The 3D Print Service market just got a bit more interesting. France-based Sculpteo, whom we reported on some time ago, announced they now ship to the USA, joining major players Shapeways, i.Materialise and Ponoko. Previously, they shipped only to Europe. Thus it's time to check out Sculpteo in a bit more detail.
Sculpteo operates in what now seems to be a familiar pattern:
- Upload your 3D model to print
- Download modelling software to create your own 3D model
- Choose a model from their library and customize it
Their site offers educational pieces for those unfamiliar with the concept, as well as a list of popular objects from their library. Their gallery contains only 576 items as of the other day, and this is quite a bit smaller than Shapeways' repository, which contains thousands.
There's plenty of information on how their service works, which by the way employs two commercial 3D Printers: a ZCorp 650 and an EOS P100 at this time.
Sculpteo offers several interesting twists to assist non-3D people to their service, using a "Push the Button to Get One" approach, including:
- Necklace or Bracelet
- Extrude an uploaded 2D image into 3D
- Customize a Key Ring
- Extrude your text message into 3D
- Twist your own geometric form by twiddling parameters
Unfortunately, we were unable to successfully launch these easy-build applets from Chrome or Safari, but they do seem to work well with Firefox.
We checked their 3D model upload service and found it to be very straightforward and pretty much automatic. Our single-color test object was instantly priced at USD$42.27, plus shipping. However, the same model uploaded to Shapeways using their similar basic white material was not-quite-so-instantly priced at USD$33.73, some 20% less than Sculpteo. Shapeways offers far more material options as well. To be fair, Shapeways has been at this longer than Sculpteo and many things may yet happen in the future. We suspect Sculpteo wants to gradually expand their capabilities, and entering the US market is a great start.
Nevertheless, we like Sculpteo's friendly, simple approach that seems to address the needs of different audiences. But can they catch up to Shapeways?