Category Guides and Resources

The Best Wood Filament for 3D Printing [2021]

The Best Wood Filament for 3D Printing

If you’ve gotten bored with thermoplastics and are looking for a new way to experiment with your 3D printer, wood filaments are a great direction to take.

These are filaments that mix wood pieces together with a more conventional 3D print filament such as PLA filament so the wood can be manipulated like more flexible filaments despite its inherent rigidity. The mix is usually about 70% polymer to 30% wood fibers, and you can buy spools of it just like any other filament on the market.

They’ve been around since 2012, beginning with polymers mixed with sawdust, but those resulted in products that looked more like cardboard, so the filaments quickly evolved.

Here’s a quick summary if you are in a hurry…

List of the Best Wood Filaments for 3D Printing

  1. TimberfellBest Premium Wood Filament
  2. Laywoo FilamentsBest Budget Wood Filament
  3. ColorFabbBest Color Wood Filament
  4. MG ChemicalsBest Durable Wood Filament
  5. HatchBoxBest Fine Wood Filament
  6. EasyWood – Best Wood Filament for Different Wood Types
  7. AFINIARunner-Up
  8. HestayRunner-Up
  9. Torwell 3DRunner-Up
  10. RS ProRunner-Up

Wood filaments give your finished object the look, feel, and even smell of a wood carving, complete with the grain and color fluctuations you see in the hearts of trees. They take on the properties of whatever wood you use as well, such as the extra sturdiness you may be looking for beyond plastic.

One type of wood filament contains a piece of coconut mixed in with the wood, which gives the finished product a distinct look that you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

3D Printing Wood Filament

If you don’t like the finish you end up with, it’s just as easy to stain your 3D project with whatever wood varnish you want as it is to stain your coffee table, bookshelf, or any other object made of pure wood. You can also sand down rough edges or printing mistakes or carve finishing details with a knife or wood burning kit; the possibilities are vast and don’t end once you turn off your printer.

How to Work with Wood Filaments [3D Printing Wood]

However, wood filaments are not for those who are new to 3D printing. Wood filaments are finicky to work with and require much more manipulation and monitoring than entry-level thermoplastics. A wooden filament will reward you with beautiful, unique objects, but first, you have to learn how to treat them:

  • Use a larger extruder nozzle to 3D print. The recommended size is 0.3 mm or larger, which helps the dark chunks in the wood filament flow through without clogging up. This may result in larger layers than you want, but you can sand down the product until its finish is as smooth as you want, so don’t let that keep you from heeding this advice.
  • Remove the filament from the printer when you’re not using it. The wood filament can burn if left unattended in a printer nozzle that hasn’t cooled down yet, or stopped for some reason, and this will result in a nozzle clogged with blackened, hardened wood. If you’ve already learned this lesson the hard way, run a cleaning filament through your extruder. They’re easy to find and inexpensive, a must have if you’re going to work with wood. Just in case.
  • Find the right temperature. A lot of 3D printing enthusiasts manipulate the finish of their wood filaments by using a higher temperature than recommended for printing. The higher the temperature, the darker the wood, but that’s because the higher printing temperature is essentially burning the wood as it goes through the extruder. There’s a very fine line between a different finish and a burnt filament, so only attempt this if you have the time, patience, and knowledge to do it safely. And if you’re worried, print at the recommended print temperature, then paint the finished object with whatever color stain you want. No fire hazard necessary.
  • Use fast printer speed and high layer heights. Yes, these steps will result in more wobble on the Z axis and chunkier layers than you might want, but they’ll keep your wood filament moving through the extruder. Less time in the extruder means less of a chance for the wood to ignite, and less of a chance you’ll have to clean up that mess. Just make sure your printer is secured for as little frame movement as possible, and sand down any layers that don’t meet your standards.
  • Use higher retraction. Wood filaments and wood material are runnier than normal PLA when they are flowing through the heated larger nozzle. This will lead to material drag if you don’t adjust how fast the material comes out of the extruder, so make sure you adjust to the recommended retraction setting rather than leaving it as it was from working with the previous material. Retraction speed and distance will both make a difference.

Woodfill 3D PRinting

Types of Wood Filaments

Now that you know what to look for, let’s talk about the varieties of wood 3D printer filament that are out there. There are three general varieties available:

  • Regular woodfill is the basic variety that is polymer blended with pieces of traditional varieties of wood fiber and wood particles such as oak, maple, or birch. It has the scent and visual properties of the dominant wood variety blended into it, and although it does smell burnt when you 3D print with it if you’ve got your temperature settings correct it will be a stable material throughout the printing process.
  • Bamboofill. This is a polymer blended with bamboo wood fibers, which is more sensitive to temperature and extruder clog than standard woodfill. This means you’ll have to make sure you clean your nozzle thoroughly before and after every print with bamboofill, and you won’t get as wide a color variety as with regular woodfill, but you’ll be rewarded with a smooth print endowed with the flexibility of its blended wood.
  • Corkfill is slightly porous and a much darker color than bamboofill or regular woodfill filament. It has the finicky properties of bamboofill while letting you print something more lightweight and rigid at the same time.

3D Printing With WOOD

Wood Filament Companies

Finally, it’s time to choose where you want to buy your woodfill for 3D printing wood. There are a number of companies that put out quality wood filament for 3D printing (approved 3D printing filament). Here are our favorites:

Timberfill. These woodfill 3D printing filaments are made of 100% biodegradable sources, which means you’re doing something good for the planet while leveling up your hobby. Timberfill also gives you a relatively large selection of wood colors. You can pick from cinnamon, light wood tone, rosewood, and champagne, all of which display natural variations that you can mix and match to your content. This filament is more expensive than most of the others you can find at $51 per spool on MatterHackers here, but its variations and environmental friendliness makes it worth it.

Laywoo Filaments. The OG of woodfill, literally – this German company’s founder Kai Parthy invented wood filament for 3D printing in 2013. Lay Filaments sells a light cherry type, which means you can experiment with temperatures to create different colored finishes. It also sells a flexible wood filament that’s one of a kind and super useful for those who are just starting out with wood filaments since there’s more give to work with. You can find these filaments on MatterHackers here for around $35, but realize that they’re sold in bundles that are less than standardized full spools. You’ll get about 100 grams from most sellers, so do some math to figure out if that will really be the best bet for you.

Laywoo-D3 Filaments | Matter Hackers

At print temperature LAYWOO-D3 is less viscous than PLA or ABS, a few extra steps can help improve your printing experience: Adding extra extrusion to the beginning of your print will help prevent dry extrusion during the initial layers. Increasing the retraction setting of your part during slicing will reduce 'leakage' while the hotend is moving between sections (especially over open areas).

Check prices Learn More
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

ColorFabb. This company based in the Netherlands offers standard woodfill, bamboofill, and corkfill; ColorFab’s strength is its variety on offer. One spool of woodfill from them costs $49.99 at MatterHackers here, but the quality you’ll get makes it worth it. However, keep in mind that ColorFab’s woodfill filaments are not for beginners. Their high quality and relative expense mean you want to be sure you know how to deal with the unique problems of woodfill before you buy any.

MG Chemicals. These guys use poplar for the wood particles in their wood filaments, about 25% mixed with PLA (a hybrid wood PLA). Poplar wood particles are larger than other wood filaments, so make sure you have a nozzle that can open to 0.4 mm to prevent any clogging. If you burn up any filament in the extruder, it will be harder than usual to scrape out because of the size of the popular pieces. This is a great woodfill to start with. It’s as sturdy as any other standard wood filament while being as much of a bargain as its thermoplastic cousins ($31.45 per spool), and MG Chemical gives you free shipping if you buy a few spools at once. So stock up on whatever filament you need, and throw in a wood filament spool for fun to see how it works for you. Check out the latest prices on Amazon.

MG Chemicals Dark Wood 3D Printer Filament | Amazon
$23.78

MG Chemicals ABS 3D printing filaments are made of high purity Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene pellets. They resist higher temperatures and offer great machinability, flexibility and strength making it the preferred choice of engineers and professionals. 

Buy at Amazon.com Learn More
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
05/16/2021 05:10 am GMT

HatchBox. This company has quality control on lock. That means their wood filaments are less likely to clog your extruder because they have gotten the tolerance down to +/- 0.01 mm from the expected diameter; so the filament you buy will all be within a hundredth of a millimeter of the advertised diameter. This is crazy good compared to the standard +/- 0.05 mm tolerance. So if you’re looking for a material that can be more forgiving of your mistakes because they don’t tolerate their own, try out Hatchbox wood filament. Their wood filaments go for $34.99 per spool (check latest prices on Amazon here).

HATCHBOX 3D Printer Filament | Amazon

Hatchbox PLA is a green-friendly choice that can be used with many styles of printing to create strong, smooth and glossy prints in a variety of bold colors.

Buy at Amazon.com Learn More
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.

EasyWood. This company has even more options, in willow, pine, olive, ebony, cedar, birch, and even coconut. These boast a 40% wood particle content, and if you can’t decide which one you want to start with, there’s a sample pack you can buy for $18.01. Full spools of EasyWood varieties are $31.13 (check latest on Amazon here), making them a good bargain for any projects you want to experiment with.

EasyWood 2.85mm Cedar 500 Gram PLA Filament | Amazon
$52.99

EasyWood is a wood-filled PLA-based filament which is gravimetrically filled with approximately 40% grinded wood particles.

Buy at Amazon.com Learn More
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
05/16/2021 05:10 am GMT

AFINIA. These guys offer a major bargain wood filament. It costs $15.99 per spool, and it’s available at the Home Depot, so if you’re looking to get started with wood 3D printing right away, you totally can. It may not have the array of variations some of these other brands do, but it does have great customer reviews, and it comes in 200 g spools, so we’re naming this one best value.

