People ask all the time, “What do you do for a living?” My response is, “I’m a partner at Re3dTech, a 3D printing service provider.” I often get a puzzled look and then, “That sounds cool but what do you do? Do you sell 3D printers? How does 3D printing work and are the parts functional?”
Let’s stick to the basics of what is a 3D printing service provider. 3D printing also goes by the name additive manufacturing(AM). It’s called AM because it starts from nothing and builds layer by layer. Most other manufacturing is subtractive where it starts from a block of something and material is removed. A 3D printing/AM service provider is a job shop, contract manufacturer of 3D printed parts. We provide parts for individuals, design shops, and companies that outsource their additive needs. We have 3D printers in-house and produce parts for customers that don’t have the expertise and equipment themselves.
AM is one of the fastest growing segments in US manufacturing. The Wohlers Report, which is considered the preeminent source for all things additive, predict sales for additive equipment and services to hit $15.8 billion in 2020. Projections then go to $23.9 billion in 2022 and $35.6 billion in 2024. The services sector for additive manufacturing is the fastest growing segment.
With all this going on how do you pick the right service provider to best meet your needs? Let’s just say that is a loaded question and the explanation probably can’t be summed up quickly but I’ll do my best to help.
Are you looking for plastic/polymer, metal, or both? 49% of service providers offer only polymer. 28% offer both plastic and metal. 23% offer metal only. There are a few very large 3D printing service providers that cover the widest range of materials and technologies. Stratasys Direct, 3D Systems Quickparts, and Protolabs are the biggest in the market. They are very good at what they do but biggest doesn’t always mean the best.
So, how do you pick the right Service Provider? Quality, tight tolerances, competitive pricing, and high volume output of 3D printed parts are all factors that should impact your decision. Is the service provider offering parts from the most cutting edge technologies like Carbon, Markforged, and HP? Equally important is the knowledge, expertise, and willingness to partner with you to provide the consultation and know-how to build a great part. Smaller firms can sometimes offer a more personalized service and attention to your account. Call the company, does the phone get answered? Personal dialogue is often the linchpin necessary during the prototype stage. With a little due diligence, you can easily find the right fit for your company when it comes to outsourcing your 3D printed parts.
Let’s print some amazing parts together.