3D Printing For As Little Money As Possible
While the idea of 3D printing is undoubtedly exciting — I mean, you can create just about anything that you can think of — many people think that it’s just outside the realm of possibilities due to the cost. And in lots of cases, that might be true. Although it isn’t as expensive as you might think, getting into 3D printing certainly isn’t the cheapest thing in the world.
But don’t let the fear of it being too expensive put you off just yet. Like most things in life, there are often ways that you can work around the cost aspect and find a different way to to get it done. Whether that includes finding free access to a 3D printer near you, getting a 3D printer for free, or just having something 3 printed for you, there are ways that it can be more affordable.
Here are the best ways to 3D print for as little money as possible (or even free!).
Do Libraries Have 3D Printers You Can Use For Free?
Although the popularity of going to the library has certainly died down since the advent of computers and smartphones, they are still actually one of the best places that you can go for all kinds of services. And in some cases, that even includes 3D printing, as hard as that might be to believe.
As 3D printing becomes more popular and more viable for the everyday person, more public libraries across the country are adding a 3D printer to the products and services that they offer. If your library has one, you’ll more than likely be able to use it completely for free! You might need to pay for the materials used and things like that, but this is the best place to start if you’re looking for free 3D printing services.
If you’re a college student, it’s even easier. Many universities — both public and private — offer 3D printing services through their libraries as well. This is because lots of college projects require innovative designs that can only be made using 3D printing. So the schools offer these services to their students. Typically the printing is free but you just have to pay for the materials. In schools, there can be a long waiting list, so check it out ASAP!
Joining A Makerspace Community Can Get You Access To Free 3D Printing
If you’re interested in 3D printing, then joining a community is one of the best things to do regardless of finding a 3D printer or not! Look around for a local Maker Fair or some sort of maker community and see what they have to offer. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded people that are excited by the ability to create anything they put their minds to.
Not only that, but going to these events is also one of the most educational things you can do to learn as much about 3D printing as possible. And to top it all off, you will usually have access to a 3D printer totally free of cost (minus materials). So all said, joining a Makerspace community is without a doubt something to consider as you get more involved with 3D printing!
How Can You Get A Free 3D Printer?
While this might sound totally crazy on the surface, one of the best ways to use a 3D printer for free is to have your own 3D printer that you, well… got for free! Of course, you can’t just go to the store and grab one off the shelf and walk out — please don’t do that! — but there are some ways that you can give yourself the chance of getting one at no cost to you.
Here are our favorite ways that you can try to get a 3D printer for free:
- Competitions: Peruse the web and look at some of the top sites in the 3D printing industry, some sites that offer printing services will commonly hold contests or competitions with the reward being a 3D printer.
- Promotions: Some 3D printer manufacturers or service providers will offer 3D printers to businesses or individuals to use and promote their products. If you have any sort of community presence, you could work your way towards getting in on these promotions.
- Classified Ads: With sites such as Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, you can find people giving away secondhand items for free all the time. While a free 3D printer might sound like a pipe dream, it does happen. At the worst, you can score a printer for pennies on the dollar!
Where Can You Have 3D Printing Done For Cheap?
If all else fails and you cannot find access to a 3D printer for free, then the next best thing is finding a 3D printing service that will cost you as little as possible. The great thing about 3D printing — well one of the many great things about it — is that it’s super easy to share your 3D model or STL file to have it printed.
This of course means that it’s incredibly easy to just share your files with a 3D printing service and have them do the printing for you. Since you don’t need to physically have anything to give them, this entire process can even be done online and then they can ship you the finished print. There are also services you can find in-person to knock it out for you.
Here are our two favorite 3D printing services that are easy to use and won’t break the bank.
Order Your Print Through Online 3D Printing Services
These days, it’s easier to do just about anything online compared to doing it in person. And 3D printing services are no different. If you have your 3D model made already and you just need it printed, one of the best places online is Shapeways. This site lets you upload your 3D model and then you’ll quickly receive quotes for how much it’ll cost to have it printed and delivered to your door.
The good thing about online services is that it also gives you the option of finding someone to actually design your 3D model for you. Maybe you’ve got an idea in your head that you want to be printed, but you’re not sure how. On quite a few sites, such as You3Dit, you’ll be able to work with creators and designers that can take your idea from inception to an actual real-world object.
The UPS Store Offers 3D Printing Services In-Person
If you don’t want to do everything online, you can try visiting your local UPS store and see if they do 3D printing, or check online before you go. But just like you can go to Staples and have some copies made, the UPS store is offering 3D printing services in much the same manner.
At UPS, you can have your CAD file uploaded and printed. Or you can have a 3D object scanned and then printed. They even offer limited design services to a certain degree. It’s pretty much the same types of things that you would get online by using the aforementioned services/sites. Prepare to pay more in-person than you would online, however.