What is the online 3D printing service

If you do not have a 3d printer, but you have a project in mind pr an idea to be implemented in three dimensions, you can use an online 3d printing service. The procedure is very simple: you have to send the project to the reference site, or upload it directly to the site, specify specifications and preferences (materials, color etc.); the company takes charge of it, analyzes if the project is achievable and its costs and it proposes a quote. Prices can be variable. If the customer accepts it, the company realizes the object in 3d with its own printers and sends it to the customer within the required time. Most companies make the printed object starting from a definitive 3d drawing, it is possible that the service activities also have an internal design section. Generally, creating an object in 3D and printing it are two different activities and the service hardly associates them. It is necessary to go to the printing service with a 3d drawing ready to be printed, the processing of the file or the correction of some errors in the drawing could have an additional management cost. The format generally required is the .stl.


Who offers the 3d printing service on the web

There are several companies that offer 3d printing service on the web, at usually affordable prices. The main ones are Sculpteo, Shapeways, Ponoko, i.materialise, 3dhubs, e gli italiani Italy Maker, Addictive 3d, Cad online, Vectorealism.

What can be printed in 3d on the internet

Through an online 3d printing service you can print anything you want, from household items to parts of professional projects, even if people normally turn to services of this kind for medium-sized objects. Companies are equipped to print with numerous materials, such as plastic, ceramic, stainless steel, silver, resins, and with various printing technologies.

3d photo printing

It is possible to print 3d models starting from 2d photographs. This video illustrates the process:

There are several specific software to manage this process, such as Neitra 3d or AutoDesk 123 Catch, a free software that can be installed on a Windows PC or as a free application for iPad, capable of processing a group of photographs of an object, and modeling them in 3d. Autodesk also provides tools to print the object in 3D or physically recreate it, but this is a service that you have to pay for.

There is a widespread belief that it is possible to recreate a 3d design starting from a single photograph, now this is not possible unless you are now a very good 3d modeler who have to imitate and interpret, for example, the features of a face. What it can be done with a single photo is a sort of bas relief or lithophane placing the image in grayscale. The lighter colors will be reproduced in print with a few layers, the darker areas instead will be created with multiple layers. In this way, looking at the object printed in backlight, you could see the image of the photograph.

3d printer software

Three types of software are needed to create and to print 3d models: 3d modeling / CAD software, slicing and interface software. There are many types, and it’s easy to find an open source one. CAD are the programs used to design and create digital 3D objects, they are divided into categories: solid modeling software, including Google SketchUp, Autodesk 123D, TinkercadBlender; and sculptural modeling software, such as Scultptris, to create virtual sculptures through the concept of clay modeling; finally there are the parametric modeling software, which allow you to combine different shapes with each other, such as OpenSCADGrasshopper Rhinoceros.

The slicing / CAM programs convert 3d models into mechanical commands: in that way the 3d printer will be able to understand what it must do and how it must move through a specific code, called G-code; among the most used we mention Slic3rCura and Skeinforge, that was one of the first programs created by the RepRap community. Finally, the interface software is the printer control program: it is used to give instructions to the machine, launch the print, block it, manage the parameters, for example the temperature, and so on; the most used in this category are Repetier-Host and Printrun. Often these programs are no longer used because, as in our case, printers have an interface screen where you can operate directly on the machine.

cad stampa 3d

Rapid prototyping

Rapid prototyping is a set of industrial techniques aimed at the physical realization of the prototype, in short times, starting from a three-dimensional mathematical definition of the object (CAD). Prototypes are essential in every step of the product development process, to verify that a model corresponds to the real object or to perform tests of form, suitability and functionality. The online 3d printing services also offer the creation of prototypes in different materials, such as plastic or resin, at different costs depending on the material, the complexity of the project and the dimensions: it is a rapid and effective process that reduces the risk of errors in the productions, and it allows frequent reviews and checks.