Interview with Hugo Fromont of Sharables Site Cults3D


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3D Printables sites is one of the most competitive areas of the 3D printing industry. While Thingiverse still reigns supreme there are dozens of sites competing with each other nipping at Thingiverse’s heels. One of the larger ones is Cults3D, Cults3D from the beginning tried to make money by offering files for sale and subscriptions and grew through the tireless efforts of Hugo and his team. Cults was founded in 2014 Hugo Fromont, Pierre Ayroles and Sunny Ripert. While Ultimaker owns YouMagine and Pinshape is owned by Formlabs Cults3D is independent. Can the young company survive and prosper in the hyper-competitive sharables market? We interviewed Hugo Fromont to find out more about Cults.

The Cults Team (L-R): Sunny Ripert, Pierre Ayroles and Hugo Fromont

How did Cults3D get started?

“We created the platform at the end of 2014 and officially launched our start-up Cults in 2015. What gave us the idea to create Cults, was the fact that we bought a 3D printer to test and we wanted to create our own objects, but none of us were familiar with 3D software. We are true noobs in 3D modeling. However, there are many talented people whose passion, even the job, is to model 3D objects; it is these individuals that we wanted to highlight. The world of 3D printing will always need creators who have a real vision of a designer, a soul of an artist. Without quality 3D STL file to print, there is no need for a 3D printer. Cults was born to pay tribute to all these 3D designers who have a crazy talent, our name comes from the patron saint of artists and sculptors St. Luc, read backwards it becomes Cults. We also find there the extension stl which refers to the formats of 3D printing files.”

What is the site now?

The site currently offers several services:

  • Sharing and Downloading of 3D Objects: 3D designers drop off their digital 3D printable models on the platform. They choose to share their creations for free or by paying.
  • Makes and the Community: Cults is also a digital community that brings together all fans of the 3D printing universe to interact with each other. The makers who downloaded the 3D files and printed them can then share the photos of their creations with their settings and their use of the object. Members can follow the activity of their favorite creators through the Cults feed.
  • On Demand Design: If manufacturers cannot find a 3D file on our platform, we can make it on demand. Simply complete the application form on our site.
  • Deals and Promotions: Our service is also synonymous with generosity. Thanks to the Promotions part everyone can find offers and promo codes to buy products related to 3D printing at the best price (filaments, 3D printers, accessories, etc.).
  • Challenges: We also regularly organize design competitions on specific themes to encourage and animate our community.
  • The Blog: Our visitors can get the latest news related to 3D printing but also discover our tips and tricks our focus on designers or innovations through our blog.

These are a few figures:

  • We now have more than 300,000 international member makers registered on our platform.
  • We welcome more than 700 new users every day and more than 5,000 new members every week.
  • The platform currently hosts 35,000 designs and a community of 3,500 designers.
  • Our platform is translated into 3 languages: English, French and Spanish.
  • We have more than 1.6 million downloads and 150,000 downloads per month.

What is your business model?

We have a mixed business model, based on commissions taken on the sale of 3D files (20% – without having to pay a subscription fee from designers to have the right to sell); on advertising; on affiliation/partnerships; on 3D modeling on demand and on the use of our white label API.

Are people really paying to download models? Do you think this will happen more in the future?

Yes, that is an undeniable fact. More and more people are buying 3D models and more and more designers are looking to monetize their work. Our system allows designers to finance part of their hobby since the beginning. 3D printing is still a cost, so making money by selling your 3D files on Cults allows creators to continue to create great projects.

Some designs take weeks or even months of work and testing before publishing their 3D models that are perfectly optimized for 3D printing. Only designers own their designs. Quality models are able to sell their work. To show you, we have identified a Top 100 of the best 3D designers ranked here by number of sales.

How will you evolve in the future? 

We will focus on continuing our growth and listening more and more to our community. We would like to further improve our platform to make DIYers and designers feel more comfortable. There are still many features we need to create to optimize the download experience. But as we are a small team of 3 people, we often lack time but we never lose our energy and enthusiasm!

Where do you see yourselves in five years? 

In 5 years, we see ourselves becoming the reference platform for downloading 3D printable objects, whether you are a private individual or a professional. Currently, Cults is the first independent platform on this specialized market. Our main competitors belong to large groups (Thingiverse = Makerbot, Myminifactory = iMakr, Pinshape = Formlabs, Youmagine = Ultimaker…).

Why should I pick cults?

If you are a designer, you can be sure that we will do our best to promote your work. We use full potential of our other channels like social media and emailing to touch as many makers as possible. We consider ourselves to be artists’ agents. As we are independent, your work will be respected and will not be used as a pre-sales service to promote the group’s 3D printers. Cults is also a way to get compensation for your 3D modeling work. On the maker side, you will find many exclusive quality designs, 100% printable in 3D. Having a quality 3D file avoids failed prints and therefore wastes of time (and money in consumables / electricity). We are very close to our customers and designers. All requests are processed and we always try to answer within one day or even the next. Our responsiveness and proximity are among our values and strengths.

Who is your ideal customer?

Our ideal customer is a customer who frequently comes to re-purchase 3D models and who is attentive to new projects realized by his favorite designers that he follows on our platform. He is also someone who talks to designers to improve their work and show them what its prints look like. Via our option which allows you to post photos of your 3D printed creation, there is a real virtuous circle that is created and a sense of belonging to a community.

What kinds of things are being made on Cults3D?

“We are more oriented towards objects for the home (lamps, furniture, decoration), small useful inventions such as lifehacking / tools or even sculptures and objects from fan art. You can view our best STL files collections to see objects classified by themes.”

With several of the top sharables sites in the hands of OEMs will it be logical for Cults3D to partner with one? or be acquired by one?

It would not be logical for us and it is not really our dynamic right now. We are makers and individuals, not industrialists or traders who are absolutely looking for profit. We want to remain on a human scale and above all close and responsive to our community. If a brand or service in the 3D printing sector contacts us for a possible partnership or takeover, it must be done in accordance with our values and our independence, we will always be on the designer’s side. If we consider it positive for Cults and our members, we can consider it, but otherwise, it is out of the question!


What are some desktop 3D printing trends you’re seeing now?

We can see the arrival of colors and also of double extrusion. 3D printing speeds are also being improved, which is a major challenge. There is also the arrival of SLA printers on the 3D desktop printer market. What is also interesting to see is all these new materials that can be 3D printed with personal printers: carbon, wood, fluorescent filaments, etc.

Right now a lot of people are saying that desktop 3D printing is dead? 

People often compare personal 3D printing with industrial/professional 3D printing where houses, organs, aircraft parts etc. can be made. Obviously, these are not the same amounts of money at stake and growth is not the same. But it is not dead at all, quite the contrary. We are welcoming more and more makers to Cults, the price of 3D desktop printers has also dropped significantly, so many people can try 3D printing at low cost. There is also a trend towards multi-equipment. Maybe there will not be a 3D printer in every home one day, but there will be many in do-it-yourselfers’ garages, like drills, jigsaws, hammers, etc.!

Who will be your future users?

We also wish to address companies and professionals who need to share safely 3D printable models with their various circles: internal, customers, service providers. We also want to become a reference place to consult for any 3D printer owner who needs useful and creative objects.

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