Hestay. This company only has one finish of wood filament, but it comes in three different diameters: 1.75 mm, 2,85 mm, or 3.0 mm. While 1.75 mm is the recommended diameter for beginners, if you’re brave and/ or know exactly what you’re doing, experimenting with larger filament diameters can give you some unique results. Just make sure you have an extruder that can handle the larger ones if that’s what you get. These spools are $42.29 and come from the Netherlands.

Torwell 3D. Want to save the planet while 3D printing? Torwell uses recycled wood as 35% of its blended filaments. The other 65% is high-grade PLA, and that ratio results in an easy, smooth 3D printing process. You can choose either 1.75 mm or 3.00 mm with the confidence that both will act the same for you. This company is based in Australia, so if you don’t live near that part of the world you may have to wait out a slightly longer than average shipping time, but according to their customer reviews, Torwell works hard to make sure that doesn’t become a major issue. Just remember they can’t make the clocks go any slower, order in plenty of time for your project needs, and enjoy their great customer service if you need anything from them.

RS Pro. These folks sell a filament in “tropical wood” color. What does this mean? A small but noticeable spectrum of variation speckles that translate from the spool to your finished object without detracting from the overall shade. If you can’t picture that, think of how tree bark is almost never all one uniform color; this woodfill reflects that beautifully. It’s $20.75 per spool and acts like your standard other wood blend filaments, so check out this variety for subtle depth to your finished color.

Final Thoughts on Wood 3D Printers

There you have it – all about 3D printing material with woodfill blends. Although this is a tricky filament to get right, it’s well worth it to master.

You’ll be rewarded with finished projects that look like you spent years learning how to carve wood; and when it’s finished, the 3D wood filament is actually very forgiving, since you can sand it and paint it with whatever kind of varnish you like. So get to know your printer temperatures and try out this unexpected yet easy blended filament.

How to Find the Best Titanium 3D Printer [2021]

How Find Best Titanium 3D Printer

So you’re looking for a 3D printing material that is strong enough to build objects that endure punishing tests on a regular basis, yet precise enough to make intricate, one of a kind jewelry. You’ve tried a few different thermoplastic combinations but just aren’t getting the exact combination of qualities you need for your wide range of projects.

Where do you find such a combination of strength and delicacy? Look no further than 3D printing with titanium, a process that infuses all the metal’s strength into a printable alloy that’s great for virtually all of your small to medium sized object needs.

What is Titanium?

Titanium is a silver transitional metal, which means it’s an element that has a partially-filled d subshell. Translation? Its outermost electron orbit isn’t filled to capacity, so it can bond with other elements by sharing their electrons. That means it plays well with others, and with certain ions, it can get an electrical charge.

It’s got low density and high strength, which means it can hold a lot without getting bogged down in its own weight, and it’s resistant to corrosion in salt water and chlorine, among others. Also, its lustrous finish makes it shiny. We always count that as a plus.

How Do You 3D Print With Titanium?

For 3D printing, titanium requires more consideration and preparation than other metal alloys because of its strength and other physical properties. While you can spin other metals onto spools of filaments and use them more or less like traditional 3D printing materials such as PLA or ABS, titanium requires different 3D printing equipment. Specifically, titanium requires lasers.

Yes, you read that right: titanium is metal in more than the literal sense. To wrangle it into your 3D printing projects, you have to utilize an additive metal fabrication process called direct metal sintering.

The design process is no different than with your usual computer-aided drafting program. In fact, you can use whatever 3D design program suits your fancy as long as it’s compatible with the titanium 3D printer – and most of them are. Most 3D titanium printers accept the same design file extensions as standard 3D printers, so the only part you have to worry about here is making your design fit your imagination.

Titanium 3D Printing

But here’s where 3D printing veers down a different path than your traditional thermoplastic creations. Because of its properties, titanium 3D printing needs a specific type of printer called a DMLS machine. Although this type of machine does the same kind of work and produces the same kind of 3D product as fused filament fabrication and fused deposition modeling, it gets there in a different way that requires the design to be uploaded into the machine itself instead of hooking the machine to your computer to transfer the file.

After you’ve gotten your design set and loaded into the DMLS machine, the machine will use a powerful optic laser to do the building. This laser fires into a special chamber on the DMLS machine that. Within this chamber is a platform that dispenses the building material – in this case, titanium powder – into layers; basically, the laser melts the powder into a liquid that is then shaped into the layers by the blade. Sound complicated? It is one of the more involved types of additive fabrication processes, but the good news is, once you’ve finalized the design and fed it into the machine, the DMLS does all the rest.

Some 3D titanium printers use a variation on the DMLS process called electron beam transfer (EBM), which is very similar but uses a concentrated beam of electrons instead of a laser. Both processes use a localized melting process (that’s what the focused energy of the lasers and/or electrons are for) that takes the titanium from a powder to a solid that can be manipulated into layers that are easily shaped and adhered to each other. Science!

What kind of equipment do you need to 3D print with titanium?

Unlike a few other metal alloys, titanium can’t be used as a regular 3D printing filament, and that means you need a specific type of printer in order to utilize its 3D printing potential. You need a DMLS machine in order to perform the specific type of laser-tastic process we talk about above. And did we mention you also need a laser? That will be included in the DMLS machine, but we’ll use any excuse to talk about lasers.

EOS DMLS Machine

The DMLS machine will also include a build chamber that is specially calibrated to handle the DMLS process, which means it has to be tough enough to contain extremely concentrated beams of energy. Again, this is pretty much an automatic given with any DMLS machine you’ll purchase, but check on the strength of the build chamber before you buy just in case.

One more piece of special equipment that you’ll need for titanium 3D printing is the titanium itself. Instead of buying string-like filament by the spool, you’ll be buying titanium that’s been ground into a fine powder so the DMLS machine can do its thing. This is easy to find with DMLS equipment, and if you want to use something besides titanium, you can find other metal alloys in the same DMLS ready medium.

What Are The Pros of 3D Printing With Titanium?

3D printing with titanium has a lot of good features to take advantage of. Here are a few key ones to remember:

  • All in one process. Although 3D printing with titanium does require its own specific machine, a DMLS machine does everything except design your product for you. That makes 3D printing with titanium ideal for producing prototypes and test parts, and if you’ve spent any time trying to make things work, you know how much time prototyping and testing can save you in the long run. DMLS machines produce 3D printed objects without any special tooling requirements, so you don’t have to worry about additional equipment or processes when you’re getting your printing done. And that is not only a time saver but a sanity checks as well.
  • Level of detail. The process of DMLS produces the best details you’ll ever get from 3D printing. The layers are easily arranged – the laser (or electron beam) cuts a much more precise line of material than traditional 3D printing extruders, so this makes it ideal for tiny details that require a lot of finesse. You can add flourishes to designs that would not have otherwise been able to support that level of structure. This is great news for industries that rely on small to medium sized parts to be readily available and accurate, like dental, medical, and aerospace constructions.
  • Ease of producing prototypes. But you don’t have to be an astronaut to reap the benefits of 3D printing. If you need any sort of replication to try and tear to shreds, 3D printing with titanium makes that cost-effective and, dare we say, easy. You won’t be able to print on an industrial scale, but what you can print will be exactly what you need to see if anything needs adjusting before you print the real deal. This will save you so much time and money that you’ll wonder why you didn’t add this step to your routine earlier.

Titanium 3D Printing Pros and Cons

What Are The Cons of 3D Printing With Titanium?

Although it’s a great process that can benefit your 3D printing immensely, 3D printing with titanium does not come without its drawbacks. We’re discussing them here so you can figure out if any of them override the good parts for you.

  • Cost. We list this as a con for a fair number of 3D printers and new innovations in the field, but most of those are relative to each other. Generally, 3D printing is pretty cost inclusive. However, we need to emphasize that 3D printing with titanium is decisively not. When we say it’s expensive, we mean that a DMLS machine will cost you more than a mid-level car – starting at around $25,000 for a beginner. ‘That is objectively too much money for something you’re not sure you’ll need or like to use, so unless you are positive you are going to 3D print in titanium enough to justify this cash layout, think really hard about buying your own setup. Of course, the bright side to this is that DMLS machines are self-contained, which means once you buy the initial setup, you’re good until you need more titanium material to print with.
  • Print size. One tradeoff for the exquisite details that you can get 3D printing with titanium is that you aren’t able to scale these to a bigger size. DMLS machines only have enough space to print small to medium sized objects, which is why they’re so great for parts that need precision. But if you’re looking to 3D print some massive structures, you’ll have better luck with more traditional printers that are specifically built with big printer beds.
  • Z-axis mistakes. Because of how DMLS machines manipulate layers, it’s easier for mistakes to show up in the Z-axis than with traditional 3D printer extruders. The technology, although great at keeping attention to details on the Xs and Ys, is not refined enough to be perfect, and a little uncertainty on layer height movement is the most obvious way this manifests itself. However, this can be fixed by a careful design process and by keeping an eye on the DMLS machine as it prints; if you’re seeing something start to go bad, stop the printer and readjust.
  • No pause and save mechanics. The smarter class of traditional 3D printing extruders let you pause in the middle of your work, either voluntarily or not, and come back to the rest of it later in the same spot without you having to adjust much if anything. But again, those sweet lasers that let us geek out about how many wrinkles we can add to our timeless wizard 3D figurine, or how fine we can make the gears for a new dental drill, don’t have a pause mechanic that let you get your titanium 3D printing done in different chunks of time. Make sure your time and your power source are both spotless and able to go through the whole process you need for your object.
  • Surface imperfections. Titanium is generally a smooth alloy to work with, but because DMLS machines print with such precision, it may be difficult to notice a tiny surface imperfection that will cause problems later on down the chain if you’re 3D printing titanium as the first step in a multistep manufacturing process. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to reprint, though, especially if the imperfection is small enough in the area. You can just buff those out, we promise.
  • File format conversion. While you can design your 3D printed object on any computer-aided drafting program you’re most comfortable with, DMLS machines do have to convert that file to its own extension, which is an extra step that may make you impatient but is necessary. And that also means you can’t make adjustments to the design file on the fly. A good piece of advice in general for 3D printing with titanium is to make sure you’re 100% positive of your design before you print. That will decrease the chances you’ll have to deal with the issues we talk about above.

