In our previous article we provided ideas on how to prepare your 3D model at the lowest cost possible. But once you have the model ready to print, how do you get it done at low cost?
There are three basic approaches:
- You Know Someone. That's right - you just might happen to know someone who has access to a 3D printer, perhaps at work, at a school or less likely at a residence. A few kind words, a simple request and perhaps a bottle of a favorite fluid might do the trick. This is, by far, the least expensive approach. Erm, depending on the fluid.
- Use a Service. You don't have a printer or access to one. Pricing is typically done by volume and choice of material(s). There are many services available to accept your .STL file and print it out, but the most popular services are Shapeways and Ponoko. They'll print your model on high-quality commercial machinery and ship it to you overnight at a reasonable cost.
- Get a Printer. You realize you want to print a great many items, or the same item many times and believe using a service would be awkward and possibly expensive. You can avoid the USD$10,000's required for commercial printers and their subsequent operational cost by instead choosing a hobby 3D printer kit. The most popular choices today are from MakerBot, Fab@Home and BitsFromBytes, each of which offer kits or plans for usable 3D printers for a few thousand US dollars or less.
This article is part of a short series on Poor Man's 3D Printing. You might also want to read The Design.