MakerBot and 3D Hubs Team To Push 3D Printing to Mainstream
When it comes to 3D printing, two minds may be better than one. At least that’s what MakerBot and 3D Hubs are banking on. Thingiverse.com, MakerBot’s 3D design community, and 3D Hubs, a 3D printing network with over 15,000 printer locations around the globe, have joined forces to bring 3D printing to the masses -- whether or not they own or even have access to 3D printers.
Practically speaking, this means that Thingiverse.com users can send 3D designs straight to 3D Hubs and have them printed out. This sort of partnership could drive 3D printing momentum by making it easier for consumers to purchase finished products.
“Working with 3D Hubs is a natural next step as we continue to grow our MakerBot 3D ecosystem,” said Joey Neal, chief experience officer with MakerBot. “At MakerBot, we are continuing to look for ways to get 3D printing into the hands of more people.”
3D Printing Going Mainstream?
3D printing is clearly gaining traction. Big Market Research valued the market at $2.3 billion in 2013. The market research firm predicts it will hit a whopping $8.6 billion by 2020, with a compound annual growth rate of 20.6 percent. Both the existing widespread applications of 3D printing and its potential applications in many fields are driving that growth.
“This is a market with enormous growth potential now that the main barriers to up-take are being addressed,” said Canalys senior analyst, Tim Shepherd. “Advances in technology are yielding faster print times and enabling objects to be printed in greater combinations of materials, colors and finishes.”
In the short term, Shepherd said he expects printing-to-order services to drive considerable growth while penetration lags technology advances. That’s just what 3D Hubs and Thingiverse are pushing with the new partnership.
“There is a clear opportunity for companies to establish 3D printing service studios to address the growing demand for the custom products that this technology makes possible,” said Canalys research analyst Joe Kempton. “That demand will continue to grow, driven by three main factors: customization potential, convenience and manufacturing efficiencies. Items can be printed and personalized to order. They can often be printed locally, rather than necessitating designs be sent off to large, sometimes distant, manufacturing facilities.”
The Price Is Almost Right
MakerBot and 3D Hub are adding fuel to the fire. In the first phase of the launch, some Thingiverse designers are adding a “Get This Printed” button to their designs. Users can just click that button to order a 3D print and pick it up at the 3D Hubs location near them. The average delivery time is less than two days.
Designers can also choose to ask for “suggested tips" for their designs and receive financial rewards from customers at the 3D Hubs checkout. This model, then, allows 3D designers to drive revenue from their work.
“This collaboration marks an important step in striving to make 3D printing universally accessible,” said Bram de Zwart, CEO and co-founder of 3D Hubs. Zwart is not just pumping out hype. With eight Thingiverse designers participating in the first phase, including a sculpture designer, a jewelry designer, and a housewares designer, the foundation for success is being laid.
“Crucially, prices are also falling, making the technology an increasingly feasible option for a broad variety of enterprise and consumer uses, restricted only by computer aided design competencies and printer availability, both of which are set to improve significantly,” said Shepherd.