Unleash Your Creativity with a Beginners Guide To Custom 3D Printing

Imagine a world where you can design and create anything you can dream of. With custom 3D printing, that world is closer than ever. But what exactly is custom 3D printing, and how does it work? This blog post dives into the exciting world of 3D printing, explores different techniques, and offers valuable tips to get the most out of your project. Learn why Malcolm Nicholls Ltd is your best choice for custom 3D printing and bring your ideas to life!

What is Custom 3D Printing?

Custom 3D Printing – The process of creating a physical object from a digital 3D model. The digital model can be designed yourself using 3D modelling software like AutoCAD or Solidworks, you can also have one created for you by a professional designer or product design agency. Once you have your design, you can upload it to a custom 3D printing service or prototyping service, choose your material and finish, and within a few days, your one-of-a-kind creation will be delivered to your doorstep.

The World of 3D Printing Techniques

While the basic concept of custom 3D printing remains the same, there are several different techniques used to bring your designs to life. Here’s a quick rundown of the most common ones:

  • Stereolithography (SLA): This technique uses a vat of liquid resin and a laser to cure the resin layer by layer, creating highly detailed and smooth prints. SLA printers are ideal for intricate designs and prototypes. SLA is also great for large 3D prints! We also get asked if we can produce transparent or clear 3D Prints and with SLA we can achieve up to 99% clarity! 

  • Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM): It works by extruding thin strands of molten plastic (filament) to build the object layer by layer. FDM printers offer a wide range of filament colours and materials, making them a versatile choice.

  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS): This technique uses a laser to fuse together tiny powder particles, typically nylon or plastic. SLS is known for its strength and durability, making it suitable for functional parts and engineering prototypes.

Point of Sale related 3D Printing and Prototyping Case Studies
3D printed Alexander McQueen over sized perfume bottle
Individual Keys to create a 3D Printed Art Work

Whats The Best 3D Printing Technique?

The best 3D printing technique for your project depends on several factors, such as:

  • Complexity of the design: For intricate details, SLA might be the way to go, while simpler designs can be handled by FDM.
  • Material needs: Do you need a strong and functional part (SLS) or a visually appealing object with a wide colour choice (FDM)? Clear 3D print for design verification (SLA)
  • Budget: It varies between the processes but MNL can help establish the most cost-effective manufacturing method to suit your needs.

Getting the Most Out of Your Custom 3D Printing

  • Design for manufacturability: Consider factors like wall thickness, overhangs, and minimum feature sizes when designing your model for optimal printing.
  • File preparation: Ensure your 3D model is saved in a compatible file format and free from errors before uploading it for printing.
  • Consult the experts: Malcolm Nicholls Ltd’s team of specialists are here to advise you on material selection, design optimisation, and post-processing techniques to achieve the best possible results for your project.
Dyson Prototype Washing Machine

Looking to Produce Multiple Parts?

We can produce anything from one to thousands

Malcolm Nicholls Ltd: Your Partner in Custom 3D Printing

Why choose Malcolm Nicholls Ltd for your custom 3D printing needs?

  • Expertise: With over 50 years of experience in rapid prototyping and 3D printing, Malcolm Nicholls Ltd is a trusted leader in the industry.
  • Unmatched Technology: We boast some of the largest SLA 3D printers in the UK, allowing us to tackle large-scale projects with exceptional quality.
  • Diverse Techniques: We offer a comprehensive range of 3D printing techniques, including FDM, SLA, SLS, and more, ensuring we have the right solution for your specific requirements.
  • Seamless Finishing: Our in-house finishing services guarantee your parts not only meet your functional needs but also achieve the desired aesthetic.

Interested in Our 3D Printing Services?

Questions We Are Often Asked

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing is a service in which we produce three dimensional solid objects from 3D CAD data.
An additive technology, this contrasts with traditional manufacturing techniques, such as milling, which involve removing materials to create a part.

How does 3D Printing work?

In general, a 3D printer service works by cutting a 3D CAD model of the part to be printed into many slices. The 3D printing machine will take a layer of data at a time and manufacture that slice or layer. Different technologies exist, however they all produce one layer at a time, simultaneously bonding it to the preceding layer.


The process continues right through the extents of the part until all digital slices have been “printed” into the physical form.

What are the advantages of using 3D Printing?

