AMS Spring 2023

Prusa Takes on Right to Repair with 3D Printed Mods for Global Brands

Inkbit

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Through model library site Printables.com, Prusa Research is aiming to kickstart a right to repair revolution with 3D printing. The Czech manufacturer of popular low-cost, open source 3D printers has invited large brands to the site to share 3D printable components for users to fix, modify, and upgrade their wares. So far, the new brand profiles on Printables.com include:

Printables describes the possibilities for companies joining the site in this way:

“All 3D models shared on Printables.com are available for free, allowing anyone to easily download and print them at home. This opens up a world of possibilities for businesses and consumers alike. Some replacement parts can be printed locally and on-demand, eliminating the need for inventory and shipping. This also makes it easier for brands to support the right-to-repair initiative. In addition to replacement parts, businesses can also create accessories and mods for their products. This allows consumers to personalize and improve their products, making them even more valuable and unique. And for fans of popular games and movies, brands can create official fan models, such as figures, costumes, and props.”

In addition to uploading their own content, brands will now be able to highlight community builds related to their products, including user upgrades and add-ons. In a method similar to Twitter blue checks, community designers will also be able to obtain badges and banners that mark them as “approved,” alongside companies. 

Printables user whatthefilament released a model that converts a Framework Laptop into a tablet, while egeltje published a holder for spare modules. Image courtesy of Printables.com.

Among the first models uploaded by one of the brands is a detailed model of the World War 1 cruiser St. Luis from World of Warships, a free-to-play naval warfare multiplayer game. Cooler Master is hosting replacement parts and cooler mods. Computer manufacturer Framework has uploaded a 3D printable Mainboard Case to create a single-board computer with a 3D printed case. Czech game developer Bohemia Interactive has shared three models from its games, including. a tank from Arma III, the Yellow King from DayZ, and the Gryphon from Ylands.

Noctua’s 3D printable spacers and fan ducts on Printables.com. Image courtesy of Printables.com.

Single-board computer manufacturer Raspberry Pi has already highlighted community makes, while presenting cases for their boards and other projects. Adafruit had long been active on the site since it started, with more than 200 projects published involving its open source hardware. Austrian cooling component manufacturer Noctua is offering spacers, brackets, and adapters for its fans. Warhorse Studios have released a 3D printable model of Henry, the protagonist from its medieval RPG Kingdom Come: Deliverance.

A highly detailed model of the St. Luis from World of Warships. Image courtesy of Printables.com.

While the right to repair has long been an important social cause, it is now becoming a crucial supply chain feature. This is particularly true for Europe, where a lack of natural resources means reliance on imports from other nations. Likely motivated by this and the dwindling supply of virgin materials on the planet, European Parliament passed Right to Repair legislation that requires companies selling consumer electronics in the European Union (EU) to ensure that they can be repaired for up to a decade, starting in 2021. 

For that reason, it may take longer for the movement to make headway in the U.S., where John Deere is still suing farmers for trying to fix their equipment. However, there will need to be some moves in place to ensure that products last longer as supplies become less widely available. In the case of Prusa, the Czech company is capitalizing on a trend that has long been driven by the 3D printing community to produce mods and repairs for their goods. So far, the brands are those you might expect to participate in such a program, given that their users are already involved in DIY activities. When much larger, less maker-focused companies join Printables, we’ll be able to mark some level of progress. And that’s exactly what they’re hoping for when they write:

“We’re already in talks with more brands interested in joining Printables.com and releasing their files here. If you have a friend working for a global brand, please, spread the word about the initiative. And reach out to brands@printables.com if you’re representing a company interested in joining the initiative. Happy printing!”

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