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How Do I Choose the Best 3D Printing Services?

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  • Written By: Jeremy Laukkonen
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 05 September 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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In order to choose the best three dimensional (3D) printing service, it is necessary to consider the type of object you need to have printed. There are many different reasons to make use of 3D printing services, from rapid prototyping to simply wanting a physical copy of a model you created, so it is important to consider factors such as construction material and cost. Some 3D printing services are substantially more expensive than others, and the different types of construction materials are each suited to specific applications. Polyamide tends to be a good material for objects with hinges or other moving parts, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) tends to be quite strong, and certain resins can offer a higher level of detail. Some 3D printing services only offer one type of construction material, while others will provide you with a choice.

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Additive manufacturing is a process that is capable of building three dimensional objects from raw materials such as powders and liquid polymers. These processes involve placing down successive layers of very thin material until an entire object has been constructed. One type of additive manufacturing is specifically referred to as 3D printing, since the machines used in the process bear a resemblance to traditional printers. These 3D printers have come down in cost since they were first introduced, though they can still represent a significant investment. For people who only want to create a few objects, it is typically more cost effective to make use of commercial 3D printing services.

The most important factor in choosing a 3D printing service is to verify that they accept the type of 3D models you are working with. Most 3D printing services accept the stereolithography (STL) file format, which can be created by a number of computer-aided design (CAD) software packages. If you are working with the additive manufacturing format (AMF), then you will need to find a 3D printer that supports that. Unlike STL files, AMF files can contain data regarding the types of materials and colors to use in the 3D printing process.

It is also important to consider the type of manufacturing materials when choosing a 3D printing service. Some of these services have several types of printers, and can handle many different materials, while others specialize in just one type. If the object you need to have printed has hinges, or other moving parts, you should choose a service that offers polyamide construction materials. Projects that require a great deal of strength or dimensional accuracy are typically a good match for ABS plastic, and resin can offer a very finely detailed product.

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