With 3D Printing on professional machines taking only a few hours, here are just some of the advantages these processes have to offer:


  • Reduce time to market: By using a 3d printing service, Models and prototypes of components can be produced in hours. Concepts can be tangible objects around a table instead of images on a screen. Product development cycles can be vastly reduced due to the speed of 3D printing, compared to other traditional methods.
  • Save money and reduce risk: 3D printing prototypes before costly injection mould tooling can lead to eradicating design errors which can lead to expensive tool mods or delays to product release. Many studies have shown that it pays to use a 3d printing service.
  • Get valuable Market Research: 3D printing market research models yield valuable market perceptions about your product often months before production batches are ready. The market research that is gathered by using a professional 3d printing service, either gives you added confidence about your product or enables feedback to influence design changes before production tooling is finalised.
  • Excellent communication tool: 3D Printed parts provide a perfect tangible product that offers no alternative to the design intent. it simply is-what-it-is, something that drawings, images or video cannot beat.
  • Assembly trials: 3D print multiple components from an assembly and test the assembly procedure. Production lines can be streamlined and design improvements made from feedback from assembly line trials.
  • Improve your packaging: with 3D printed parts available at the packaging design stage, greater design flare and/or improvements lead to better design presence in retails situations.
  • Greater design freedom: with 3D printing services used as a low-volume manufacturing method, design constraints traditionally associated with mass production can be eradicated.
  • Customise your parts: with 3D printing services used as a low-volume manufacturing method, niche markets utilise 3D printing for bespoke components including jewellery, dental, medical, art etc.
  • Engage your imagination: 3D printing can make virtually any geometry you can imagine, the possibilities are endless …
What are the advantages of using a UK 3D Printer service provider?

As we are based in the UK, we can provide you with fast turnaround times, clear communication and the ability to quickly answer any questions you may have with no need to wait. We also offer a quality finished product and the ability to easily understand your requirements. We have been a 3d printing service provider since 1996.

What is the simple three tier costing system?

The popularity of our 3-tier costing system has led to the purchase of an additional SLA machine, the 3rd in as many years.

The philosophy of the tiered costing system is thus:

Premium – We organise these so that customers can utilise an entire machine solely for their project. This means that parts are built in the shortest amount of time possible. In some cases multiple machines may be used to spread the load, reducing lead time once again.

Standard – Builds are organised so that several jobs are built at once with a good balance of efficiency and speed.

Budget   Builds are organised by MNL so that machines are stacked out for maximum efficiency. Whilst these are longer builds, 30% off standard pricing in exchange for a few extra days is often strongly utilised.

How fast can I have a 3D Print?

As we are a 3D printer service based in the UK, we pride ourself on fast turnaround times. Depending on the size of the “print” or build, it takes from as little as a few hours. As you will appreciate, our large 3D printing service can take several days.


We also offer a three-tier costing system with turnaround times to suit different budgets and timeframes.

Are all 3D printers the same?

The simple answer is no.


New 3D printers hit the news frequently. There are many different types especially at the lower, hobbyist end of the market. They are all layer-based technologies but that is where the similarity ends.

Resin-based systems are often the most accurate, with a good surface finish. Plastic extrusion or filament-based systems offer great material choice but can be limited with a surface finish. Powder-based systems offer a compromise of surface finish and accuracy.

Apart from the technology differences, 3D printers vary greatly in the size of the build envelopes available. Some are limited to very small areas (many less than 100mm cube) others offer systems above 500mm in all axes, whilst other bespoke systems venture into several metres in available size.

Build speeds are another crucial factor in 3D printers and are often one of the major deciding factors when buying professional systems.

Other factors that also influence the “points to note” about 3D printers are Accuracy, surface finish and material choice.

With such a variety of 3D printers available, it is for this reason that we have technology consultants on hand to help you in getting the best out of 3D printing, whether you require a one-off product or a large 3D printing service.

Which 3D printing technologies do MNL provide?

We provide all major 3D printing technologies. As each available 3D printing technology has various pros and cons; Our in-house technology consultants will draw upon 50 plus years’ experience in the 3D printing and engineering world to select the most appropriate technology for your application.


Our technology consultants will give an unbiased opinion on the best process to use to match your application, as a long-standing 3d printing service provider we offer advice dependent upon the following:

  • Function
  • Material
  • Speed of process
  • Budget
  • Size of part
  • Quantity
What do I need to supply to get a quote/3D Print?

Ideally, we need 3D CAD for each part that you need to be quoted. We can supply estimates based upon sketches or photos of existing parts. If you are supplying photos we would also need overall dimensions.


For the ideal CAD, format see here.

If CAD data does not exist, don’t worry we can cost to create it from your sketches, or we can arrange partners to laser scan existing parts.