Lots of people want access to a 3D printer to take a look, try it out, and see what all the hype is about. They are not quite ready to shell out for a whole printer themselves, and they don’t want to deal with the hassles of postage and delivery times when sending designs to 3D printing services.
So, how many places provide public access to 3D printers?
Hackerspaces are a bit of an evolution from old computer clubs, they are communal spaces that usually provide access to all kinds of tools and knowledge. They still run like a club, where you pay a monthly membership fee, which provides you with access to the space. So, how many Hackerspaces are equipped with a 3D printer?
There are about 500 active Hackerspaces around the world, however since they are all communal, community run spaces. The capability of Hackerspaces around the world varies quite considerably. Generally, the older hackerspaces in more densely populated areas are vastly more established and well equipped.
Because I am lazy, I took a random selection of 10 from that list and did more digging to see if they had a 3D printer. I was a little bit shocked, only about 30% of the hackerspaces I sampled at random mentioned access to a 3D printer.
So using my crude and lazy estimation method - only 150 Hackerspaces in the world provide public access to a 3D printer. I was actually expecting this to be much higher.
In 2001 MIT started to build a digital fabrication facility, with the goal of exploring different automated techniques for turning digital designs into physical objects. Some of this work resulted in the definition of a FabLab, the minimum toolset required by a “Hackerspace” to facilitate the creation of digital designs. A 3D printer is one of the essential tools required by a venue to earn the title of ‘FabLab’. A list of all the FabLabs in the world can be found at the International FabLab Association. And at the time of writing, it listed 112 Fablabs with 3D printers in the world.
TechShop is a US based commercial alternative to a Hackerspace / FabLab. It is a company that has to make profits, but also provide access to high quality to pull the punters in. So the membership fees for commercial venues like the TechShop are considerably higher ($175 p/m) than what you would find at your average Hackerspace.
There are 7 Techshops in the USA with access to 3D printers.
So all up, there are about 270 venues around the world that provide public access to 3D printers.
Public access to 3D printers within Australia:
So what about where I live, Australia? Where can you specifically get access to a 3D printer? Luckily, many of the capital cities have access:
- Hackerspace Brisbane - This can be found out at Portside and they have a monthly access fee for $60 p/m. This membership fee provides you with full 24 hour access to the tools they have on site… Including a RepRap 3D printer.
- CabFabLab - Located in Caboolture, only a $6.90 per month membership fee gets you access to their venue, which also houses a thing-o-matic 3D printer. Unfortunately Additional tool hire fees also apply.
- Gold Coast Techspace - Free to visit and check out. Full Membership costs $40 per month, providing full access to all tools including their RepRap 3D printer.
- The Edge - Has a couple of printers down in their basement that can be used by the public in workshops like Rise of the Machines.
- Fablab Adelaide - I think Adelaide is possibly the first city in Australia with completely free and open access to a whole variety of different 3D printers. Definitely putting the Rad in Radelaide.
- Hackerspace Adelaide Has a RepRap Pro Huxley, they appreciate donations for attending, and I suspect tool or material costs may also apply.
- Artifactory Costs $20 for day use of the space which provides access to a RepRap v2 and PP3DP UP!.
- RoboDojo Apparently a member of this space has an UP! That they can bring along. You will need to get in contact to find out about use, and costs.
- Robots and Dinosaurs Membership fess cost $40 per month and provides you access to their 3D printers and other equipment in the space.
- CCHS is a Melbourne based HackerSpace, they have a monthly 3D printing meetings (1st and 3rd Monday of the month). $40 a month membership gives you access to their 3D printers.
- 3d Print Express is a Melbourne based startup that provides local 3D printing services. Where larger, denser prints are more expensive than smaller, lighter prints.
Did I miss a place? Especially if you live in the ACT, Northern Territory. Drop me a tweet!
Hi! Subconsciously you already know this, but let's make it obvious. Hopefully this article was helpful. You might also find yourself following a link to Amazon, Lego or eBay to learn more about parts or equipment. If you end up placing an order, I make a couple of dollarydoos. We aren't talking a rapper lifestyle of supercars and yachts, but it does help pay for the stuff you see here. So a massive shoutout to everyone that enables this place. Thanks!