Provide efficient production and faster design to delivery.


Produce precision parts that exceed industry standards.


Create and test products quickly to bring them to market.

Consumer Products

Bring new, affordable products to market faster.


Empower to innovate faster, maximizing performance.


Innovation in enclosures for low-volume production.

Industrial Equipment

Deliver machinery that beats the competition.

New Energy

Speed up innovation and development.

Medical Devices

Build prototypes and products that adhere to medical safety.


Improve efficiency with precise, fast, and constant part quality.


Drive time-to-market through on-demand production.

CNC Machining for Aerospace

The extremely high level of precision needed within the aerospace industry makes CNC machining a suitable manufacturing process for the sector.


This article provides you with a complete guide to aerospace machining and its importance.



Gain valuable insights into manufacturing processes.


Choose from 50+ metals and plastics for your project.

Case Studies

Learn successful stories to inspire your project.

Knowledge Base

Whitepaper, design guide, materials, and finishing.

Surface Finishes

Different finishing options enhance part appearance and functionality.


Discover our library of educational videos.

CNC Machining eBook

If you want to produce high-quality machined parts with a sleek appearance, it’s essential to consider some critical factors related to CNC machining. 


Here, we’ve gathered some basic information and important considerations to help you achieve the desired results.

About RapidDirect

Our vision, mission, development history, and dedicated team.


Real feedback on experiences and opinions of our services.


Company news, platform updates, holiday announcement.

Our Platform

Get instant quotes with our smart online platform.

Our Capabilities

Rapid prototyping, and on-demand production.

Quality Assurance

Deliver quality parts that meet requirements and exceed expectations.

Contact Us

Online Quotation Platform v3.0

Attention! We have exciting news to share with you. We have just launched the latest online platform, version 3.0! 



The updated platform boasts a fresh and intuitive design, along with enhanced functionality that streamlines and accelerates the quoting process, like a new manufacturing process, streamlined quoting summary page, and improved checkout page. 

3D Printing Services: No Longer Just for Plastic Parts

Table of Contents

Subscribe for expert design and manufacturing tips delivered to your inbox.

    While some still think of 3D printing as a hobbyist technology, not used for much more than making Yoda heads or pencil holders, they would be wrong. For years, 3D printers and 3D printer services have been capable of much more, evolving beyond DIY and maker applications to industrial prototyping. Today, 3D printing technology is even breaching the realm of end-use parts. This means that 3D printer services have grown substantially in recent years, with businesses from many industries relying on their capability and expertise to produce high-quality prototypes and small-batch production runs.

    What is 3D printing?

    At its foundation, 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, refers to a group of technologies that build objects additively rather than in a subtractive manner. That is, while technologies like CNC machining make parts by removing material from a blank of raw material, 3D printing adds material, often layer by layer, to create a part from nothing.

    Like CNC machining, 3D printing uses a digital model like a CAD file as its basis. The CAD file is processed through a 3D printing software (known as slicing software), which segments the model into printable layers and sends printing instructions to the machine.

    Plastic 3D printing

    Within the category of 3D printing, there are many technologies on the market. On the side of the plastic, there are a handful of dominant technologies, including fused deposition modeling (FDM), selective laser sintering (SLS) and stereolithography (SLA).

    Plastic 3D printer service
    Plastic 3D Printing
    • FDM: An additive manufacturing process in which plastic filaments are fed through and melted by a hot end print head and extruded in fine layers to build up a part, from the bottom up. One of the most cost-accessible 3D printing technologies in terms of machine and materials.
    • SLS: An additive manufacturing process in which a laser is used to sinter layers in a powder bed made up of fine polymer particles. One of the more cost-heavy plastic 3D printing processes in terms of machine and materials.
    • SLA: An additive manufacturing process in which a light source (often UV) is used to polymerize a vat of liquid plastic (resin) layer by layer, transforming the liquid material into a solid.
    Plastic 3D Printing
    Plastic 3D Printing

    Enter metal 3D printing

    Today, it is possible to manufacture more than just plastic parts using 3D printing technologies. Industries—including aerospace, automotive, medical, energy and defense—are increasingly using metal 3D printing to produce innovative new components that take advantage of 3D printing’s inherent design freedom (more on that below).

    Metal 3D Printer
    Metal 3D Printing

    There are several metal 3D printing technologies on the market today, all of which have different benefits. Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) is probably the most widespread metal additive manufacturing technology. This process works by spreading a fine layer of metal powder onto a build surface and then using a laser beam to selectively melt the powder layer. This process is repeated, layer by layer, gradually building up a dense, metal component.

