3D printing has been gaining momentum for a while now, thanks in part to the efforts of hobbyists to make the technology more affordable and visible. As a result, more companies and individuals approach projects with the idea that 3D printing can be at least part of the solution.

It’s not that 3D printing is meant to replace traditional manufacturing, rather, it’s a way to enable opportunities that would otherwise be too expensive, or straight-up impossible.

If you need 200,000 of something, chances are you’re already using 3D printing for prototypes. But if you only need a fifty units, or one, you now have a ton of ways to turn imagination into physical reality.

What’s out there right now

Today, there are a few ways of producing things with 3D printing without shelling out tens of thousands of dollars. Low-end 3D printers start at about $500, going up to a $2200 prosumer level with varying ranges of output quality and build sizes in between.

There are also online services where one can upload a finished design to be 3D printed on demand, to take delivery in a few weeks.

But what if you don’t have a design? Or you need to clone an existing part? Or you need a fast turnaround, or multiple materials? Or just to talk to someone in person?

Local shops mean personal service

3D Phacktory represents a great opportunity to explore what’s possible. The shop has a whole bunch of equipment that individuals and small companies would not usually have access to.

Like a high-end handheld 3D scanner, which makes it practical to import things from the real world for editing or copying.

Or an Objet Conex 500 3D printer, which is capable of producing 14 different materials in a single print. So if your design has to be rigid in some areas, or soft and transparent in others, it’s all one job.

But the real strength of a local shop is having creative, experienced people on hand that you can talk to. 3D Phacktory is basically a friendly design studio that you can walk into with an idea, and come away with a physical object.

Maybe you prototype things in “draft mode” on hobbyist gear and need amazing quality for the final version. Maybe your film production needs props. Maybe you’ve never done 3D design before and just need a small doohickey for your boat that no one makes anymore!

In the end, it’s up to you what 3D printing is useful for. Hopefully you’ll agree with me that 3D Phacktory is a great place to help people and companies realize their vision.

About the Author

Derek Quenneville is a 3D printing evangelist and digital fabrication artist who got his start with the introduction of hobbyist 3D printers. He is heavily involved in the Maker community in Toronto, Canada and is very passionate about introducing people to the latest tools and technologies that enable creativity.