What is the verdict on 3D printing with titanium?

If you can get past the enormous startup cost to buy your own DMLS machine, or if you’re able to rent time on someone else’s, 3D titanium has a lot of perks. They stem from the material itself – its strength, its luster, its ability to conduct electricity – and from the DMLS process, which uses a nontraditional extrusion method that lets you print excellent details.

If you’re in the business of manufacturing small to medium parts for delicate instruments, or if you are in an industry that relies heavily on prototyping, you should consider 3D printing with titanium. The self-contained processes and level of work you can get from DMLS machines make it totally worth it if you’re in need of leveling up your 3D printer.

Best Carbon 3D Printer Guide [2021]: Carbon Fiber 3D Printers

You’ve mastered the basics of 3D printing, and now you’re looking for something more interesting, more challenging.

You’ve run the gamut of materials, know exactly how to fine-tune your temperatures, and have your computer-aided drafting game down to an exact science. You’ve even impressed your friends and loved ones with tasty chocolate creations they never thought were possible to get from a machine.

Where do you go from here?

Dive deeper into the science of your process by 3D printing with carbon. It may sound intimidating, but guess what – it’s so much like 3D printing with any other materials (additive manufacturing), you’ll be a genius at it in no time.

We’re here to help you find exactly what you need to know to get started, including how to find the perfect equipment to get the best results available from this wonder material.

But first…. these are the best carbon 3D printers for 2021:

  1. Fusion3 F410: Best Overall for Carbon Fiber 3D Printer   
    Fusion3 F410 | Amazon
    $4,999.00

    Updated for 2019, the Fusion3 F410 3D Printer has been designed to provide customers with performance and durability rivaling industrial printers at a fraction of the cost.

    Buy at Amazon.com Learn More
    We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
    05/16/2021 05:10 am GMT
  2. Makerbot Method Carbon Fiber: Most Affordable Carbon Fiber 3D Printer 
  3. Raise3d Pro2 Plus (with one of these nozzle replacements):  Best Large Format Carbon Fiber 3D Printer 
  4. Ultimaker S5 (with this nozzle replacement): Best Open Source Carbon Fiber 3D Printer  

The Carbon Material Explained for 3D Printing

Carbon itself is the building block of life. Its abundance (as the fourth most common element in the universe) and its unique ability to form polymers at common Earth temperatures makes it super versatile. You see examples of it every day from the graphite in your pencils to the diamonds in your jewelry.

Carbon’s isotopes – the different kinds of materials it forms when bonding with other molecules – are all highly resistant to chemical reactions, requiring high temperatures to react even with oxygen.

Uh oh, you’re thinking. My 3D printer doesn’t sound like it’s up to that challenge. But don’t worry – the material you’ll be working with is a mixture of carbon and thermoplastics, designed to perform perfectly in the 3D printing process. Carbon filament is blended with those thermoplastics to make sure it can be melted to just the right consistency for the type of weaving manipulation your printer’s extruder will be doing.

And there are a lot of advantages to printing with carbon filaments. Here’s the rundown:

Carbon Fiber 3D Printing Pros and Cons

Pros of Carbon 3D Printing

  • Carbon fibers in filaments make the material extremely strong and stiff. That also makes them much lighter and more dimensionally stable, which means they won’t experience the shrinkage that’s typical of many 3D printed materials once they cool off. The carbon fibers in the filament help with that, holding the shape of the form better than PLA or ABS on their own.
  • You don’t have to fiddle with your printer settings or memorize any other special settings just for carbon mix filaments. They’ll work with all your standard temperatures – that’s the thermoplastics molding the carbon’s behavior for optimum performance in the specific environment of a 3D printer.

Cons of Carbon 3D Printing

  • On the other hand, carbon mix filaments are extremely brittle. That means you have to be careful during the time between when it finishes printing and when it cools down enough for its intended use. It also means you have to be careful getting your finished project off the printing bed; let it cool down completely before you attempt to get it off because otherwise, you risk cracking it. That sounds counterintuitive based on the strength of carbon filaments, but its strong resistance to shrinkage means it doesn’t have much give at all, and give is what makes other filaments easier to manipulate. So be careful when you’re moving your carbon filament creations off the printer and into the real world.
  • The same stubborn properties that make carbon great for strength and structure take a toll on the 3D printer you with it. The brunt of that abuse is taken by the part that spends the most time manipulating the filament. Because of its abrasiveness, carbon will tear up your extruder if you don’t take the right precautions. The stiffness in its fibers will scratch the inside of your nozzle as well as clog it pretty heavily, even when mixed with the more pliable thermoplastics that form the basis of those filaments. Make sure your rig is ready for all this before you start experimenting, or your 3D printer will be useless and unresponsive by the time you’re ready to get serious.
  • Another danger of using carbon mix filaments in an unprepared 3D printer is the oozing. Because carbon filaments contain a lot of small fibers that won’t melt at the extruder temperatures, they’ll clog the nozzle as we talk about above, and a clogged nozzle means weird patterns of tinier holes for the part of the filament that does melt to leak out of and go anywhere except in the pattern you want. If you’ve ever tried to get frozen yogurt or soft serve ice cream from a pump that’s struggling to deliver your treat, you’ll get the idea of how a 3D printer nozzle clogged with carbon can splutter out an unwanted mess if you don’t take measures to prevent that.

If you’re now thinking that printing with carbon filaments sounds like more trouble than fun, don’t let us discourage you. Carbon is a great material, and fortunately, there are easy, definite, and affordable measures you can take to make sure none of these cons mess up your 3D printing experience with carbon. Here are some tips on what you can look for, what you can add, and what you should make sure is in place before you begin your journey with this fussy but worth its molecule.

The Carbon Fiber 3D Printing Process

Mechanical Properties Preventative Measures

You don’t need any specialty 3D printer to use carbon filaments (although really cool strides have been made using carbon to do the printing itself), you just need to look for these specific traits to make sure they’re available in the equipment you’re looking at.

If you’ve already got a 3D printer and don’t want to get a whole new one to accommodate your new filament, you can make modifications to your current rig, too – those are sold as separately as you need them, and a few are just settings you can change without learning or buying anything new.

Whatever your level of expertise, you’ll be able to buy, find, or adjust however you need to work with carbon, and you’ll be reaping the rewards for as long as you need them.

  • Make sure the printer you want to use has a heating bed temperature of 45 – 60 degrees Celsius. You don’t have to use an enclosed heating area; an open one will actually help your creations cool down a little faster (ideal for more rapid prototyping), so don’t worry about that part. The heating bed temperature is an important detail.
  • Extruder nozzle temperature of 200 – 300 degrees Celsius. This is pretty standard for any of the base filaments that you will find mixed with carbon, so you will likely not need to look for anything unusual in this area.
  • However, you DO need to make sure you get hardened steel nozzle. A lot of the time, the carbon fibers in the carbon mix filaments is harder than the brass nozzles that are the typical finished surface for most 3D printer nozzles. Trying to 3D print with stock nozzles could, therefore, cause irreparable damage. So upgrading to a hardened steel hot head will prevent that from ever becoming a problem. But hardened steel nozzles are also less heat conductive than brass, so in order to compensate for that AND keep your hot head from getting scratched, you may have to increase your nozzle temperature as much as 40 degrees Celsius. Check the specs for your hardened steel head and that will tell you the adjustments you need to make.
  • Alternatively, you could use your part cooling fan. This is another necessity while using carbon filaments because you’re dancing on a fine line between temperature manipulation and keeping your surfaces safe from that abrasiveness so common in carbon fibers. This is also an easy part to add to your machine; some 3D printers even come with instructions on how to 3D print that as your first project. To counteract the lesser heat conduction of your hardened nozzle, you can run your part cooling fan slower to help the filament flow easier.
  • Yet another adjustment that makes the extruder’s job easier with carbon mix filaments is increasing the nozzle diameter. 0.2 mm – 0.4 mm is the most common size range, but anything between those parameters will encourage more clogging than is practical to deal with in carbon filament printing. Bump up your nozzle diameter to 0.5 mm to drastically reduce the chance you’ll have to deal with this issue. Since the unmelted carbon fibers have a whole extra millimeter to move, they’re much less likely to clog. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but anyone who’s dealt with 3D printing knows it’s the tiny details that count.
  • You also need to check your retraction settings. Since the carbon fibers in your filament won’t melt and you need to keep a close eye on any clogs, reducing your retraction distance – or even eliminating it altogether – can reduce the distance in which a clog can build up. Less distance means less tubing for the filament to move through, which means it has less time to slow to a stop and clog everything. And 3D printing companies are already on this issue – the Simplify3D brand has a setting that lets the nozzle stay within the interior area of the extruder so there is little to no retraction. All you have to do to turn this on is go into your advanced settings and turn on the “avoid crossing outline for travel movements,” and many other printers will have the same option somewhere in their settings. Look at the user’s manual online before you buy to make sure the model you want has this critical feature.
  • If the nozzle still seems to clog on you immediately (after the first layer or two), try changing your layer height. If it’s too reduced for the first layer (layer adhesion), the nozzle may be close enough to the printing bed to cause back pressure that can cause the fibers to build up and clog because they don’t have enough space to get out.
  • Additionally, slow your print speed down for more consistent results. A slower print speed puts less pressure on the nozzle, and if small clogs start to form, the extruder will be more likely to be able to push them through before they get big enough to cause issues. Reduce your print speed by anywhere between 25 and 50%, and watch your results to make sure they’re getting better.
  • One more way you can ensure your carbon fiber filament has the easiest time possible getting through your printer is to make sure you use a guided filament path. The carbon fibers in your filament rub against every sharp turn and corner you have between your spool and extruder and the element’s brittleness can cause it to snap on these types of edges. If you use gentle curves instead, you’ll keep your carbon filament intact and its flow smooth to where it really needs to go – onto your project. You can find PTFE guiding tubes specially made for this, or you can get a 3D printer that has a short, straight, direct path from its spool area to its extruder.

