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  1. #1

    New Member - Questions about colour printing costs and printing services

    Hi everyone!

    New member here.

    I don't know a lot about 3D printing so I was wondering if anyone could give me a rough estimate of costs per unit for a colour printed 3d miniature.

    I have a business idea for 3D printed models of musicians.

    The models would be around 5 inches in size and in full colour.

    Similar to the products shown here -

    If I had the 3D modelling done by a freelancer and got the file to upload to a 3D printing service website like Shapeways, what would it cost to make 1? Is it cheaper if you make 50-100?

    What material would you recommend?

    Finally, what sort of file do I need to request from my designer to allow it to be printed by Shapeways? Is it an STL file?

    What are some companies that offer similar/better printing services than Shapeways?

    Any advice would be very much appreciated.



  2. #2
    Staff Engineer
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Oakland, CA
    Shapeways will give you a price when you upload your file and choose a material - last I checked "sandstone" was the only option for full-color prints. They don't give you a quantity break in the app, but if you really want 500 of these things, you could probably call them up and negotiate. Sculpteo is another similar firm that offers color printing; they're more oriented towards printing multiple identical parts.

    Andrew Werby

  3. #3
    Engineer Marm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Add Marm on Thingiverse
    You didn't say which musicians, and if the musician's likeness isn't in the public domain (Mozart, Beethoven, etc), then shapeways and other commercial printers would probably balk at doing a mass run of what would need to be a licensed product. 1 or 2 shouldn't cause any alarm, as that would probably fall under the Fair Use clause, but a for profit venture definitely will not.

    Not to mention 3d printing is not a bulk production method. If a customer were to ask me to produce 1 item, then I would quote them X amount, a couple identical items, then yes I'd quote the same amount per with a small discount. But a bulk run (10 or more), I'd probably start tacking on a bulk rate increase for each successive amount of pieces. 3d printer's take time, sometimes a looong time to print. Repeating dozens of the same item takes time away from other prints I could be doing (for profit or not). Unless you have multiple printers setup to do a bulk runs of prints that cannot be produced by other means, then it is usually not cost effective to 3d print an item. And figurines/busts are easily done in bulk by other methods.

    You can look into other methods of production though. Get a couple prints made, and then make silicone molds of the original, and cast your own. Of course, you'll have to paint them yourself. Injection molding is another option, since most places require a run of at least 1000 parts before they'll consider making a mold.

    If you really want to print high quality color figurines/busts, then look into the paper 3d printing machines. These take the old dot matrix style paper, and then print a high quality color first layer. That is glued to the z axis table, cut out by the machine, and the table drops. The next layer is then pulled over the first, and printed and glued. Etc Etc. These printers create very very high detail color prints, and the end print is a remarkably solid 3d object. The machines aren't cheap, but buying one to run yourself is probably cheaper than having this many done 3rd party.

    Of course, I am assuming when you mean color, you are referring to a detailed 'painting' of an face or such. This is something 3d printers don't do well at all. They perform best when color changes happen over large areas, if at all, they are not suited well for subtle tonal changes throughout a piece. But If you are referring to just having a yellow or green or blue bust of Beethoven made, then yes, a 3d printer will easily do that, just not in bulk. Heck, a good 3d printer could even make the hair red if you want.

    So yeah, having looked at your link (I hope you are not spamming that site, as their work is quite remarkable, it'd be a shame to tarnish it) this will be very difficult for a 3d printer to do. As mentioned, a 3d printer cannot do that level of color change detail. Those are all hand sculpted and painted by skilled artists. And they are pushing the fair use edge pretty hard, everything they make would require a license if you were to mass produce any of them.
    Last edited by Marm; 05-20-2017 at 03:11 AM.

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