologies.

WeNext: Chinese provider offering major 3D print technologies.

Xometry: Large-scale manufacturing network offering a huge variety of services, well beyond 3D printing.

I’m certain we’ve missed several, so please give us a shout if you have a suggestion for an addition.

Original source

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