That’s a tough one. It’s a good question because 3D printing quality is subjective, especially for those who have no direct experience with 3D printers. So if you have a 3D printing service business, your customers may not have a. They may have only learned about it on TV, or from a friend, and may have wild ideas about the quality they expect to receive. As a 3D printing service provider, you need to manage the expectations of your customer, and show them examples of the quality they can expect. If their expectations don’t match what you end up producing, you’re going to end up with dissatisfaction.
If you are a member of 3D hubs, then you get listed in their network, and put up a profile on you and your services. You can put up photos of past projects to show the quality of your work, and customers can post reviews and ratings. Usually a customer will pick you because of your location, but then they will look at photos of your work and your rating. Still, photos can be misinterpreted. Your customer may have seen a part printed on an SLA resin 3D printer like the Form One+, and they assume parts you print will be comparable. If you’re using a Micro 3D, CEL Robox, or Flashforge 3D Printer, these are all Fused Fabrication (FFF) printers, and while they are capable of producing very nice parts, they will not be the same. Customers don’t’ always pay attention to the details, creating a disconnect between what they expect and what they will get. Being able to highlight that and show the specific quality of parts you produce is essential to customer satisfaction.
Make A Sample Print To Show Your 3D Printing Quality
One way to show your quality is to create a small object that shows the typical print quality of your machine, but doesn’t cost you a whole lot of time or money. You should include some flat horizontal and vertical surfaces, and some organic curve surfaces in the same object. Including some kind of text or logo is also a good idea, because a customer may want their logo or name on their part. You need to be able to show that kind of detail on a sample part.
If you are considering getting into that kind of service business, you have to prepare to educate your potential customer. You might think about adding the cost of shipping sample parts out to your cost of doing business. Make some, have them on hand, and when somebody calls up you can say, “Hey, I can send you a sample. Would you like to see the quality first hand?”
Show All Your Colors
You might also want to do the same thing from a color perspective. If you only have a few standard colors of resin or 3d printing filament available, are the colors you have going to be acceptable to your customer? Well, you may not want to invest a lot of money in inventory of 3d printing material unless you know you are going to use it in a reasonable amount of time. This is a classic chicken and egg situation, should I invest in material inventory before I have customers, or should I wait until I get a customer? I would order every color of resin or 3d printing filament I could afford, to have a broad range of colors, and make small sample parts in every color. This will create color swatches and sample parts of your 3d printing quality at the same time.
Show It Off! Send It Out!
If you’re like a UPS store, like we were visiting a while ago, they have objects there. Some were their clients’. You could get permission from some of the successful work you’ve done and take a photograph of it and get their permission to put it on display on the website. That’s always a great thing as well to show successful projects.
If 3d printers are your thing, but creating 3d printable models is not your strength, you can seek to use other’s models as examples. As long as your intention is just to help educate others and you’re not going to be selling somebody else’s design, just ask them and they will probably give you their permission. You may need to give them credit if it is a designer or something special. But that is not a big deal. It is easy to do, give them credit and they might just be flattered and agree.
Skip The Free Stuff!
You may also be thinking, there are a lot of free files I can just download. The reality is that a lot of those are cover created commons. You may not be able to display them on your website or profile without permission. But I think a lot of designers would give permission if you as first and are willing to give them credit.
The other thing is, if I see another one of those little elephants off of Thingiverse, it is going to drive me crazy! Not the elephant, or the owl, or the Ultimaker robot! I would caution against printing the same old thing that you have seen other people print. Print something original, something difficult, something that shows skill because I think that is going to highlight that you know what you’re doing on your end to help make a complicated print. That is a sign of your good service. It would help you stand out amongst others that are out there.
I think it’s worth the time and investment because remember you are one spoke on the hub. You have to stand out. You are a shop. You have to market your shop, and putting your best foot forward with products. Spend the time on it. This is your marketing investment. If you are going to invest your time in your service or business, this is a great place to do it.