How many people in this community use (or used to use) 3D Hubs? Is there any interest from makers in an alternative site that would do largely the same thing, but in the “old” 3D hubs fashion? (Pairing designers with people who have the printers)
What kind of things must a site like this have? What kind of things were missing from 3D hubs? Is there anything that would be a game changer as far as a feature-set? What were your complaints about 3D Hubs old model, and what would you propose as a solution to that problem?
I used (as in provided a service) 3d hubs for a year or so… maybe 2 years ago? The biggest problem were people giving me data that was in no way 3d printable. I just did it for fun, but based on my time involved,… it just wasn’t worth the money. I’d have hours of back and forth with people trying to explain why they had bad data.
So, to answer your question, there almost needs to be an intermediate step where somehow… the client is made aware of the 3d printability of their data. Maybe that alone is worth an hourly rate for “data inspection, and cleanup” ? Having that as a listed step that costs cash money preps the client for that expectation . Otherwise, most people figured they could just throw any 3d data over the fence and the magical 3d printer would do the rest.
Also, their model for figuring out how much a print would cost was wayyy to generalized. Individual hubs need much finer custom control over those knobs.
I’m happy to print your stuff, but I have little interest in redesigning it to be printable, unless they want to pay a premium for that service.
I would love this. I would agree with @Eric_Pavey , most of the orders I got required extensive communication before I could print the file. I would get beautiful artistic model printed to be printed at 300 microns thinking it would look like SLA at 20 microns, customers wanting 6 different colors, or asked to modify an STL a specific way before printing. It’s difficult to get around this though; educating every customer is impractical. Maybe have select senior users do all the file processing? Customer uploads model, they could be simply given ~3 resolutions to choose, they would then choose material with small descriptions for each, and they would have the option to leave a comment for any special requests. Senior member would review the order, communicate with the customer, and then would pass it on to a hub local to the customer. These order reviewers would take some percentage of the payment. Maybe make pricing standard for filament material/brand and printer tier? You could have a few different tiers of 3D printers based on print quality and features. I’d definitely like to see a feature for multi-color and multi-material printing.
Edit: by making pricing more standardized you can keep manufacturing local to customers, rather than the one guy in the state with 20+ printers who can afford to charge barely more than the cost of the plastic getting all the orders.
Could have a submission process that preprocesses the files, highlights problem areas (much like some slicers do) and provides a preview at the selected resolution or capabilities of the printer. That could include multi-material, dlp/sla, all of the settings which can be decided by the printer (min-max layer height, max overhang, materials, etc).
Complicated but doable.
@Stephanie_A The issue is that many customers have no experience 3D printing or handling STL files so the errors would have to be automatically repaired, just highlighting them won’t help. It might be best for customers to choose between SLA and FDM just after uploading the part. Maybe a button for each with price ranges and a sample picture from average resolution for each technology.
Was thinking about this same thing today. Very interested in the concept of an independent alternative site to 3D Hubs. I do a lot of custom design and model integrity consultation for people at a fair engineering rate. I also produce high quality prints for people. I charge on a tiered biases by the gram based on the print quality requested. Most of my work comes my way by word of mouth now.
As @Eric_Pavey brings up, a huge majority of the models sent my way or posted for download are not print worthy at all. I would propose that a key part of a site or community to provide printing services be a program that a submitter can load their object into and check for print-ability. They can either correct it themselves or pay to have it corrected. As @Adam_Steinmark brings up if they don’t want to check it themselves they can pay a modest fee to have an expert check it out out and provide feedback. I have several methods for converting “Game” files made of individual surfaces to solid models that can be printed. I also have a really good program for editing STL files and removing all the triangles from the polygon faces.
A side purpose of the site would be to help educate people on what makes an object printable and ways to fix them so they can be empowered to do as much as possible for themselves. That leaves those with printers the opportunity to just print.
Another idea would be a repository of objects that have been designed and tested as printable that people could order, either from the creators themselves or from a local print provider, with a portion of the cost being a commission paid to the designer for the work.
I would love to be part of such a network and I’m willing to help to organize it.
Thinking out loud here… anything sound interesting to consider?
Can we call it “Tind3r”?
Having been an on-and-off hub, here are some improvements I’d like to see there or in a competitor:
File checks for printability. Really, really important to get the customer’s expectations in check. 3DHubs only shows a basic check that often leaves the hub with the choice of either declining (which gets your hub shut down) or printing supports (and charging extra)
Filament/material pools: You might have more than one printer that can use the same set of materials
(optional) Integration with slicers: Not necessarily to generate final gcode, but to estimate print time, weight, need for support etc. Maybe even a simplified slicing process for the hub
One approach would be to lower the bar to get the site off the ground. What do you all think of limiting to one color and just a few materials: pla, ninjaflex, semiflex, petg? This might limit the time consuming crazy requests. Also, standardize resolution choices- .1 or .2 maybe.