The Best Products to 3D Print Carbon Fiber Filament

Now that you know all about what to look for in a 3D printing set up that you can use for printing with carbon fiber filament, here are the best rigs we’ve found to help you set it up.

  • Matter Hackers 3D printing company marketplace makes a huge range of 3D printing nozzles that give you a great range of nozzle diameters as well as finishes that are great for working with abrasive materials. Their prices vary and let you experiment without breaking your budget or needing to find space for a whole new machine. They even offer a “pro pack” of six different nozzles, all up to carbon printing standards, and the tools to switch them out.
  • Instructables has a great tutorial on how to add a 3D print parts cooling fan to your 3D printer. You can find this starting at under $10 on Amazon – just make sure to read the reviews before you buy to ensure you’re getting what you need for your specific types of projects.
  • Prusa Research offers a selection of quality 3D printers that either already has larger printer nozzle diameters, or are fitted to accommodate them.
  • Fusion3, RoboxPro, Raise3D Pro2 Plus, MakerBot Method Carbon Fiber, and MarkForged 3D Printer all offer 3D printers that are built inside and out to deal with strength printing from tough filaments like carbon, with industrial 3d printer grade results. They vary in their specifics and price ranges (although prepare to pay more than what you would for a printer not optimized for special material), so you can find your perfect match when you want to start from scratch.

Looking for a way to easily print with carbon 3D filament is not as difficult as its reputation.

If you’re looking to add carbon 3D printing filament to a 3D printing business or hobby that’s already active, you can modify your current machines to accommodate; if you’re just getting into the game and want to jump right in with carbon filaments, you’ve got lots of choices for printers that give you everything you need in one place.

We recommend easing in and seeing what works best with your personal preference – try it, you’ll like it!’.

Fusion3 F410 | Amazon
$4,999.00

Updated for 2019, the Fusion3 F410 3D Printer has been designed to provide customers with performance and durability rivaling industrial printers at a fraction of the cost.

Buy at Amazon.com Learn More
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
05/16/2021 05:10 am GMT

Further Read on Additive Manufacturing & 3D Printing Material (Composite Material 3D Printing Technology)

The 3D Printing Glossary of Common Terms and Acronyms

3D printing has a language of its own, meant to convey the specialty tools, materials, and processes that are unique to its world. It’s a great way to explain details that don’t have an equivalent word or phrase in common usage, but it’s also confusing if you’re new to any of it.

Fortunately, we’ve put together a handy guide for you to use, whether you’re trying to wade your way through a sea of internet tutorials or writing your own instructions for others. Check out our categories below for any help or inspiration you might need.

Parts

Extruder

A lot of 3D printer users consider the extruder the most important part of their setup, and with good reason. The extruder is where the material is fed into, heated up, and moved within the X, Y, and Z axes to print the layers of your object.

They are heat sensitive, requiring both a minimum temperature to keep the material flowing smoothly and maximum temperature to stop from burning the material or overheating themselves.

Within the whole of a 3D printer, the extruders are often identified by how many are attached to the frame. Single extruder printers are the most common; they have one extruder and usually work with only one color or type of material at a time.

Double extruders have two, and on the rare occasion, you will see some of the larger models have triple extruders. The extruders can work independently of each other or in concert.

X, Y, and Z axes

These are the planes of space that your 3D design will occupy. The X axis is the side-to-side, the Y-axis is the up-and-down, and the Z-axis is the depth. If you’re having a traumatic flashback to high school geometry class, don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of help deciding the measurements during your design phase.

The axes on the 3D printer are encompassed by the area that the extruder nozzle can reach to print, limited by the printing bed’s dimensions and the maneuverability of the equipment that moves the extruder along these axes. Your extruder moves through these via motors in the nozzle and extendable arms that are attached to the printer frame. It’s really fun to watch!

3D Print Bed

Printer Bed

This is an area of your 3D printer you will need to maintain especially well because this is the area that will be the literal foundation of your prints. The printer bed is where the extruder anchors the first layer of the filament to establish the base shape of the object. It’s a flat plane at the bottom of the frame, with the extruder posed above it. Most are adjustable, and that is a crucial aspect of printing.

If your print bed is not flush, your objects will start crooked, and there’s not much you can do besides start over. All 3D printers come with instructions on how to level the printer bed for your initial build; some have auto leveling capabilities that mean you don’t have to mess with it between prints. But, we do have experience with those you have to constantly adjust, especially print beds that come from cheap DIY printer kits.

A good print bed is also key to the stability of the whole printer, and a wobbly printer bed can knock everything out of whack. Its temperature control and grip surface are key to your final project as well; the wrong temperature and/or surface area means you’ll be wrestling your object off the print bed and stand a greater chance of damaging it and your project. Choose your printer bed wisely.

Fused Deposition Modeling

Process

  • FFF. This is an acronym that means “fused filament fabrication,” which describes the 3D printing process because the material (or filament) is melted enough to be manipulated and stick together for built layering onto a base. Fused filament fabrication is the proprietary phrase for it, from the company that invented it (Stratasys Inc.) Stratasys originally trademarked “fused deposit modeling,” but switched to a different phrase when 3D printing became more mainstream so users could discuss the process without worrying about legal infringement issues.
  • FDM. This acronym means “fused deposit modeling,” which is the same process as FFF. The only differences are that this phrase is not copyrighted, so 3D printer enthusiasts can use it for anything. It covers the same exact ground as FFF, so remember those can be used interchangeably in whatever instructional materials you may access.
  • Post processing. As mentioned in the printer bed entry, you’re not done 3D printing once your extruder has stopped. After the object is done being printed, you have to get it off the printer bed without damaging it. For quality printers, this is usually as easy as letting the object cool for a time – either on its own or with the help of a fan, whichever will work with your time and patience. Some objects, or printer beds themselves, require a little more effort in the form of specialty scraper blades. Those, obviously, require very careful precision to keep from scratching the printer bed, the object, or yourself (gloves are for sure recommended). Once you’ve taken the object off the printer bed, you can add more finishing touches such as varnishes, further sculpting, or any details you weren’t able to print.

3D Printing Software

Software

CAD

Short for computer-aided drafting, CAD is a catch-all term for the software you’ll be using to create your 3D printing designs. There are a lot of options out there. Many of them come from programs that were originally designed for 2D drafting needs such as architecture and have added 3D components as those computer capabilities have come online. AutoCAD is the most famous of these and has become an industry standard for anyone who wants to learn to draft in a professional setting.

There are plenty of other CAD programs that have sprung up especially for 3D modeling and printing as those have grown into their own processes. And if you’re not planning on 3D printing for your livelihood, don’t worry, because different CAD software has learning curves that vary as much as 3D printers themselves.

You also don’t have to drop a lot of money for a CAD subscription, either, and some printers come with their own programs that are just as good as any you can get independently. Just be honest with yourself about your skill level, and you’ll find the perfect software to get you using CAD in no time.

Open Source

If you’re familiar with other types of computer jargon, chances are you know that “open source” means someone has shared their code for free on the internet so anyone who wants to use it can and can make modifications to their heart’s content.

3D printing lends itself to this type of software because of its DIY fan base, so if you’re struggling with any company software, check out open source options. Not only are they free, but their transparency helps users understand the process, and see where they can individualize it.

STL Files

This is the extension for 3D printing design files. It’s an abbreviation for “stereolithography,” and that’s because it’s a type of computer-aided drafting that uses triangles to build the 3D forms.

First used in the AutoCAD system, it’s become standard on almost all 3D printers, and if you need to, you can convert other CAD file types to STL easily with software available for free or low cost on the internet.

3D Printing Materials

Materials

Filament

This is the stuff that you will print with. It’s a thread wound from some sort of thermoplastic (sometimes with other materials mixed in), stored on a spool. The spool is fitted to the printer so that the thermoplastic thread – the filament – is fed through the extruder, which heats up the filament and basically weaves it into your finished object layer by layer. If you’ve ever watched a sewing machine at work, the process is about the same, and the 3D printer filament plays the same role as the thread.

There are a lot of varieties of a filament to choose from, depending on your own skill level, your printer’s capacities, your wanted finish and hold, and lots of other factors you should consider before choosing one:

  • PLA. The most common type of 3D printing filament, PLA stands for polylactic acid. It’s a thermoplastic made from corn starch or sugar cane, which makes it non-toxic and biodegradable. For 3D printing, it’s stretched into filament thread and wound onto spools for easy storage. It comes in a wide variety of colors, and you can find it mixed with a lot of other materials as well; it makes a great base filament. Its relatively low print temperature makes it easy to print with since it has a much smaller chance of clogging or burning in the extruder nozzle. It also makes a smooth surface finish for your 3D printed objects, giving a level of surface detail beyond what other common filaments can achieve. It comes in two diameters: 1.75 mm, and 2.85 mm.