    Another approach to metal 3D printing is a process called Direct Energy Deposition (DED). This technique uses either metal powder or metal wire as its base material. DED printers use a print head that combines a laser beam with a powder or wire extrusion system, effectively melting the metal feedstock as it comes out of the print head. This melted metal material is then deposited onto a build surface or a substrate.

    One of the newer arrivals in the metal 3D printing market is Binder Jetting. Binder jetting uses a bed of metal powder (the quality of metal powder doesn’t have to be quite as high as it does for LPBF). Instead of a laser, the process jets a binder material onto the surface of the powder bed. This is repeated layer by layer until a part is built and removed from the unbound powder. Binder jetting results in a green part, meaning that the component must undergo a debinding and sintering process to result in a dense metal part suitable for end-use applications.

    Metal 3D Printing

    What are the benefits of metal 3D printing?

    Contrary to what some believe, 3D printing was not invented to replace more traditional manufacturing processes. Instead, it gives manufacturers access to more possibilities, especially concerning design freedom.

    metal 3D Printing service
    Metal 3D Printing

    Because of its additive nature, 3D printing does not have the same design constraints as subtractive processes, like CNC machining. 3D printing can create components with complex internal geometries, as well as outer structures. It can also enable more organic forms, which can lead to more lightweight parts with optimized performance and strength. Looking at the aerospace industry, for example, where weight is a critical factor in developing parts, 3D printing is allowing for better, lighter parts to be integrated into aircraft, ultimately contributing to reduced fuel consumption.

    Complex internal structures are also opening new possibilities in many areas. For example, parts like heat exchangers or engines that require cooling can integrate cooling channels directly into the structure. This means that parts can be printed in a single piece, rather than manufactured in many parts and then assembled.

    These advantages do not mean that metal 3D printing is always the right option: for many parts, CNC machining is the more efficient and affordable option. However, 3D printing can be used in cases where special properties or functions are required. How to know if metal 3D printing is right for you? 3D printer services can help.

    3D printer services

    3D printer services such as RapidDirect provide access to state-of-the-art technology without customers having to invest in costly hardware and necessary skills. Our manufacturing experts not only know how to operate metal 3D printing systems—which require in-depth knowledge for optimal results—but we also know when metal 3D printing is the best option for your project.

    Because 3D printing is still a relatively new technology, there are hurdles to its broad adoption. Among the key setbacks are a lack of skills and design know-how. If you don’t have a team member who knows how to design for 3D printing or how the process works, you can’t take advantage of it. Another key challenge is capital investment. While there are many affordable plastic 3D printers on the market, metal 3D printing technologies and industrial polymer 3D printing systems are still very expensive. For a company that wants to explore 3D printing and learn about its potential, it is hardly worth it to buy an entire system right off the bat.

    That’s where 3D printer services come in. We make the technology investment so you don’t have to. We also have trained operators that know the ins and outs of all our 3D printers. This ensures that when you do place an order for a 3D-printed part it is a success. We can also provide design support, helping you to optimize a part design for additive manufacturing.

    Today, RapidDirect offers professional 3D printer services for a range of technologies, including FDM, SLA, SLS and PolyJet. We also now offer metal 3D printing services for high-quality parts made from metals such as aluminum and steel. Whether you are interested in a prototype or a small batch of 3D-printed metal parts, we are here to help!

    Simply get in touch with us directly or upload your part design via our automated quoting engine. We’ll help you to figure out the best production method for your project and see it through to the end.


    Let's Start A New Project Today

    Latest Blog Posts

    Check out the latest industry trends and take inspiration from our updated blogs, giving you a fresh insight to help boost your business.

    glossy 3d printed abs parts

    ABS Acetone Smoothing: Methods, Materials, and Practical Tips

    ABS is a popular and cost-effective 3D printing filament, favored for many 3D printing projects. However, most 3D printers have …

    metal fabrication for automotive

    Sheet Metal Fabrication for Automotive Industry

    Sheet metal fabrication for the automotive industry is a transformative art, turning raw materials into functional marvels. Car part fabrication isn’t just …

    sheet metal fabrication electronic enclosure

    Sheet Metal Fabrication for Electronic Industry

    The consumer electronics industry has witnessed tremendous growth in recent years and is poised to keep growing. One catalyst for this …