Tested: Three of the best 3D printing services

You don't have to fork out for your own 3D printer – these services will do it all for you

On-demand 3D printing services are a good way to release just a little of that pent-up creativity without blowing the budget (or expending the heartache) on your own printer.

We've tried out three of the best to see which one is the prince of 3D prints.


What’s on the menu?

Putting your face on a monster’s body and other 3D gimmickry is only a sideline for Sculpteo. The French company has been on the 3D printing block for a while, handling everything up to industrial prototypes.

It offers an idiot-proof selection of ways to design or upload 3D models as well as customise everything from iPhone cases to key rings via compatible apps. There’s also an online marketplace to get inspiration, sell your designs and buy 3D printed objects. 

Printed real good?

It’s almost impossible to put a foot wrong on Sculpteo’s site. Create a geometric shape, spin it around in the 3D Viewer and alter the size, material and finish options to automagically change the price. Choose from plastics, resins and ceramics – though the exotic stuff introduces thickness and size constraints. Printing and delivery are pretty swift too. This is all good… but too easy.

We elected to get freaky using Autodesk’s 123D Creatures iPad app to create Tom (blue head) and Super Frog, then export them to Sculpteo for printing. What did we learn? That 3D sketching takes many, many hours; that your models can only be printed in a rough (but tough) sandstone material; and that the final colours are more muted than they appeared on screen. But we don’t care. They’re ours. We made them.


Tom: US$34, Super Frog: US$77.50 / sculpteo.com

Stuff says

Perfect for beginners, Sculpteo’s site and associated apps are all great fun.