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A Few Questions For: 3D Hubs

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Here at 3DPrint.com, we love to keep up with the latest buzz in the world of 3D technologies–and that, of course, includes the latest at some of the great trade shows around the world. We’re rolling out a new feature now, A Few Questions For, in which we talk directly with insiders at some of the biggest names in 3D tech, to get a quick glimpse–ten questions or fewer–into their workings and their thoughts on the industry: both in general and as far as their participation in it. With only a few Q&As, we can get some insight into the hearts of companies involved in the 3D printing industry.

3dhubsStartups are everywhere we look in the 3D printing space, and that doesn’t seem likely to change anytime soon. With designing and prototyping ready to go at your fingertips and on your desktop, barriers to entry are low in many aspects of additive manufacturing. We often see startups launch themselves on crowdfunding platforms, marketplaces offering design, and through competitions geared at getting new entities off the ground. One of the amazing resources available to startups in this space is the Startup Competition, running at Inside 3D Printing and RoboUniverse events. From the first winner in the competition, 3D Hubs in New York in 2014, through the most recent at Inside 3D Printing Santa Clara, Metamason, prize-winning participants have been catapulted toward success through their wins. Now with just A Few Questions For some of these winners, we’re able to take a look at Past I3DP Startup Competition Winners: where are they now?

I recently had the opportunity to ask 3D Hubs‘ co-founder Bram de Zwart a few questions about how life (and work!) has been since the company’s big win at the Startup Competition a few years ago. As we’ve seen, 3D Hubs has certainly been on a huge growth track, and we look forward to regularly following the company’s frequent events and monthly Trend Reports, as well as the detailed annual 3D printer report, showing that not just the number of hubs involved across the world is growing, but so too is the entire industry itself.

Can you fill us in on the history of 3D Hubs? Where did the initial business model come from?
Back in 2013, Brian and I were working for a major 3D printer manufacturer and recognized that many 3D printer owners were leaving their machines idle for 90% of the time. After discussing this further and crunching some numbers, we saw an opportunity to create an online 3D printing service that connected those with idle 3D printers to those who needed 3D prints made. Soon after, we quit our jobs to focus on the business full-time. We now have a team of 30 working in both Amsterdam and New York City and have recently expanded the platform to include industrial 3D printing services for professionals through 3D Hubs HD.

3D Hubs’ Co-Founders: Bram de Zwart (L) and Brian Garret (R)

What initially led you to 3D technology?

I was initially fascinated with the process of how products are made – which ultimately led me to study industrial design in University. During my studies, I spent a lot of time with various CAD tools and 3D printers. In 2008, it became apparent to me that there are some inherent benefits of 3D printing that make me believe it will win over traditional manufacturing technologies. The fact that you can make customized products at the push of a button in any location in the world should lead to a much more efficient and sustainable manufacturing future.
How did you first hear about the Startup Competition?
Tyler Benster, who I knew from industry events, was programming the competition and suggested to me to participate.
What were your thoughts upon winning the Startup Competition?3D-Hubs-2
Especially at that early stage of our company growth, it was great to receive acknowledgment for what we are building.
After your win, what, if anything, changed for 3D Hubs? Was this immediate or longer term?
We won the competition around the time we were also expanding from Europe into the US and as the competition took place in New York it had a positive effect on the awareness there.
What is the biggest difference between 3D Hubs now and when the site first started?
Perhaps the most significant difference is that Brian and I no longer have to ride around Amsterdam on a bike to deliver 3D prints! We now have thousands of 3D printing service providers connecting more than one billion people to a 3D printer within ten miles of their home. Compared to our early days in Amsterdam, that’s huge!
3D-Hubs-3What is your favorite part about being involved with 3D Hubs?
Seeing our platform grow from 10 to 1000 to now over 26,000 3D printing service providers has certainly been a thrilling experience. Most importantly our vision of localized manufacturing is quickly becoming a reality as more than 60% of revenue comes from orders that have 10+ parts and 55% of our orders is being picked up locally.
Because of the nature of our platform, we’re always able to be at the cutting edge of what’s next in 3D printing – both with the technology itself and how people are using it – and I always enjoy seeing that.
What advice would you offer to other businesses looking to win the Startup Competition?
As many jury members tend to be Venture Capitalists, convince the jury on the scalability of your business.

3D Hubs has seen some incredible growth in its history, and clearly sees sunny skies ahead as they continue on toward impressive strides forward. With, as of the time of writing, 26,995 hubs up and running around the world, the network is bringing together makers and those who want things made all over the world, along with showing us all the latest trends in the industry and hosting events around the globe.

We’ll be catching up soon with some more success stories from the Startup Competition to see how life has changed since their wins!

The next Startup Competition will take place at Inside 3D Printing New York on April 12th at the Javits Center — and I can’t wait to watch the presentations there and start following the next winner.

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