It’s that awkward pause during the conversation around the dinner table. You and your pea-tossing children have just found out your mom is listing her 3D printer online. She’s making necklaces and bracelets for the ladies down at the craft barn and padding her retirement income quite nicely with cash and discarded ABS spools. How’s she doing it? Well, it started with a flyer out to her friends. Now she’s listed on a local 3D printer sourcing site and her options just keep getting better. On the roster are MakeXYZ, 3DHubs and CowFab. All have a common goal of connecting makers with printers, making 3D printing more accessible and growing the community, so what’s the difference between each?

Go Local (with Your 3D Printer) or Go Home

Local 3D printer sourcing is just one outcrop we’ve seen sprout from the three-axis underbelly of 3D print community. As many have realized, once they have a 3D printer, many others in the community could benefit from a local resource in this fledgling consumer-level 3D printer market. The access to local machinery and experience with a more technically challenging device like a 3D printer has given rise to such services with lofty goals of matching people at the local level, all around the world.

MakeXYZ was the first of these ‘list your 3D printer’ sites, already amassing a large database of options for buyers and sellers–we even had our own Makerbot R2 listed on MakeXYZ, ready to cash in on the downtime. 3DHubs is a similar sourcing site with a world-wide focus for building up neighborhood communities. CowFab is the newest of these sites, looking to extend their reach with no set focus on location. So, what other differences are there between the MakeXYZ, 3DHubs and CowFab?

Both MakeXYZ and 3DHubs are very mature at the this point. It’s likely you’ll find at least one, if not more, printers near you, particularly in more metropolitan areas. MakeXYZ has a deeper database, while 3DHubs really solidifies the community-building aspect listing available printers and hubs with communities becoming ‘unlocked’ at certain levels. CowFab is simply very basic at this point with a printer search limited to name and rating.

Next to that, the most significant difference is the pricing models for each. While MakeXYZ charges a 10% service fee and a $5.50 surplus charge, 3DHubs charges a flat 15% rate. CowFab only charges a 5% service fee with no additional charges. As each continue to grow to make 3D printing easy, accessible and affordable, we’ll see which is set up best to reduce build prices, shorten those turn around times and ultimately build those 3D printer communities whether intended or otherwise.

Features we would like to see for these services range from more search options and improved provider quality and verification, so users are assured of what they are getting and happy with what they receive. CowFab has also passed along they are developing an option to bid and compete for projects, along with an API to allow content creators and digital distributors on other platforms to have their designs fabricated for less. With all of these capabilities and more, it’s interesting to see how a service industry is adapting

Which is your favorite? What are you looking for in a 3D printer sourcing website? Check them out and tell us what you think as well.


Josh is founder and editor at, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.