Jan 2, 2015 | By Alec

As it is, most of us 3D printing enthusiasts download complete and ready-made, 3D printable projects from free services like Thingiverse. While great fun for owners of desktop 3D printers who want to make toys and ornaments, this type of 3D printing is hardly useful for industrial manufacturers, who overwhelmingly rely on traditionally made nuts, bolts and other (often plastic) components.

Why should those engineering professionals not switch to 3D printing in their workshops, repair shops and small manufacturing business? That is the question that fueled the creation of the brand-new 3D printing marketplace Print-a-Part 3D, that seeks to provide professionals and dedicated hobbyists with all the ready-to-print components they need. Their marketplace has just launched to coincide with the new year.

As Bob Al, director of the Print-a-Part team, explained to 3ders.org, they are targeting those small repair shops, hobbyists, and manufacturing companies, who are collectively still using over 1 billion traditionally manufactured small parts daily. 'Many state-of-art automotive and machine parts are made of plastic to save weight in the final assembly, and these shops are our target'.

While those professionals often have to order expensive parts from elsewhere and wait days before they arrive, the Print-a-Part 3D alternative will allow them to purchase and download ready to use STL files in the marketplace, 'allowing customers to print the necessary parts immediately with an inexpensive 3d printer and no technical staff.' Print-A-Part products will also be marketed through established on-line retailers including; Amazon, AliBaba, and others.

Their 3D printing service also intends to stimulate the adoption of 3D printers, much as spreadsheet software 'sky-rocketed the sales of personal computers in the 1990's.' As head design engineer, Gare Henderson, added, 'we are stimulating the development of high-end 3d designers, by providing a robust marketplace for the designs of freelance and home based 3d developers. 100's of designers from over 40 countries have joined the Print-A-Part family as designers.'

The Print-A-Part 3D marketplace has been founded as a subdivision of Alacrity Engineering services, a New York-based software and hardware company. The new marketplace can already be visited here, though their shelves aren't quite fully stocked yet. While a good selection of nuts, bolts and gears can already be found, more additions are expected in the near future.

While I'm not expecting immediate success for the marketplace, as most designs are relatively pricy, Print-a-Part certainly seems to be on the right track. As the quality of 3D printers is continuously rising – as prices are dropping – it is safe to expect that 3D printers will find their way to more and more workshops in the coming years. And once that happens, on-demand professional components (rather than cool print and assemble robots and lightsabers) will doubtlessly rise to the forefront of 3D printing.

Posted in 3D Scanning


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