Outsourcing to 3D Printing Companies

by Matthew Wellington on January 27, 2013

3D Printing Equipment3D printing companies are quickly becoming a widespread method used to produce quality products by many production companies around the world. It has enabled many companies and individuals alike to fabricate premium products from the most intricate designs with ease.

Three dimensional printing technology has essentially removed all design barriers, which previously made it difficult for architects and designers to come up with better products. Currently, provided you know how to create 3D product designs using CAD, there is actually no limit to the kind of products that you can produce. With the right printer, anyone can produce exactly the type of product they have designed.

By simplifying the production of products, 3D printing has paved the way for many companies to enter into the business arena and introduce their own unique products to the market. However many entrepreneurs are often faced with the dilemma of whether to outsource their designs to 3D printing companies or to practice In-House 3D printing.

This is quite a crucial decision for any company or business to make because it always has a major toll on the returns of the company. It is therefore integral for any company that is in such a situation to know what its options are in order to arrive at a sound decision.

Why Should I Outsource?

There are a number of reasons that often make companies deem outsourcing to 3D printing companies a better option.

To begin with, despite the fact that the Cost of 3D Printers has been consistently dropping over the years, you need to understand that buying a 3D printer is still quite an expensive investment for any business. Remember that especially if you want to be providing products of great quality, you’ll have to go for a high end printer. Such printers can cost an organization more than £35,000 to purchase only a single printer. If you compare this to the cost of outsourcing, it is clear that outsourcing is far more affordable.

Moreover, for a company to be able to produce a wide range of products, it is normally essential for it to buy several 3D printers. What many organizations do not know is that all 3D printers have their fair share of limitations particularly regarding the type of materials that they can use. Usually a 3D printer can only produce products using a specified type of material.

So unless you will only be producing products that require the given material(s) that the printer can use, you may still not benefit much from having bought a 3D printer.

How does outsourcing help? Established 3D printing companies often invest in several additive printing systems, and can therefore produce products from many different types of materials depending on what your order is. Consequently due to the fact that most businesses may not be solvent enough to purchase so much machinery, outsourcing becomes a smart choice. Frankly it’s not logical to spend a lot of money on purchasing an additive printer when you may still be forced to outsource, whenever you need products that require different materials from what your printer uses.

In addition, buying a three dimensional printer will require additional spend on training for your staff in how to use the new technology.

Tips On Choosing the Right 3D Printing Companies

There are many 3D printing companies that you can outsource your designs to. So how does a business determine whether they approach Shapeways, i.materialise, Redeye or Sculpteo, among other companies?

One of the key factors to consider in selecting the best 3D printing companies to outsource to is checking the variety of materials that they specialize in. Different printing companies will have varied materials in which they specialize in. Your task is to find a company that can fabricate products from the particular material you want. While some companies specialize in as few as 6 types of materials, others may specialize in 20 different types of materials or even more.

This is why it’s always advisable that you carefully explain to the printing company the type of 3D products or models you want produced and the specific materials they should be fabricated from.

If the company you want to handle your 3D printing is in a foreign country, you need to check and confirm whether or not they accept international orders. Not all companies accept international orders. Some are only comfortable with handling local orders. If you are not in their vicinity, then they may not take you order.

You should also remember to check the estimated delivery time of the products. Depending on how quick you want the 3D products, you should be keen to find a company that can deliver the products to you within the time period that’ll be expedient to you. The delivery time in most instances range from 5 to 21 days. How quick you receive the products will mostly be determined by the efficiency of the company you outsource to, how far you are located from the printing company and the number of products or models that you ordered.

Lastly, make up front inquiries of the type of CAD data formats that the company deals with. Some companies rely more on the STL File Format (Used by Most 3D Printing Companies) while others deal mostly with other technologies.

What are the Upsides of In-House 3D Printing?

The sole reason in-house 3D printing is less preferable to outsourcing is the extremely high capital cost of buying the machinery. Nonetheless, it is wrong to assume that in-house additive printing is entirely disadvantageous.

For instance, through in-house printing, you can save a lot of money, in the long-term, if you mainly produce products using the materials supported by your 3D printing system. In that case, you would only have the initial cost of the machine, and the ongoing cost of supplies and maintenance, which would be much cheaper than outsourcing, therefore giving you a higher annual profit.

On top of that, having your own three dimensional printer gives you total control of production and a greater flexibility. If you come up with a new design, you can start manufacturing it there and then, saving time in waiting for another company to produce the products and ship them to you. This allows you to get the products to market quicker and build a good relationship with your customers, hopefully gaining brand loyalty.


Outsourcing to 3D printing companies and practising in-house printing both carry some pros and cons that you should be aware of when making your choice and establishing Your Need for a 3D Printing Service. It is important to carefully evaluate your needs as far as 3D printing is concerned. For instance, how often do you need to printing? What materials are required for printing your prototypes or products? Can you afford an additive printer? Will the cost of acquiring a 3D printer be worthwhile as compared to outsourcing? Are there 3D printing companies that can provide you with the quality products and services you are looking for?

Basically, you should not rush into making this decision. Do your homework, look into your position soberly and seek consultations with professionals in this field, if necessary. It is only through critical analysis and evaluation that you can determine for sure what will be the best option for you and your company.

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