This would mean that the service concentrates on fairly easily printed items. Focus on the strengths.
Another goal I would endorse is to standardize pricing to limit the race to the bottom. Make it profitable for anyone- perhaps a simple equation- mm of filament length x $0.?? If bidding is allowed, it will confuse customers. It’s gotta be simple.
I know a bunch of people want designs private but it would simplify to make all designs public. Then designs that need printing could be uploaded for all to see and print providers can just browse and choose. This may draw a lot of interested printer owners. I know this presents challenges but it sidesteps other potential problems and fears.
What if you had to print the file ahead of time, upload a picture and the requester can accept it and pay? Then shipping is fast, since it’s already printed. Good prints are rewarded by actual orders. Expectations are leveled by a picture of the actual print. Difficult prints would get little to zero action.
The thing that limits a scalable operation is the payment system. Who pays who and what pays for the service? If posting a file costs $1, no matter if it results in acceptance, that would pay for the costs to run a service. Then you could leave payment to any payment system that works person to person- the requestor pays the printer, providing address and it ships. People won’t want to publicly post their addresses. I guess a print service could provide the city/state so shipping can be estimated before payment: cost+shipping
I think the key to a good service would be a good grapical interface. Pretty much like a slicer as Tom mentioned. From there you optimize your print to achieve the lowest price. Like reducing infill and a bigger layer height.
That way customers will automatically optimize there models, like they do in foldit with proteins to get the best score but instead they hunt for the best price with ideal settings.
3DHubs is still working for me in Canada. I’m also on makexyz, but have only had 2 inquries in the 3+ years since signing up. 3DHubs is becoming the Google of print services. Any new service has quite a hill to climb.
3DHubs was (initially) about connecting people with local printers. Now it’s more about trying to compete with Shapeways. There might be room for someone to step back into the ring.
Communication about quality of the file does burn a lot of time. Any “convenient” online system is going to bring those amateurs out of the wood work. As a hobbyist, I somewhat enjoyed educating/pontificating with them :-).
Things I think 3DHubs did poorly (and therefore opportunities for any other service to compete):
inability to select different colours or resolution for each file within an order.
no discount on their cut for returning customers (resulted in repeat customers going “out of band”)
they’d suggest we discount large orders, but their cut (%) remained the same
they made it difficult to provide custom specs on printers and would filter you out of a customer’s search because the closest default you could find to your printer wasn’t big enough.
Crazy marketing (bad) idea:
If you are a printrbot owner, I provide the filament and the hardware to keep resolution high in exchange for a logo and link to purchase our printers.
Second bad idea (costly to me): I pay printrbot owners in filament to send a free print to whoever wants one.
On a more serious note, if I had the top 2% of 3d printer owners in the US… I would give away Printrbelts for a 10% cut of the ongoing business for medium sized orders (over 100, under 1000). I could provide filament in exchange for a larger cut so printers don’t have the cash flow problem of buying filament or the hardware cost when it’s time to scale up. Btw: a Printrbelt + Polar3D’s print queue in the cloud could automate a lot of the current hassle from slicing to getting the prints off the bed and doing large runs w/o babysitting
I’m an open source guy who is also a capitalist, so pardon my tendency to want to keep business profitable
I really would put my money where my mouth is if we could figure out a genuine (3d hubs / shapeways / etc) disruptor that achieves the dream of distributed manufacturing. Leverage an army of Printrbelts. Mechanical terk, anyone?
Let’s assume the money is there and all that matters is taking market share… here is what I think it would take:
Give it away for wannabe hobbyists
Goal: get them over the hump to A) buy a printer B) convince them owning a printer isn’t for them or C) use the service to start a business as in #2.
Free model cleanup & slicing optimization
Free prints for orders taking less than 10 hours of print time
Free shipping in USA
Goal: charge significantly lower printing rates than all major competition so the business is a sellers paradise with no risk for the seller
Give them a sellers page to sell their prints / designs
Encourage selling on Etsy w tutorials, ideas, list of most profitable 3d printed items
Encourage targeting a niche, like cosplay or lightsabers or personalized cake toppers
Go after real production runs
Goal: show the advantages of distributed manufacturing as compared to other professional print services:
Quicker turn around
Lower shipping costs
Key: target appropriate products. Do not try to replace products that consumers expect to be of injection molded quality
My printer is registered on 3D Hubs but I haven’t had a lot of orders. I don’t have anything to add over the ideas that have already been suggested but I would definitely be interested in being part of such an endeavor.
I never provided services through 3d hubs, as I only had a couple of printers, then. Now, I’ve built another as well as 2 CNCs (which was what I was spending most time on this year). I’d be interested, once I can build an appropriate enclosure for two of my printers to be able to print filaments other than PLA.