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 turn around? 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.

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The Markforged Mark Two 3D Printer Review That You’ll Love

3D printing has been around for a long time. A lot longer than most people realize. The idea was first introduced back in the 90s, but, it is only just recently popped into the mainstream. It’s quite the mystery why this technology took so long to catch on. I believe a major factor in its slow growth was the lacking ability to 3D print more than just plastics. Just like the rest of the 3D industry, this lacking ability is quickly disappearing.

Markforged is a company changing the game when it comes to printing stronger, more durable parts. The founders come from the auto-sport industry where they saw a need to be able to create working prototypes and production parts quickly and cheaply.

They bring their high-precision background to the world of 3D printing. Markforged didn’t want to create just another desktop printer though. They wanted to create something that could be brought manufacturing businesses and be used by some of the top engineers and designers in the world.

Markforged knew their market from the beginning. Their plan was to create an attractive, top-of-the-line, compact 3D printer that can produce metallic prototypes and production parts. The Mark One created quite the stir in the industry a few years ago.

It was the first carbon fiber 3D printer in the world. This time they give us an even better printer. With more precision, power, and functionality, the Mark Two is sure to catch the eye of engineers and designers.

What is Composite Material 3D Printing?

Before we get into the specs and features of the Mark Two, we must first understand it’s technology. Let me give you a brief, high-level explanation of what it means to print with composite material.

Never heard of a composite material? No worries, it’s fairly simple to understand. They are two or more independent materials that have different characteristics, either physical or chemical. But when these materials are combined they form a new material with new characteristics.

Some of the common benefits of composite materials are the strength and weight compared to other materials. As well, they are significantly cheaper to produce to reach these levels of strength and weight.

The Mark Two combines both the nylon filament with the composite material filament to construction your 3D prints. By using the nylon as a base layer, which is known as the inlay. From here, you apply the composite material to the inlay of nylon. The composite material is then smooshed, or almost ironed, onto your print. This creates a stronger and more durable model.

Now that we know how the Mark Two works, I’ll fill you in on all the other aspects and features of this great machine.

Cores Features of Mark Two

Dual extruders: I previously mentioned that the Mark Two utilizes two extruders. One for the Onyx nylon (Markforged specialty nylon), and the other nozzle for the fiber filament. The dual extruder setup is a crucial aspect of the Mark Two as it enables the entire process to work.

Both nozzles are made of stainless steel. This ensures the durability and longevity of the nozzles, especially when using abrasive fiber filaments. The stainless steel lasts much longer than traditional brass nozzles would last

Design and functionality: Overall looks, the Mark Two takes home the gold every time. It is an absolute piece of eye-candy when speaking in terms of 3D printers. Markforged took a minimalist approach to creating the Mark Two.

The minimalism is a proven hit in the tech world, think Apple, and Markforged hit the nail on the head with this machine. The Mark Two will be front and center in your shop or office for all to see. The minimalism is carried into the software of the machine as well.

Markforged offers the user just enough ability to tweak the printer settings. The majority of the heavy-lifting of optimizing each print is done by the software and the machine itself.

But the users still have just enough control to customize the prints and make sure each comes out to their exact specifications. Each customization is done within the simplistic cloud-based software, Eiger, or from the easy-to-use touch-screen display.

Eiger software: Markforged’s very own software is a great piece of software. It is cloud-based and runs on Chrome. I just mentioned the preset standards that will assist in optimizing your print to increase strength and functionality.

Eiger allows you to pause the print at certain layers. The benefit of this feature is the ability to add parts to your print and resume printing around the new parts. Think fasteners, inserts, bearings, etc.

The fact that its cloud-based means multiple users can load multiple prints from anywhere. Your team and operations will become more streamlined and efficient using the Eiger software.

Continuous Fiber: This is where Markforged sets themselves apart from other fiber 3D printers in the industry. Previous technology only allowed for very short, scattered fibers to pass through the nozzle and hot end. Markforged developed a method to print layers of continuous fiber strands.

Ultimately this greatly increases the strength of the printed parts. The mechanical properties of continuous fiber parts can match those of traditional manufacturing methods.

Key Specifications

Here are the key specs of the Anet A6 3D printer:

Build Area  12.6” x 5.2” x 6.1” 
Print Speed  100 mm/s 
Filament Types  Nylon + Carbon Fiber, Fiberglass, Kevlar, HSHT Fiberglass (High-strength, High-temperature Fiberglass) 
Layer Resolution  100 microns 
Extruders  2 
Nozzle Diameter  0.4 mm 
Open/Closed System  Closed 
Warranty  N/A 
Our Score  9.2/10 
Price  $13,499.00 

Pros of the Mark Two

Here are a few of the best parts of the Mark two.

Build volume: A large build area makes this 3D printer ideal for creating your fully functional prototypes. As well, if your parts are the right size and you organize them correctly you’ll be able to maximize the use of the build area. Using the Eiger software, you can have the Mark two produce multiple parts at the same.

Bed leveling system: The build plate is a solid piece of aluminum with a special coating. The coating allows for better coordination with the machine. This is important as the machine uses a three-point magnetic location sensor to hold the plate in position throughout the printing process. You will use a couple of small thumb screws to level the bed. However, the magnetic system makes removing the plate and builds a breeze.

Pelican Case: The Mark Two will come with a Pelican case, which is your Plastic Dry Box. This will hold your Onyx nylon filament and protect it from the elements. The nylon filament is prone to humid conditions as it tends to absorb moisture from the air.

This will change how the filament reacts to heat and ultimately lead to more clogs and broken prints. Luckily, the Pelican case will protect it and ensure it lasts much longer than it would without the case.

Value: To the hobbyist printer the price tag will probably be far out of your reach. But we must remember, the Mark Two is not meant for a hobbyist but rather business, manufacturers, and machine shops.

This is meant to be a tool, a piece of equipment that improves someone’s product and processes. The ability to create high strength, long last, and fully functional parts at a fraction of the cost makes this machine well worth the asking price.

Cons of the Mark Two

Can there really be anything wrong with this 3D printer?

Closed Source – I know this isn’t much of a “con” as it is a business decision, but to the rest of the industry and those fanatics of 3D printing it sure doesn’t help us. Given the company was originally based on the open-source 3D printer you would think some aspects of this machine would be available to the public.

Just imagine how quickly the industry would advance if others could borrow the science behind this. But for now, we will just have to hold out and wait for someone else to figure this out.

Besides the system being closed-source, there isn’t anything negative I have to say about this machine. Like it, love it, go get your business one and start creating.

Final Take – Mark Two for the Win!

This is an aesthetically pleasing, higher performing machine. It is an investment, but it is a very wise investment as the cost-savings it provides will quickly make up for the price. Also, when compared to other composite 3D printers on the market, there are none like this. To get anything relatively comparable you will be needing to spend at least two to three times as much as the Mark Two.

The revolutionary continuous fiber technology, the large build area, and Eiger software all combine to make this 3D printer one of the best machines available. It produces high-quality parts relatively quickly. The software is user-friendly and improves your designs.

This is truly one of the finest 3D printers available. If you are looking for a new tool or you have some extra cash to splurge, I highly recommend looking into the Mark two from Markforged.