AMS Below article leader board Dec 14

The idea behind 3D Hubs is simple, yet brilliant, and they say it will literally change the way things are manufactured forever.

A 3D printing network for people with models they need printed, the Amsterdam-based startup created by two industry vets and funded with the aid of Balderton Capital, 3D Hubs is a way for technicians to make money using their 3D printers during their printer’s idle hours.

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The founders, Brian Garret and Bram de Zwart, now say that at this point, the 3D Hubs network — from London to Copenhagen to Irkutsk to Santiago — numbers more than 10,000 connected 3D printers in hundreds of cities.

“We’ve started the new year with a bang and just hit the mark for 10,000 connected 3D printers,” says Filemon Schoffer, the Head of Community at 3D Hubs. “I truly believe we’ve been able to prove that distributed manufacturing has become a reality. 3D Printing is opening up new business models that will disrupt existing supply chains – all the way from manufacturing to retail.”

3dhubs-10000-announcement-social 2It works like this: find a printer by searching the area in or around your city on their interactive map, check out the available printer types by hub, review details like delivery time, print quality, and price per cubic centimeter of material, and then send your file through the web interface.

For providing what is a mighty cool service, 3D Hubs takes a 15% commission on each order and as part of the deal, makes sure each file is printable and offers a secure payment system for both parties.

And the numbers are pretty impressive. In one year, the company has grown significantly, up from 2,500 to more than 10,000 3D printers. It’s now the world’s largest – and the company says fastest growing — 3D printing production network.

As a result of those numbers and the wide distribution of the printers and technicians involved, 3D Hubs says more than “1 billion people now have access to a 3D printer within 10 miles of their home.” As an example, in New York City alone, there are at least 178 3D print locations nearby, while Milan, Italy has 151 printers listed.

You need more numbers? How about this: 3D Hubs says more than 50,000 products have been made and over 150,000 digital 3D models have been uploaded through their distributed manufacturing network.

de Zwart and Garrett

(L-R) Bram de Zwart and Brian Garret

As an example, 3D Hubs points to the case of a partnership they have with Fairphone, a European smartphone manufacturer. During the first few months of operations, Fairphone customers ordered more than 4,000 smartphone cases, and they were all made locally, across 192 locations using 3D printing and the 3D Hubs network.

3D Hubs says that makes the project “the most successful case of distributed manufacturing yet,” and it would be pretty hard to argue against that contention.

Would you send your files to a local technician for 3D printing, or have you already? What do you think are the pros and cons of their distributed network of 3D printers? Let us know in the 3D Hubs 10,000 Networked 3D Printers forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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