  • ABS. This stands for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and is another thermoplastic that is created like PLA but uses a different kind of plastic – ABS filament uses the same kind as Lego bricks and is engineered for strength. Its combination of Acrylonitrile, Butadiene and Styrene polymers makes it shatterproof, scratch resistant, lightweight, and affordable, and its relatively low melting point makes it good for home 3D printing. However, it doesn’t have the detailed ability of PLA, it gives off a bad smell when it prints, and it needs a heated printer bed. You have been warned.

  • PETG. This is the acronym for Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol-modified, a filament that is gaining traction in the 3D printing world for its properties. Although its makeup means it’s only available in clear and is not able to be color modified, it outscores PLA in durability. It’s also safe to sterilize and use for food. It’s not biodegradable, but you can recycle it by melting it down and turning it back into filaments (or other plastic materials). PETG doesn’t require a heated bed to work with, but it does perform better with one, and it’s soluble in acetone.

  • Eutectic Metal. This is a type of metal that is mixed in a specific way so that it has a lower melting point than its original form. This is how metals are mixed into filaments suitable for 3D printing; if you had to run your 3D printer at the temperature it takes to melt pure iron, for example, you would burn up all of your equipment before you got anywhere. The use of eutectic metal in 3D printing filaments gives users access to the metal’s general qualities while making it easier to work with.

  • HDPE. This stands for high-density polyethylene, which is the dense kind of plastic used to make plastic bottles. It’s used in 3D printing because it’s easy to dye and mold, and it’s also useful for printing supports because it’s soluble in limonene. So if you print the majority of your object in ABS or PLA and your supports in HDPE, you can dissolve the supports without doing anything to the rest of your material. It’s a great filament for designs that have a lot of details that are spaced out or overhanging other areas; you can basically defy gravity once your print job cools.

Going cold into 3D printing can be intimidating, but don’t let all the acronyms and formal terms scare you off. Words are powerful, and being able to label something gives you a better understanding of how it works, especially specialty information that can’t be translated any other way.

Learning them will give you power over what you want to do as you find more ways to improve your creation process. With a little bit of study, you’ll be able to navigate your way through whatever you need to do. Use our guide to translate what you want to do into actual processes and soon you’ll be able to hold the proof of your blossoming knowledge in your hand.

How to Find the Best Chocolate 3D Printer

Best Chocolate 3D Printer

With Valentine’s Day on the calendar every February, everybody’s thoughts naturally turn towards chocolate this time of year – even within the 3D printer world. Believe it or not, chocolate is a fairly common 3D printing material for those who like to mix things up. You can use it almost exactly like you would any other material, with just a few tweaks to make its unique properties work the way you want. And even though there are plenty of other filaments that you can use to store food and eat from, nothing beats combining two hobbies into one unexpected joy that you can literally taste!

How does 3D printing with chocolate work?

Making shapes with chocolate has traditionally been limited to what you can make with molds and melted down molten chocolate. Because molds are a process that carves the shapes out of the material poured into them, old-school chocolate making is just like industrial subtractive manufacturing and comes with all the same pitfalls. Can’t afford all the equipment you need up front? Need to make changes to your design once the mold is completed? Don’t have the time it takes to perfect everything, so you don’t have to change your design mid-process? Tough. You’re out of luck with any sort of traditional chocolate making.

Chocolate 3D Printing

But 3D printing, as an additive process, gives you a lot of advantages that let you experiment with your chocolate. Since you are adding material through layering, you don’t have to stay within the geometric confides of a mold; since you are basically drawing the design into 3D space, you can also change it a lot easier than if you were depending on a mold. It isn’t practical for mass producing chocolate, but if you want to make your own intricate one of a kind creations for fun or profit, 3D printing with chocolate may just be your best bet.

What are the pros of 3D printing with chocolate?

  • Translation of skills. The second best thing about 3D printing chocolate (close behind being able to eat your creations) is that it’s so close to 3D printing with more common materials that you can use the same designs and computer-aided drafting programs you feel most comfortable using without worrying about learning a whole new process. Overall, chocolate 3D printers work the same as other 3D printers – they use the same fused deposition modeling process where an extruder head moves around a printer bed and lays down melted chocolate in designated layers which are built into the 3D object and cooled to harden into place.
  • The intricacy of design. With a 3D printer, you’re able to create chocolate designs that would never be possible with the traditional mold method. Even other additive methods such as chocolate sculpture depend on your own steadiness of hand, limiting you to human frailty. 3D chocolate printers let you take advantage of both the uniformity of machine building and your extensive imagination.
  • High resolution and accuracy. The low viscosity of chocolate means that it uses what is called inkjet 3D printing. That means the print head is electrically heated to establish pulses of pressure which push drops of material from the nozzle. This can be used for either a continuous stream, as in when you’re making an all-chocolate creation, or as a way to dollop sections of chocolate onto another creation. Either way, inkjet 3D printing results in amazing accuracy on intricate details. The pulse process helps control the material flow so it can navigate like a skilled chef wielding a pastry bag.

However, there are some fundamental differences that you must be aware of before you decide to melt a few Hershey’s bars and pour them into your current rig. Don’t do that! You’ll ruin your machine and won’t get a result remotely resembling what you want anyway. You do need equipment that is specific to the intricacies of chocolate as a printing material, so read on to find out exactly what you need to know to make your 3D printing process even sweeter.

Chocolate 3D Printing Process

What are the difficulties with 3D printing in chocolate?

  • Working texture. The physical properties of chocolate make it perform a lot differently than your traditional 3D printing filament. Usually, even the most obscure material is mixed in with a thermoplastic, which ultimately allows the material to act more or less like the thermoplastic when it gets into the machine. But chocolate does not, and mixing it into a thermoplastic isn’t an option if you want to enjoy your creation as it’s meant to be. Chocolate is both too soft and not pliable enough to work with a traditional extruder. You have to melt the chocolate to make it flow in the lines necessary for the machine to draw out your design. However, when it’s flexible enough to work with, chocolate also does not have nearly the same hold as plastic does. It doesn’t harden quickly at room temperature, so it makes it more prone to lose its shape due to gravity or other environmental disturbances.
  • Structural delicacy. Chocolate’s unique 3D printing properties result in a material that is as delicate as it is versatile. Because it has to stay in a melted state while being manipulated, it also has to be cooled very quickly as it’s being printed so that the structure has a solid frame to fall back on. That’s especially true if you’re planning on printing chocolate with a lot of gaps or thin areas; if you don’t take the proper amount of care, these areas are vulnerable to snap right off and ruin your structure.
  • Can’t be stored as a filament. Chocolate is also too soft to be wound into the same kind of hard spooled filament that is typical for extruder printing. When you use it for 3D printing, you have to keep the liquid chocolate in a cartridge that is constantly heated to keep it melted so it can run through a syringe that acts as the extruder. This is a messy storage need for something that takes hours to complete its printing, and continuously heating an entire cartridge of material rather than only the material being used in the printing at any given moment is a finicky, energy-sucking process. Make sure you have the time and patience to stick with it.

Chocolate 3D Printed Name

What materials do I need for 3D chocolate printing?

To combat these structural issues, 3D chocolate printers use a paste-like material made from a blend of different kinds of chocolate. Dark, white, and milk chocolate all have different melting properties that make them easier or more challenging to work with depending on your project and the printer you’re using. Each type is structurally chocolate with slightly different structures that render them different allotropes, or variations of crystal patterning in their molecules.

  • Dark chocolate has a higher melting point than milk or white chocolate, between 30 and 32 degrees Celsius. This is because it has a higher proportion of cocoa to milk fat in its mixture. This means that dark chocolate is structurally firmer, but it also takes longer and more energy to melt and maintain the liquidity needed for extrusion. It has a solidifying temperature between 20 and 28 degrees Celsius.
  • Milk chocolate, on the other hand, has more milk fat in proportion to its amount of cocoa, so it will melt around the same temperature range that dark chocolate will solidify. Milk chocolate is also more likely to produce fat and sugar pockets if it’s not melted slowly enough; while that won’t affect its taste, it can affect the structural integrity of what you’re trying to build.
  • White chocolate doesn’t contain any cocoa solids at all, but it is made with cocoa butter, so it’s more prone to burning as it’s being melted. It scorches at around 44 degrees Celsius, so be extra careful if you want to use it for your 3D printer. You can mix and match all the types of chocolate for whatever combination of properties you need in your finished product.

3D Printer Chocolate

What equipment do I need?

Although you can outfit a regular 3D printer with several of the necessary details needed to convert it to a 3D food printer, chocolate itself takes some extra considerations, so it’s generally worth it to find a printer that is specifically equipped for the job.

