Ok, that might be totally predictable: a big 3D print services vendor promotes the use of services instead of using your own low-cost 3D printer (such as a RepRap, RapMan or MakerBot). Here's their take:
If you happen to be a 'maker', and love the creative experience like we do, then you definitely welcome the chance to spend a week or so assembling, testing, and debugging the MakerBot. It's roughly similar to our experience years ago building ham radios from surplus electronic parts.
But, if your main interest is in creating the finished parts, and in seeing your creation manifest itself as an actual physical thing, you might be a little put off by going the MakerBot route.
They also cite:
- Material strength is greater from services
- Cost of hobby options if you're only printing a few objects
- Part quality and finish is superior from a service
- Ability to print more varied objects with support material
Ok, we give up; those points are likely true. But you just don't have the same love for a service that you do with a hand built RepRap (and built again. And rebuilt yet again.)
[UPDATE] We were contacted today by Martijn Joris, BD Manager for i.materialise, who disagreed with the report above. He says:
I regret to read this, because we don’t share the opinion that is stated on our name at all. The person you stated is not an employee of Materialise, he is a journalist who talked to an i.materialise employee. The opinion he shares are therefore not ours.
We are very enthusiastic about fablab printers and we really support people that use it. In my opinion, we have one great interest, which is to make production of unique models accessible for everyone. in that sense, we don’t see the existence of fablab printers as competition, well in contrary. It’s just the same as with 2d printing, where most people own one at home, but still use a service when they need something else.
That is our opinion as well: there are many reasons to use print services, just as there are reasons to own your own hobby printer. As a consumer of 3D printing, you must choose the route that is most appropriate for your own situation. You might want the one-time cost and quality and reliability of a service or you might want your own printer if you intend to print a great many objects - or if you like rebuilding hobby 3D printers. Where's our soldering station?