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Old December 5, 2012, 12:43 AM   #19
FrankenMauser
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Join Date: August 25, 2008
Location: 1B ID
Posts: 6,788
John, I'm not taking sides here - just providing a partial answer to your query.

eMachineShop has been around for a while. They accept standard file formats for 2D drawings and 3D models. However, they also offer their own software, which quotes the cost before you even submit the part for production.
There are several other companies with similar business models, but that one came to mind first.
It's not a 100% automated process. It's a brick-and-mortar machine shop that accepts orders through an automated program. But, as far as the customer is concerned... they submit the order, and the finished part shows up at their door.



Affordable 3D printers have about the same amount of automation and finish quality as a CAM router, water jet, plasma cutter, or 5 axis CNC mill. In the case of a well equipped 5 axis mill, the 3D printed product will need substantially more finish work before it can be used. (You don't get a perfect part. It generally has to be smoothed and sanded, due to the voxel {volumetric pixel} resolution of the printer and material being used.)
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