  • Syringe extruder. First and foremost, you’re going to have to find an extruder that works like a syringe dispenser rather than a traditional 3D printing extruder. This is going to be the easiest modification you can make – there are detachable versions you can pop onto your current 3D printing rig, and there are even plenty of open source designs if you want to go meta and print your own printer extruder. However, if you have the rest of the necessary adjustments on your printer and just need to switch out your heating head, remember to find one that is heat resistant to the temperatures you’ll need for chocolate and FDA rated as a surface that’s safe to eat from. This will be easy if you’re working with a premade spout – they know what’s up – but if you’re printing your own, pay attention to the materials you’re using. The money you save will not be worth a broken hot head or plastics poisoning.
  • Material cartridge. Chocolate is a building material that needs to stay liquid while you’re using it, and unfortunately nobody’s figure out a way to liquify only the parts that are printing. And for an added wrinkle, chocolate can’t stay at the correct consistency without constant heating – unlike that frosting you’re eyeing, or mashed potatoes, which are both molecularly stable and liquid enough to run through a food extruder at room temperature. So for chocolate, you have to find a printer that has a material warmer that will keep it at the exact right temperature for 3D printing the whole time you’re using it. That’s easier than it sounds – many chefs and 3D printing engineers alike have wondered about it before you, so there are a lot of options for either a rig to add to your current printer or a printer that’s devoted exclusively towards chocolate. We recommend the latter, not only because it already has all the necessary accessories integrated into its design, but because it was built with chocolate specifications in mind, so you don’t have to worry about your regular 3D printer not being able to handle the adjustments needed.
  • Cooling fan. This is a vital addition to your chocolate 3D printing setup. If you’re shopping for a printer that can specifically print with chocolate, don’t believe it unless it has a fan built in to cool the chocolate as it goes. This isn’t an add-on that would be nice to have, or even just makes the process easier for you – this is necessary to keep your printed chocolate in its shape throughout the printing processes. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a broken mess of a chocolate shell. Cooling fans are such a simple yet complete fix.

Some Final Thoughts: How to Find the Best Chocolate 3D Printer

Because there are a few very specific needs for 3D printing with chocolate, we recommend buying a printer that is made for this specific purpose. There are a lot OF 3D Printers on the market that range from around $500 for a starter kit to around $6,000 for a full-on kitchen approved rig. Just like when you’re shopping for any 3D printer, know your skill level and be realistic about the use you are going to get out of this. Buying a 3D printer specifically for chocolate might sound like an extravagance, and it is if you aren’t going to be using it enough to justify the cost, but if you have any interest in chocolate 3D printing, you should find a chocolate 3D printer you can borrow or use jointly before deciding.

3D printing with chocolate is a great way to expand your 3D printing horizons. It’s a sweet way to test your design skills as well as add a culinary element to your hobby – or business! Although you won’t be able to mass produce chocolate bars on a practical scale or add ingredients beyond variations of cocoa to milk fat, you will be able to craft meticulous, one of a kind edible objects with little more trouble than 3D printing with your favorite thermoplastic. If you’re an aspiring Willy Wonka, coming up with creations that you fear could only be completed in your head, check out the range of 3D chocolate printers out there. You’ll be very pleasantly surprised what a good inkjet extruder and your pure imagination can bring to life.

A Guide to the Top 20 3D Printed Gift Ideas for a Any Season

The stress of shopping for gifts can really take the fun out of the holidays. You hate the crowds and the cut-throat capitalism that starts way before Black Friday, and you’re trying to think of something more personal (and easier!) to give the people you love.

No worries – your 3D printer is here to help. With hardware becoming more accessible and affordable every year, hobbyists and professionals alike offer an explosion of DIY ideas for all the folks on your list, as homemade as the macaroni portraits still hanging on your mom’s fridge and as useful as her favorite coffee mug. Here’s our handy guide to get your ideas flowing.

1. Jewelry

You don’t have to know anything about carats to give jewelry for the holidays. 3D printers are great for small individual items such as rings, earrings, bracelets, etc. Plus it lets you think outside the Tiffany’s box to make something that’s completely personalized – not just by engravings, either.

If it’s a shape that can be worn and material that can be melted into a filament, you can print it. Check out Cult’s pattern archives to get you started.

2. Containers (including for food)

Depending on where you are in life, containers are either the most boring OR the most useful thing on the planet. But 3D printers will make everyone on your list excited to get new ways to store their stuff. You can go as minimal or elaborate as you want, which is a running theme in this list.

Hollow boxes are some of the easiest ways to get started with 3D printing: the plans are basic, the shapes are in line, and several types of filaments are rated safe enough to use as food storage. (Double check which ones before you buy!)

Already over plain ol’ cubes? Just like with anything you can 3D print, you can add as much elaboration as your CAD can handle. Raised monograms in the font of your choice, motifs from favorite fandoms, handles and locks – get some great ideas here.

3. Phone stands/accessories

As phones have grown more elaborate, they’ve also grown more indispensable. And expensive. Now we can’t imagine how to live without them, or how to replace them when they break. That’s where your 3D printing skills save the day.

Your abilities to produce stands that fit the exact dimensions of your loved one’s phone, or a cover that hides the exact spot they cracked the screen last month, will earn you respect that will last well beyond the holiday season. Bonus points if you throw in a bag of rice (just in case).

4. Picture frames

For those on your list who insist that technology will never take the place of good old-fashion human connection, show them extra love with a frame built (or at least designed) with your own two hands. Sneak in a photo that reminds them of their favorite times, or an original piece of art they can admire wherever they choose.

They’ll think of you much more often than if they had to buy their own frames, and you can take the opportunity to personalize their view even more. Practical AND touching! Learn how with a few designs here.

5. Figurines

If you’ve had your 3D printer for any length of time, you’ve stumbled across some dedicated fans of all kinds showing off their plastic menagerie building skills. Why not harness their passions for your own gift-giving prowess? 3D printers are great for figurines and other character-based collectables.

You can replace someone’s long-lost favorite statuette, or replicate one they’ve never been able to quite get their hands on, or create an entirely new version of beloved character. There may be a learning curve for getting the details just right, but lean on the work of others if you’re unsure where to get started or where you’ve gone wrong. Learn how to get started here.

6. Customized puzzles

If you’ve given up finding jigsaw puzzles that can last more than ten minutes against your world-champion family get-togethers, or if you like the challenge but hate the pictures you find in stores, make your own! 3D printing means 3D pieces, and printing your own means embellishing however you want.

Copy something from the internet like these, or make your holiday gatherings a test of wits personalized for the intellects that will be gathered together. Plus, printing your own means you can make a gift you know will be just the right amount of pieces for whoever you give it to.

7. Pens (printed BY 3D and also 3D printing pens)

Good ink pens are one of the finer things in life and an excellent gift for someone you’d like to honor but don’t know well. Unfortunately, impressing someone like this gets expensive, especially when you get into the realm of personalizing.

With a 3D printer and an ink cartridge fit for your specifications, you can make a pen with more personal attention and way less cost. If you really want to get fancy but stay on theme, there are also 3D printing pens, which are handheld, freeform 3D printers that you wield like a drawing utensil to print out whatever your imagination commands! Here’s a few to get you started.

8. Utensils

You won’t be able to replace Grandma’s fine china with a 3D printer (yet), but you can help out the campers and new parents in your life. The internet is full of blueprints for big, simple eating utensils that have safer and more rugged shapes than traditional tableware.

Pair those with food-safe filament types, and you’ve got a way for outdoorsy folks to carry specialty items they wouldn’t otherwise want to get dirty. Add on bright colors and you’ll save new parents the headaches of looking for baby-safe pointy things that will stand out in the dishwasher and drawer alike.

9. Everyday fixes

If you’ve got someone on your list who says they don’t want anything, respect that. But don’t despair. You’ve got a great multipurpose tool at your disposal with a 3D printer, so ask if they have anything that needs fixing and offer your help.

You’ll both be surprised how much you can repair with a 3D printer and Google: everything from replacement cup handles to mechanical limbs have instructions somewhere out there. Don’t be afraid to share your maker abilities to make the world a better place for your loved ones!

10. Buttons/pins/patches

3D printing is all about marrying the practical with the fantastic. Harness that duality to help your gift list wear their fixes on their sleeves. An exact match for a button that went missing on a favorite coat would make a great present to show your attention to the details of someone’s life; 3D printed pins with favorite
symbols or slogans will make a receiver feel understood. You can print anyone’s point of view for them to proudly display.

11. Ornaments

If you’re in a festive mood this year, check out patterns for 3D printed ornaments. These make great early gifts for those you’ll see before all the official holiday hoopla gets started, or for those on your list who love decorations they can re-use every year. 3D printing materials are sturdier than traditional materials like tinsel and glass, so you’ll be able to give the gift of celebration for years to come.

12. Specialized grooming equipment

Bodies are weird, and so are the ways we keep them in tip-top shape. Take advantage of how customizable your 3D printing is and put it to work on a mustache comb, backscratcher – anything that helps the receiver take care of themselves exactly the way they want. Make sure you won’t get any weird looks when they open it; other than that, go nuts!

13. Placemats

At a certain stage of life, everyone realizes they need placemats without knowing the least bit how to decide on what kind. Take the guesswork away for new homeowners, newlyweds, new grads, or new parents (or old parents with a new table) by printing a set for them.

Another easy shape to design, 3D printed placemats also have the advantage of being easy to clean on the spot without having to get to a washing machine. The small but present porousness of the weave lets the mats breathe and drain of moisture while catching spills before they hit the table. They may not sound glamorous, but the right person will love you for them.

14.Hobby accessories (loom frames, knitting needles, easels)

Getting a new hobby usually means spending more than just time, so help someone discover a new passion this holiday by printing accessories that match their interests.

Plans for weaving looms, knitting needles, art easels, paint trays – anything above a certain level of precision will help them hone their skills without getting in the way of their developing style. This is one present that’s better to spoiler alert ahead of time so you can get the specifics from the source and make sure you’re not guessing at their needs.

15. Pet accessories (Scratching post for cat, chew toy for dogs, play tubes for small rodents)

Our animal babies deserve love too, and it’s easy to give it to them with your 3D printer. Use tough filaments with some give for felines who need a place to scratch their claws, and use a tight weave for canines who see the world as their chew toy.

Assess the level of playful destruction you’re willing to put up with and
that will be safe for your buddy’s play style, and print your best playtime ever! And don’t leave the more unconventional pets out of the fun, either. 3D printing makes for great rodent runs, crates, snake basking rocks, and bird perches.

