3D Printing Services: What to Look For (Suggestions included)
Author: Aaron Chen Date Posted:20 February 2019
3D printing is a manufacturing process in which material is laid down, layer by layer, that will form a 3-dimensional object. 3D printing manufacturers are already acclaiming the ability of 3D printers to boost the sustainability of industries such as aerospace, medical, etc.
Today, when seeking a 3d printing supplier locally, there are numerous companies that provide 3D printing services. However, how to choose the best 3d printing vendor is usually the difficult part. Hence, this blog post is created as a thorough guide to help those who are looking for the best 3D printing service. Read on below.
1. Availability of Materials & Advices
If the customer has a specific project in mind, the option of choosing certain material to suit their needs the best should be available.
Some 3d printing vendors can also advise you what materials to be used for the 3d printing project (eg. use Plastic 3d printing or Metal 3d printing)
2. 3D Printing Services Considerations
Accessibility to different file formats
3D applications can simply export to STL so it's easier to convert a model. However, there are many commercial services that work with a wider range of file types.
While there are various file types that can be used in 3D printing, here is a list of some common file extensions that can be used in 3D modelling:
- VRML: This file is commonly used when a 3D model has colour and wants to transfer that colour to the print.
- PLY: PLY files are normally generated from scanned models. It is imported into design software before sending to a 3D printer for printing.
- FBX: FBX is a file format owned by Autodesk. It is used to exchange data between Autodesk programs efficiently including 3Ds Max, Autodesk and Maya.
- OBJ: OBJ is an open file format that represents 3D geometry.
- STL: Most CAD software exports to STL file and 3D printers accept STL files. STL file is a standard file type that interfaces between Computer Aided Design software and 3D printers.
Delivers good quality print
The following points should be considered for those who are looking for 3D printing services that deliver good quality print.
Watertight and airtight containers such as box, cups, etc. can now be 3D printed using standard filament 3D printers. Though 3D printers might get confused if there's a hole in the model because it will result in a two-dimensional shell.
On the other hand, models with holes are still printable, like a doughnut, but the surface is required to be continuous and closed.
Manifold is a mathematical term describing object surfaces. Basically, it confirms that the surface can exist in reality. The main requirement is that each edge should be exactly connected to two faces. Most 3D apps have support for testing manifoldness.
Wall thickness and Model size
One of the most important considerations to create good quality 3D parts/models is the wall thickness. A wall is defined as the distance between two parts which form a closed and solid mesh. An appropriate wall thickness is required in order to produce a sturdy model.
Overhang is an area of a model that is either supported by a layer below or nothing. A large overhang requires adding support material. However, there is a limit on the angle every printer can produce without supported material. For example, the angel of FDM and SLA is approximately 45o.
Full colour support
These days, most 3D printers print in single colour and only a few can handle full-colour models. STL file is good for monochrome printers. For full colour, a VRML file with the required vertex colours or UV maps is needed.
Polygon threshold is the maximum number of polygon that the 3D printer can handle. It is recommended to keep the printer resolution in mind when deciding on the polygon count. Use a mesh decimation software to remove unneeded details while still preserving the model's shape. It is best not to go over a million triangles.
3. Offers 3D Printing Assistance & Customer Support
Some 3d printing companies provide complete design services. It can be anything from recreating a physical part that was sent to them to optimising a design/drawing for 3D Printing.
Furthermore, customer support is very crucial when choosing a 3D printing service provider. Working with a reliable provider is vital since they are the one who will not only give advices and guidance throughout the process, but also ensure that the models or products are 3d printed with high quality. They will also help customers deal with possible issues in the process of 3d design and 3d printing.
4. Value for money
Getting the models/parts 3D printed can be expensive. Thus, it is important to choose the best printing services provider that can meet the client’s 3D printing requirements. Aside from that, it should also match their preferred budget. The printing price should be justified with their customer service and quality of outputs together with the length of the lead time.
Oftentimes looking for a 3D printing services provider is not an easy task to complete. With many companies offering various additive manufacturing services, it can be confusing and end up picking the wrong 3d printing vendor.
3D printing services are widely available nowadays. All you have to do is to research a little bit more and evaluate the service provider. It is also crucial to understand all the considerations mentioned above beforehand, which will help you, decide on which 3D printing service company that suits you the best.