There were a lot of companies with 3D printers at CES, including 3D printed food (spoiler: it tasted like regular food). There were points where you could stand and just look around and see nothing but companies with 3D printing concepts around you. The premise is relatively similar for the vast majority of these companies. They try to make fabrication and prototypes cheaper by selling more affordable 3D printers that are getting better and better and constantly becoming more available to average consumers. I’ll talk more about that in the next couple of weeks with companies like XYZPrinting and New Matter. However, Sculpteo takes a completely different approach. They want to let you do the designs, and they’ll take care of the rest.
Who Is Sculpteo?
Sculpteo is a 3D printing company based out of France and like I mentioned before, they’re looking at 3D printing from a different angle. With Sculpteo, you go to their website and upload your 3D design. They support just about every 3D modeling file under the sun. The list is so long, I don’t want to clutter this page with it. Once they have your design, it goes into a 3D fabrication simulator called FinalProof In essence, this online software will simulate the 3D printing to give you a better idea of what your design will look like when it’s finished. The printing process often will ignore certain details and accentuate others due to the layer-by-layer style of printing and this software, which is proprietary to Sculpteo, shows the user exactly what to expect so there aren’t any surprises when the printing arrives.
After you accept the model “fabricated” in FinalProof, you will be given various options for the material and finish of your 3D print job, as well as the price for the print job. The materials available are plastic, sterling silver, brass, detail resin, alumide (a mixture of plastic and aluminum), ceramic, and a material that they call “multicolor” and describe to be similar to plaster, so it is for decorative purposes only, and very brittle, but it is the only multicolor option that they have. Depending on what material you use and how much of that material is required for your design, as well as optional finishes for each material will determine the price that you will be quoted. For the most part, pricing seems pretty reasonable and the quality of the printed objects seem second to none.
From there, you’re pretty much done and you can order your design. However, that’s not all that Sculpteo does. In addition to all of this, they are innovating on what 3D printing is used for.
I mentioned a moment ago that the quality of their 3D printing is great. In fact, it’s raising the bar for 3D printing all over the world to the point that their 3D printing process is being used in manufacturing, which was unheard of before now. Because 3D printing can be so precise due to the layer-by-layer printing method, they can create things that molds simply can’t. Late last year, Sculpteo partnered with audio equipment company AudioQuest to produce a 3D printed audio grill that was featured on the NightHawk series of headphones produced by the company that will be available later this year.
Ordering Pre-made Designs
If you’re not very talented with CAD software, but you still want something unique at a fairly reasonable price, you still have an option with Sculpteo. They have a catalog (one that is growing every day) with thousands of pre-made 3D designs that you can order through them. If you can dream it up, they probably already have something available to be printed. A vast majority of these designs are created by other Sculpteo users, who sell their designs through Sculpteo (which you can do as well, for free). Store owners set the price for the design including materials and they keep the difference. Of course, this method can be much more expensive if the design is more complex and difficult to reproduce, but prices in the store range from as low as $6 to hundreds of dollars.
Bottom line, Sculpteo is doing something pretty cool by not only bringing the world of 3D printing to the masses, but innovating the way that it’s done so that more people can access the technology and it can be used in new and more interesting ways. What kinds of things would you want to have 3D printed? Tell us about it in the comments section!