16. Car accessories (floor mats, mini trash can, custom license plate frame)

When you can’t afford to imitate those yearly car commercials with big bows on a new Lexus, treat your friends and family to things that make their current wheels better.

3D printed car floor mats have the same advantages of place mats: easier cleanup, more solid construction, slower wear for something that’s
constantly under foot. Mini trashcans are a great thing to have sprinkled throughout a vehicle, and a homemade one will avoid the “I bought this because you’re a slob” vibe of something mass-produced.

Anyone proud of their school, sorority, state, pet charity, anything that says “them” will love the street-legal customization of a personalized license plate frame that fits their car and their life perfectly.

17. Key hook/keychain

The best gift I ever got was the last ten minutes back from my morning routine. I got them back in the form of a key hook hung right next to the door, where I can know they’re hanging for me to scoop up on my way out without having to dig through the seven million other places they could have been before.

Give someone on your list the same peace of mind by printing them a place to keep their going-out necessities where they don’t have to think twice about it. And if you’re feeling extra helpful, printing a matching key chain will keep their keys noticeable as they move through the rest of their day too.

18. Building blocks

If the star baby of the family has already been showered with everything their parents could think of, give them a simple yet effective playtime set of building blocks. Like puzzles and figurines, these blocks can be as elaborate or as simple as you feel is best.

You can round the edges for someone prone to teething, you can recreate parts of a castle for an aspiring dragon-slayer, you can build words and letters into the side for preschool readiness – whatever works! And best of all, you can replace anything that gets broken, lost, or just plain disappears without worrying about finding another exact match or buying a whole new set.

19. Tea pot

Cold weather always brings the tea people out of the woodwork, and if you have anyone like that you need a gift for, 3D printing a teapot would be perfect. It’s the pinnacle of the practical/thoughtful combination that makes the best presents, while being general enough for several different types of use if you’re not 100% sure which one the recipient likes best. If you don’t feel like you’re up to designing your own, the internet has you covered.

20. Bobby pins/hair pins

Anyone who uses these can always use more, especially if you round off the ends of yours for more comfortable wear than traditional straight-edged hairpins. Find a pattern that matches what your recipient wears, then print as many as you can.

This is great for college friends while you’re still in school, or for anyone, you know who is living in a dorm or bathroom-sharing situation. Couple them with a matching container and they’ll appreciate them even more.

These are just a few ways you can use your 3D printer to work for you this gift-giving season. Check out our project files for more ideas, and happy printing!

How to Find the Perfect CAD Software for Your 3D Printer

You’ve finally gotten the 3D printer of your dreams. Yay! Now here comes the hard part: figuring out what software makes it do exactly what you want it to.

There are a lot of options out there, but don’t get overwhelmed. After you figure out the answers to a few basic questions, you’ll find what’s right for you and be printing that sweet action figure or prosthetic leg in no time.

First, a mini crash course in CAD: computer-aided drafting. This is the type of software you’ll need to design what you want to print. It can be either vector-based, which uses traditional drafting shapes, or raster-shape based, which uses pixels on a dot matrix data structure to show a picture.

Confused? Basically, with CAD, you can either draw using shapes or draw using pixels. Which type you use depends on your personal preference and also a little bit on the projects you’re doing.

3D modelling in CAD comes in various levels of design nuance and manipulation. 3D wireframe software means you manually draw individual through lines to create a 3D picture from a 2D shape. The drawings don’t have any mass properties associated with them, and you can’t directly add any features to it; they have to be constructed as part of the through lines.

3D “dumb” solids start as basic 3D shapes such as cubes and spheres. You can manipulate them by adding or subtracting solid volumes. But you can’t see much (or any) motion between the components.

3D solid modelling has two variations that expand beyond the capabilities of “dumb” solids. Parametric modelling lets you manipulate parts of your design while keeping the geometric and functional relationships of the parts to each other and the whole. But keep in mind you have to change the parameters of the design for this instead of directly manipulating the shapes themselves.

That’s where direct or explicit modelling comes in. This variation lets you modify your design by directly interacting with the model’s geometry. It’s the closest you can get to moulding your design out of clay with your hands. Combine this with freeform surface modelling within your software, and you’ve got the whole package covered.

Getting Started with 3D Printing – Steps for Learning How to 3D Print

At this point, you’re either nodding along or pulling up Wikipedia. We’ve come to the first real step in your 3D software buying journey:

  • Be honest about your drafting skill level. It’s super important for you to know what you know before you choose what you want. The best part of 3D printing is how accessible it’s gotten for everybody who wants to join in. But that also means it’s easy to get in over your head. To keep your printer from becoming your most expensive paperweight, take into account how familiar you already are with CAD and how much you are willing to learn. There is software all along the spectrum of assistance, from basic models that are already made that let you choose your own finishing details, to completely blank slates that assume you do this for a living. Choose wisely, and you’ll be right in that sweet spot between being able to do what you want and continuously learning something new.

Once you figure out what skill level you need your software to be at, it’s time for another step of self-reflection: price.

  • Be honest about your budget. Another cool result of 3D printing becoming mainstream is the wide variety of 3D modeling CAD software prices out there. The rise in maker space culture has spawned free programs whose quality start at adequate and go to excellent. But as with all software, “free” doesn’t necessarily mean “perfect.” You may find that if you have the money for it, shelling out for a more professional version is worth it. Be careful as well to not equate price with assistance. If you’ve figured out that your skill level is lower than what you need for what you want to do, pricier programs may be tempting. Pay more, get more, right? While usually true, you can easily overwhelm yourself by getting something that has way too many features and a customer base assumed to have too much previous knowledge for its instructions to be useful to you.

Now it’s time to expand your planning beyond yourself:

  • Consider your whole user base. This is easy if you’re getting 3D software for your own amusement. No other users mean you get to decide everything based on your own parameters. But 3D printing has become ubiquitous as a way for the public to get in touch with their own DYI side. Plus it’s more fun! Collaboration means combining brain strength and producing stuff that you wouldn’t be able to on your own. So embrace it. If you are a part of the maker space movement, you’ll need to go through steps 1 and 2 above for all the potential users you may have. That doesn’t mean you have to figure out everybody’s individual 3D modeling or CAD credentials and income, but it does mean you need to consider the lower ranges of need in both areas and how to compromise those so the higher end folks won’t get bored.
  • This is especially applicable if you’re in charge of a 3D printing operation within a public institution like a school or a public library. Will the CAD software be used as a teaching tool, or for more freeform experimental access? Will it be for general use, as in anybody who is curious can experiment with it? Or will it be for groups that are already selected for interest and knowledge of it, such as a high school robotics club or a library engineering program? This will also determine practical details such as how many user licenses doe you need, how long do you need the software to stay relevant before you can upgrade, what other hardware (if any) you may need for optimum performance, how teachable is the software to multiple people at once, and what is the troubleshooting process for the person in charge (which, if you’re in charge of ordering the software, will more than likely be you). Any other factors you know about the population who will be using the CAD will be extremely helpful with pointing you in the right direction.

Once you’ve figured out what you need, check out the list below of our ten best CAD software packages for 3D printing. They’re labeled by price point, experience level, and user needs so you can hone in on exactly which one works best for you. Click the links and explore!

Tinkercad

  • Price: Free
  • Experience Level: Beginner

User Needs: This works well for anyone who needs a thorough introduction to 3D printing simple shapes. The software is network-based, so no installation or user licenses are necessary, making it a great option for those who need group access but don’t have the money for multiple software copies.

Its website provides real-time support as well as templates for those who want to use them. However, its interface does not stay intuitive when adding complexity to shapes, so if you will be printing complicated stuff on the regular, you should probably find something more robust.

Google Sketchup

  • Price: Free for basic/$119 annually for Shop/$695 flat fee (no renewal fee) for Pro
  • Experience Level: Intermediate

User Needs: Another program you can start using for free, Sketchup is great for users who already know a little bit of 3D modeling theory and want a program that will grow with their skills.

It hides some of its best features in plug-ins, and the premium-price updates, natch, but if you have a grasp on the basics you can go straight to the Shop version and upgrade whenever you feel ready. We definitely recommend getting the Warehouse plug-in, which lets you access designs of other users and is a great place for inspiration.

AutoCAD

  • Price: $1,575 annually
  • Experience Level: Beginning – Professional

User Needs: This is the universal design software across professional engineering and architectural projects. You don’t have to be a pro to grasp its intuitive controls, but it might help to justify the cost and computer power necessary for this program. If you want to make 3D printing part of your job – or already do – AutoCAD will have your back.

See some comparisons here:

Blender

  • Price: free
  • Experience Level: Beginner – Professional

User Needs: Great for those leaning more towards the creative side of 3D design and printing. This is not just a CAD software on its own but a suite of 3D modeling programs that work together to realize bigger projects such as game animation.

Of course it 3D prints your models, too, and you have license to use it for profit or not, free and clear. That makes it perfect for an area like a public makerspace, where anyone who wants can design something and put it to use whether that’s printing a bracelet or designing a movie monster. It does depend on donations, so if you use it and like it throw a few bucks at the creators to keep this software going strong.

SolidWorks

  • Price: $3,995 unlimited license/additional $1295 per year for subscription tech support and upgrades
  • Experience Level: Beginner – Intermediate

User Needs: Anyone who appreciates intuitive design will love SolidWorks’ interface. Its commands are straightforward and out in the open, which is great for those who are learning and gaining confidence in 3D CAD.

Although its renderings are not quite as detailed as other programs with its capability levels and it lacks advanced design testing capabilities that makes it impractical for certain professional purposes, its CAD and 3D printing functions are top notch.

