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Buy your own 3D printer or order at a service provider?

Additive manufacturing is the talk of the town, trade journals and media are full of success stories from a wide range of industrial uses. It is now obvious, that this trend cannot be ignored if one wants to remain competitive. But how do you get started with 3D printing successfully?

The advantages of 3D printing are well known. Components with complex geometries can be produced or several components can be consolidated into one. Furthermore, a weight reduction for components is possible, or to produce completely individual parts. In addition, only a single piece - often a prototype - can be printed and small, medium, and large series are possible to get easily. But how does one get access to 3D printing? Is it worth buying an industrial 3D printer for a considerable sum? Or does it make more sense to order at a service provider?


Topics to consider for the decision to buy a 3D printer or order at a service provider:

During analysis, whether a purchase of a 3D printer is worthwhile or not, the following topics must should be considered, among many others too:

  • What technology/material do you need?
  • Which 3D printer is suitable and how big is the investment?
  • What are the operating costs?
  • How quickly and professionally is the support-service of a printer in case of a problem during printing you cannot solve by your own?
  • Do you need the full capacity the considered 3D printer could produce? I.e., do you need a large number of components of a single technology? Or do you need different technologies and materials?
  • How many parts must be printed until you achieve the return on investment?
  • How long does it take for an employee of your company to become familiar with the technology and produce usable components in the quality needed?
  • How fast is the technology developing? I.e., will a printer with significantly higher efficiency be sold on the market in just a few months?


Such an analysis will often show - especially for smaller or medium-sized companies - that the investment is very high, and it needs some time, until usable parts can be printed. An advantage of manufacturing in-house is that parts are available immediately after printing, and you will build up knowledge about the whole process.


A disadvantage is the limitation in terms of materials that can be printed on one printer. There is also the high risk that the technology will become obsolete before the investment has paid off. With a new technology developing at breakneck speed, this is an important aspect that should not be ignored.


Can you remain competitive in terms of 3D printing expertise without your own 3D printer?

Jellypipe Plattform V3 Materialassistent

If the decision is made that an own 3D printer is not worthwhile because the required quantities are too small or the investment is too high, 3D printing parts will be purchased from a service provider. However, this raises the question of how you can remain competitive and build up sufficient expertise in additive manufacturing. Consider when working with a service provider, that you only lose the expertise to operate the printer and the manufacturing process. You will not know in detail how components are technically arranged in a build space (the so-called "nesting"). Furthermore, you will not have expertise in troubleshooting if a printer interrupts the 3D printing process due to an error. But how relevant is this expertise in terms of your company's future viability?

You can only answer these questions for yourself. Some advice: The most important aspects of additive manufacturing are two aspects: one, recognising applications that have potential and become more economical when 3D printed. Two, the expertise to design these components, assemblies and applications in a way that exploits the potential and makes them printable. In addition, you should be familiar with the most important technologies, materials and their advantages and disadvantages regarding to the design of parts. With a wider range of choices, you will learn about different applications and thus acquire a broad expertise. An advantage, don't you think?

How much effort does it take to order at a 3D printing service provider?


If the decision has been made to work with a service provider, the question still arises how much effort is required before you can order.

If you need 3D printed components for your own company, you can buy them from a service provider such as Jellypipe and ideally also receive appropriate advice there. (At Jellypipe through the so-called Solution Partners). This allows you to acquire the experience component by component.

If you want to sell 3D printed parts to your customers, you need a slightly longer lead time. However, with Jellypipe and a Jellypipe store, you have the advantage of support from our engineering team in terms of 3D printing expertise and from the sales and marketing people in terms of customer acquisition and support. Of course, we know from experience how much time and resources this takes. If you are ready to dedicate an employee to 3D printing and acquire expertise, then you will be ready to go within a few weeks. For technically tricky questions, which you should of course answer correctly, you can always depend on us. Until you are ready and be able to answer all the questions by yourself.

How does 3D printing work at Jellypipe?

As a small overview, we would like to explain the different roles and models at Jellypipe:


Read more about the partner models here: become a partner . By the way: there are also mixed models for Solution Partners who own a printer but want to expand the range. Just ask us!

We hope you will soon start with 3D printing successfully.

Yours, Jellypipe


Dominik Estermann
Chief Executive Officer

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