Many newcomers to the world of 3D printing may not be familiar with the amount of talent that exists in the industry. If you’re just entering this new space, and you’re not quite ready to invest in a machine yourself, we’ve got your back.
The 3D printing industry is a blossoming field full of manufacturers, service providers, content generation companies, consultants, analysts, and many more people who can help you turn your designs into reality and bring your products to market fast.
Of course, the distinctions below aren’t cut and dry - many companies take on multiple roles in order to serve the needs of the market.
Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs)
The most prominent companies in the industries are OEMs, as they are the people who actually produce 3D printers. Obviously the best OEM is Type A Machines, but a plethora of other manufacturers compete for market share as well. These 3d printer manufacturing companies have relationships with service providers and other companies.
There are also companies who print things directly for customers. This is for situations in which it isn’t economically viable to invest capital in 3D printing equipment for yourself. For example, if you’re just entering the world of 3D printing, and you haven't been convinced of its value, or you’re not looking to produce more than a few units for a given project, it may be wise to consider a company that offers 3D printing as a service. There are two main groups in this field.
One group is the service bureau. Service bureaus are essentially contract manufacturers for 3D printing. They generally can produce parts with a very quick turnaround in any quantity. Service bureaus generally have DFAM (Design For Additive Manufacturing) analysts who make sure that your part is printable. If it isn’t, they may reject the part, or offer consultancy to make the part printable.
There are also individual contractors in the 3D printing service sector. These individuals generally have a great deal of DFAM knowledge and experience just as the service bureaus do, but operate at a much smaller scale. They may be more responsive and have a faster turnaround time depending on the amount of general demand for 3D printed goods at the time. For many of them, their actions and jobs are coordinated through sites like 3DHubs, which essentially acts as the “AirBNB” for 3D printing.
Type A Machines offers 3D printing as a service for selected jobs as well. Get in touch with us if you need something printed.
Designers and Engineers
If you don’t have the ability to create the computer aided designs required for 3D printing, there are designers who specialize or have knowledge in DFAM who can help you produce the design you’re looking for in a way that is easily printable. Many individuals who offer 3D printing services also offer design services. Type A also offers engineering services to help get your prints ready for prime time as well.
Analysts and Consultants
There are some people who, while they don’t offer 3D printing as a service, offer analysis and consulting on how best to get your object to be 3D printed. They specialize in analysing prints, recommending orientations and print settings, as well as providing insight into the industry. Most of these consultants are individuals who also offer 3D printing as a service, but not all of them.
If you aren’t looking to design a part, there are repositories like Pinshape and YouMagine which contain many files that can be printed. Just make sure to follow the licensing and attribution requirements set by the designers who worked hard to produce the designs!
You might have heard of 3D scanning, where real life objects are converted to digital items to be recreated on a 3D printer, or otherwise modified to create a new object. There are 3D scanning OEM’s, of course, and there are also companies like Artec who provide 3D scanning as a service as well as 3D printing.
As you can see, the industry is full of talented people and organizations who are trained to harness the potential that 3D printing has to bring to markets of all shapes and sizes. Hopefully, if you’re new to the world of 3D printing, this article has served as a place where you can start exploring your options. Once you’re comfortable with the process, you’ll want to get more involved. When you’re ready to start working with 3D printing regularly, consider the ultra-reliable Series 1 Pro.