See some SolidWorks comparisons:

Onshape

  • Price: free for non-commercial use/$125 per month per user for professional version
  • Experience Level: Intermediate – Professional

User Needs: Sharing is caring with Onshape, at least with the free version – your designs on that level become public property, so be careful if you are looking for a commercial use package.

But the controls are easy to grasp, and the program is cloud-based and so you can run it on any computer you can get to. Just make sure you have a good internet speed, and, if you’re paranoid, another backup saving method for any network hiccups that may come along.

See some Onshape comparisons here:

Fusion 360

  • Price: Intermediate
  • Experience Level: $60 monthly/$495 annually/$990 for two years

User Needs: Another CAD software with its head in the cloud, Fusion 360 is also specifically designed to work well on both Macs and Windows machines, which definitely justifies its price. (Especially since it’s a bargain in the first place.)

Although it may still be expensive for those who are small budgets or have to justify any price at all, it’s perfect for private consulting and personal use when you do not have to worry about external regulations on your designs.

See some comparisons here:

Inventor

  • Price: $55 per month for Inventor LT Suite/$465 per month for Inventor HSM Pro/$7,500 one-time fee for Inventor HSM
  • Experience Level: Advanced – Professional

User Needs: Perfect for users who know every detail of their design and want to tinker with each one. The amount of tinkering Inventor lets you do is exactly what certain levels of 3D modeling and printing need – however, the same amount that is great for experienced designers can overwhelm first-time users, so this software is best for professionals or soon-to-bes, whether on their own time or in an office that lets you control every aspect of your design.

See some comparisons here:

3DS Max

  • Price: $190 a month/$1,505 annually/$2,859.50 for two years/$4,063.50 for three years
  • Experience Level: Advanced

User Needs: Previous knowledge of 3D modeling is key to getting the most out of this software. It rewards experience designers with a vast array of features that allow you to build your model to exacting specifications and look good doing it.

It also has stellar animation capabilities if that’s up your alley, and it interfaces seamlessly with other design programs to take your drawings into whatever other realm you need them.

Whether you’re setting up a station for beginners or wanting to let your own professional imagination go wild, this list of 3D computer-aided drafting software can get you started on your own 3D printing journey. Enjoy!

Further read, The Best 3D Printing Software

Sculpteo vs Shapeways: Which 3D Printing Service is Right for You?

3D printing services are companies that will professionally print your 3D models for you. The companies use professional grade 3D printers to create multiple smaller objects for various customers at the same time.

These companies give you the power of professional 3D printers without the up-front costs. You can choose from many different materials, colors, and finishes for your part. You can easily upload the object you want printed through over 40 different file types. Also, you will never have to worry about the quality of the final product as it is hand inspected by a professional before shipping.

Another great aspect of using a 3D printing service is the companies help improve and optimize your design. This ensures your designs are fool-proof for a 3D printer. They will analyze your prints by measuring thickness, overhangs, and various other features, the services make sure your object will come out exactly the way you want it to look.

I am going to compare two of the more popular 3D printing service companies, Sculpteo and Shapeways. While they are very similar, they also differ just enough that you may prefer one over the other.

Besides printing your models, both Sculpteo and Shapeways allow you to manage a virtual store. Here, customers from around the world can browse your 3D models, purchase them from you, for a price you set, and have the company print them out.

This also means if you don’t have a 3D model you want printed, you can easily search through the stores and marketplaces until you find one you like. If you can’t find exactly what you want, chose one you like and quickly customize it to make it your very own.

You may be asking, how does a 3D printing service work? It’s a fairly straight forward process. First, you create an object using the program of your choice and upload that object through the website of the 3Dpritning service. Next, your 3D file is analyzed to verify structural design, format, and size. You will get notified of any errors or sections of a model that will cause a 3D printer trouble.

Once you have resolved the issues and submitted an updated file, the model will be sent to a queue for the next available batch at the 3D printer it needs. Then, your object is printed, removed, and inspected. Now, any secondary processes will take place such as plating, painting, coating etc. Finally, the object will be shipped to the address of your choice. Pretty simple, right?

Now let’s dive into the specifics of Sculpteo and Shapeways.

Core Features of Sculpteo

Sculpteo is headquartered in France and has manufacturing in Paris and San Francisco. The company has been in business since 2009. Their 3D printing services are based on quick-turn processing. You can receive your part the next day after you place your order if you wish. Sculpteo ships worldwide, which is great for their customer base and your customer base if you choose to setup a virtual store.

Capabilities:

Instant quotes: The website offers an instant quote function, which gives you actual pricing as soon as your model is uploaded. The pricing will update as you modify your model. Pricing will vary from model to model. It is typical based around three parameters, total volume (material used), object size, and bounding box.

Expedited orders: Sculpteo is built for turning out your objects as quickly as you need them. You are able to get your object printed and shipped to you in typically 2 – 3 days after your order. As I previously mentioned, this can be expedited to a 1-day turnaround for a fee.

Of course, this service isn’t available for all prints. Only one of their plastic materials, white, unpolished Nylon PA12, is capable of the quickest turnaround time. However, you can add secondary processes to this material which will only add 1-2 extra days before you will receive the product. No matter what material and finish you choose, Sculpteo tries to get it finished as soon as possible. They are still very fast with their other materials, just not 1 day fast.

Automated mesh integrity: Not all 3D models are printable models. The 3D printer must be able to read and understand your 3D model in order to create it. Sculpteo makes this process a breeze with their automated analysis of your models.

Their program quickly analyzes the model for you once it is uploaded. Then it will show you where your model needs repairs. For repairs, you get three options: automatic, semi-automatic, or manual fixes. This enables all users, no matter experience, to prepare their models like a professional.

Materials and Finishes:

Sculpteo offers just about every material or finish you could want for a 3D object. You can choose from over 75 different combinations of the materials and finishes. As well, you can easily compare the pros and cons of the different materials Sculpteo offers on their website.

The materials include:

  • Plastics: nylons, flexibles, aluminium, glass, carbon
  • Resins: polyjet, acrylate, polyurethane, flexibles
  • Multi-color/Full color: composite multi-color
  • Metal: aluminum, titanium, stainless steel
  • Wax: brass, sterling silver, steel, bronze

The type of material will determine how your object is printed, which includes:

  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS),
  • Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
  • Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
  • Binder Jetting
  • Casting

Core Features of Shapeways

Based out of New York with offices around the world, Shapeways aims to give the best quality objects for the lowest prices for their customers. This is accomplished with industrial printers and the best materials. Shapeways also ships worldwide. Shapeways has been in business since 2007. They aim to build a strong community to continue the growth of the 3D printing industry.

Capabilities

Instant quotes: Shapeways offers instant quoting just like Sculpteo. You will receive pricing as soon as your model is uploaded into the system. As well, the pricing will update as you make changes to your model. Price is determined by the type and amount of material used. You will not be charged for more intricate or highly detailed parts.

Auto and manual check mesh integrity: The auto check provides instant feedback to the designers on what they can do better next time they create a model. Once the model is approved by the auto check, it then gets passed to an engineer for a manual check.

The engineer will look at bounding box size, wall thickness, holes, interlocking parts, and fine details. This process ensures all models will be printed to exact specifications of the user.

A better looking, higher quality object will be the end result. While the two-check system is a slower process, Shapeways stands by it as they want to ensure the best quality for the end user.

Resources: Shapeways is full of great resources to assist users of all experience levels. They offer pre-print checklist to ensure your model will be ready to go and help push it through the integrity checks.

They have guides to show you how to convert your 3D model files to types that will upload into their systems. Also, they will give you tips on how to design to save money.

They show you how to design differently so that in the end you use less total material. Shapeways is trying to make it easier for everyone to get involved with 3D printing.

Materials

Shapeways lets you pick from over 60 materials and finishes to bring your 3D models to life. Hope on their website to see the full list. As well, you can see pricing, estimated shipping and suggestions of which materials to use depending on your models.

The materials include:

  • Plastics: strong, flexibles, nylons, frosted-detail, metallic, elastic
  • Metals: steel, silver, aluminum, gold platinum, brass, bronze
  • Plating: various plated metals
  • Ceramics: porcelain
  • Sandstone
  • Wax

As well you can choose from a variety of printing types:

  • SLS
  • Binder Jet Steel
  • Wax Casting

Sculpteo vs. Shapeways

Now that we have gotten through the details of each, you’re probably wondering which is a better 3D printing service. Both Sculpteo and Shapeways offer great 3D printing solutions for those of us who can’t afford or don’t want to invest in our own 3D printer.

Their online marketplaces are useful and effective. Thousands of people frequent them every day. There are thousands of different models you can choose from or browse through for inspiration on the virtual stores.

Sculpteo offers a few more printing types than Shapeways. However, Shapeways has some more exotic material than Sculpteo. You will get pricing instantly from both. As well, they each ship all around the world.

What I think it boils down to is what you are looking for in your 3D printing service. Are you looking for a super-fast service that will give you finished products in just a matter of days? Or is time not a factor for you and you don’t mind waiting a little longer before you get your parts?

Also, you need to factor in the pricing. For the exact same model, made from the same material, Sculpteo comes back near double what Shapeways quotes. This is typically a major factor in someone’s decision.

Can you afford the price for a 3 day turnaround? The nice thing is, you can always compare the two websites with your model and see where the pricing is for each. Once you have pricing, then you can decide on how quickly you need to receive the parts.

In the end, it’s tough to pick one or the other. Each service excels in some areas and lacks, to say the least, in others. No matter which one you choose, Sculpteo and Shapeways will provide quality 3D printed objects right to your door. Let your imagination run wild and start creating.

Recommended Reads