Sculpteo Shuts down Online 3D Printing Marketplace

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Correction 10/12/23: The original version of this article was unintentionally misleading with regard to the significance of Sculpteo’s shutting down of its online B2C marketplace. This updated version provides a more accurate reflection of the situation. 

In a surprising development, Sculpteo, a well-known 3D printing service provider based in France, has decided to discontinue its online marketplace for 3D printed models. Effective November 4, 2023, the marketplace will cease its operations as Sculpteo shifts its focus to its core business services. In 2019, the company became a subsidiary of BASF, one of the world’s two largest chemical companies.

Winding Down the Sculpteo Marketplace

The marketplace has been integral to Sculpteo’s offerings, providing designers and creatives a platform to sell their 3D model files. Established as a “vibrant community for the 3D printing industry,” the marketplace has been around for more than a decade. However, despite its significance, Sculpteo is reallocating its resources to bolster its primary business activities.

In an email sent to its user community, Sculpteo confirmed that previously uploaded designs would remain available in user libraries and continue to be manageable. While the marketplace will no longer be active for new sales, existing content will not be deleted. This is a relief for designers who have devoted time and effort to create their own stores and pricing models on the platform.

To address any lingering questions or concerns, Sculpteo has made its support team available for users seeking more information. This move can be interpreted as an effort to reassure its community during this significant transition.

Sculpteo’s General Director Alexandre d’Orsetti clarified on LinkedIn: “Dear All, We recently informed customers that a tiny part of our overall platform will be shut down in November. Known as the Online 3D Printing Marketplace, it was used by a handful of designers, who will still be able to access and manage their designs. After years of maintaining the service only passively we will now fully discontinue it. Our overall online business continues to grow at pace and is in fact much more focused on production for end use parts and series. Our business model and operations remain as strong as ever, and we are always grateful to our customers for the collaborative and strong working relationships that we have with them !”

What Is Sculpteo’s Future?

Because the marketplace was initially key to its business model and operations, it is worth considering the future of the company. Notably, Sculpteo is not just a France-centric operation but a global entity with a focus on on-demand printing and short-run manufacturing. With locations in Paris and San Francisco, the company has a sales and logistics facility in California aimed at serving clients in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. While exact details regarding the number of its facilities and printers remain undisclosed, Sculpteo operates professional-grade systems to maintain high standards in its factories.

Based on the fact that it does operate advanced manufacturing facilities, it’s possible that Sculpteo could continue operating as such. As AM consultant Duann Scott pointed out in a LinkedIn post, the concept of products made available for on-demand 3D printing did not exactly pan out how businesses like Sculpteo, Shapeways, and Materialise had hoped.

As a naturally consumer-focused model, AM and the consumer world didn’t line up perfectly. 3D printed goods are typically more expensive than traditionally made counterparts and to create models to sell requires a high degree of CAD skill, as well as an understanding of the 3D printing technique used to make them physically.

With that in mind, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a marketplace model going forward. Luxury goods promoted by celebrities could bridge the gap until tech technology is cheaper and more accessible. More importantly, service bureaus are entering a new phase that Sculpteo could potentially benefit from.

Metal objects 3D printed via Sculpteo. Image courtesy of Sculpteo.

Sculpteo’s Future and Ongoing Growth

As Sculpteo restructures its operations, the company claims to be seeing sustained growth in its core business of AM. According to a recent press release, the company’s international professional clientele now accounts for over 95% of its customers. Sculpteo has invested in state-of-the-art equipment, boasting one of the largest fleets of 3D printers in Europe, including 14 HP MJF machines and other technologies like SLS and photopolymer machines. This expansion has allowed the company to serve various industries including medical, luxury goods, drones, and electronics.

Alexandre d’Orsetti, CEO of Sculpteo, emphasized, “Our focus on providing top quality additive manufacturing for scaled production has led us to streamline our business operations and dedicate ourselves even further to advancing the industrialization of additive manufacturing.”

Although the marketplace has been a part of Sculpteo’s services since 2012, it accounted for less than 1% of the business. The decision to shut it down, as d’Orsetti notes, is “anecdotal from the point of view of Sculpteo’s commercial activity” but signifies a move toward the “professionalization” of the industry. Sculpteo made sure to include the remaining few users of the Marketplace in this decision, reassuring them that their files would remain hosted on the platform.

Industry Trends

Machine shops and AM services are currently undergoing significant consolidation, largely pushed by private equity firms. The key to their success seems to be their ability to integrate into the military supply chain. Key examples are ADDMAN Group, driven by American Industrial Partners, as well as Sintavia, not currently part of the roll up activity, and Morf3D, vertically integrated Nikon. All of these businesses tailor their activities to very high-end manufacturing for military customers. Sculpteo could follow in their footsteps and emphasize high-end production, particularly if it has the backing of BASF.

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