Shapeways, i.materialise, Sculpteo and Cubify are currently the best-known online 3D print shops. Users upload a free or paid design from the 3D print shop site, or any of a host of 3D file sites ranging from 123D Gallery to 3DLT, SketchFab to Thingiverse, or their own design. From there the user is generally offered simple options for a range of materials, colours and textures. The options vary from 3D Print Shop to 3D Print Shop. Each online shop interface also varies in the customisation options that are on offer. Sculpteo has recently added a ‘hollowing’ tool with the aim of increasing value and cost efficiency by allowing the user to hollow out a design to reduce the amount of material used and therefore the cost of 3D printing.
Cost efficiency is one of the areas that is seen as a barrier for choosing 3D printing over other forms of production. This is more true of some types of industrial additive manufacturing and large volume output of desktop 3D printing, and should not be taken as a like-for-like comparison by newcomers: 3D printing is simply able to do things that other ways of making cannot. But for the 3D print shop business model, where users send their designs to be 3D printed, increasing cost efficiency offers obvious advantages.
The hollowing option is primarily for aesthetic products rather than functional ones and allows the buyer, at the POS, to hollow the uploaded 3D models using the ‘Optimize’ section of Sculpteo’s Print Page. The new feature has been designed to automatically choose the best settings for your model and to update it every time the buyer changes the material or the size for the output.
Once Hollowing has been turned on, the user is required to pick two areas where holes can be made for the print shop to take care of the hollowing process. This is applicable as finishing processes for the majority of the wide range of materials that Sculpteo offers require access to the new internal sides of the form that the hollowing process creates.
Another quite recent addition to Sculpteo’s simple upload interface is the handy Cutaway View, which allows the user to view a cross-section of their 3D file to check structural integrity and unique aesthetic features in their design. Used in tandem with the Hollowing feature, the user can view their forthcoming 3D print from a range of perspectives to garner whether the end print will meet their requirements.
The new Hollowing feature gives Scultpeo a competitive edge over their online rivals, although all the major print shop platforms offer their own unique advantages. It’s great to see 3D printing becoming so simple and accessible. Doubtless the online suites for 3D print shops will continue to expand their interfaces to offer an ever more feature-laden future.